NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 2013 Season Review

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The steady performance of series veteran Matt Crafton and a group of talented youngsters defined this year’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

With over a decade of racing in the Trucks, Crafton finally climbed the mountain in 2013 with a solid campaign that featured a win at Kansas and an impressive 19 Top-10s (including a streak of 16 consecutive Top-10s to open the year) in 22 starts.

He wound up clinching the title just by starting the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and also became the first Truck champion to complete every lap in a season – in this year’s case, 3,391 laps.

Crafton was also in contention to win the CWTS owner’s championship for his No. 88 ThorSport Racing team at Homestead, but fell just short of that prize after he sustained damage during a series of multiple green-white-checkered-attempts at the finish.

Instead, the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports team won it after its namesake, Sprint Cup star Kyle Busch, took the Homestead race. That put the No. 51 and No. 88 in a deadlock in the owner’s standings, but the No. 51’s seven wins on the Truck tour trumped Crafton’s aforementioned lone win at Kansas.

Even with the driver’s championship in his pocket, Crafton still had a foul taste in his mouth, calling the near-miss on the owner’s championship “disgusting.” It was one of the few things that didn’t go his way this year.

Still, it was a tremendous year for him, and the same goes for the series’ up-and-comers that will look to leave their mark on NASCAR in the years ahead.

Despite falling to Crafton in the driver’s championship, Ty Dillon still claimed a pair of victories en route to a runner-up finish in the standings ahead of 2012 series champ James Buescher, who now makes the jump to the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2014.

Then there’s the five first-time winners.

Kyle Larson, who is set to move up to Sprint Cup next year with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, was able to claim his first career win at Rockingham Speedway.

Jeb Burton, the son of former Daytona 500 champion Ward, scored a W at Texas (and also led the Trucks with seven poles) while Darrell Wallace Jr. made history at Martinsville, becoming the first African-American to win a national series race in almost 50 years.

Also in this group were two drivers who took turns this year as the youngest winner in CWTS history. Chase Elliott’s September win in Canada had him earn that honor initially, but in the next-to-last race of the year, Erik Jones – aged 17 years, five months, nine days – grabbed it with his win at Phoenix.

But with that said, one could argue Elliott’s win was the most memorable “first” of them all. Elliott fought Ty Dillon over hill and dale in the final lap at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, and it culminated with Elliott punting Dillon into the tire barriers on the final corner and going on to the checkered flag.

That set off a post-race skirmish between the crews of the two drivers, who also had a confrontation among themselves shortly afterwards. However, Elliott and Dillon were ultimately overshadowed by another post-race incident that had Max Papis get slapped by the girlfriend of rival driver Mike Skeen after they also made contact in the final corner.

An unforgettable moment, for sure. However, when you take the entire season into account, nothing tops the Trucks taking to the dirt at the famed Eldora Speedway for the “Mudsummer Classic.”

Heavily hyped going in, the event marked NASCAR’s first national series race on dirt in over four decades, and a capacity crowd got their money’s worth as Austin Dillon lead a race-high 63 laps in winning the historic event.

In a time where emphasis continues to be placed on generating drama by any means necessary, the “Mudsummer Classic” was the real deal. One hopes it becomes a tradition.

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”