Matt Crafton becomes first back-to-back NASCAR Trucks champion

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20 years into its existence, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series now has its first successful title defense. And it has Matt Crafton to thank for that.

Crafton has become the first back-to-back champion in series history after coming home ninth in tonight’s Ford Ecoboost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway – well above the 21st-place result he needed.

His closest title rival, Ryan Blaney, finished fifth tonight in a valiant effort after breaking a shifter in mid-race and subsequently having to use a vice grip for the remainder. But in the final standings, Crafton ultimately finished with a 21-point cushion.

“The last 10 laps were probably the longest 10 laps I’ve ever ran in a race car without a doubt,” Crafton told Fox Sports on the HMS frontstretch. “My God, it was like, ‘Are you kidding? I thought you said 10 to go a long time ago.’ But I’m just the lucky guy that gets to drive this Menards Toyota Tundra. These guys build awesome trucks, fast trucks every week.

“I wanted to race so much harder than I did. I kept asking, ‘How many trucks are on the lead lap?’ ‘Oh, there’s 22 on the lead lap.’ I know we had to finish 21st, and couldn’t fall past that. I was like, ‘OK, [Blaney] is racing for the lead, I can’t do anything stupid right here.'”

His final stat line for 2014 will be two wins at Martinsville and Texas, 13 Top-5s, 17 Top-10s, an average finish of seventh, and 298 laps led.

In addition to yielding another title, the season has brought several other new high marks for Crafton; it’s his first Truck Series campaign with multiple wins and those 298 circuits paced are a personal best.

Crafton secured the points lead for good following a second-place run at Chicagoland in September. He closed out the final seven races of the season with finishes of third, third, 14th, third, fifth, second, and tonight’s ninth.

Bubba Wallace ended up taking the checkered flag this evening in South Florida. For a full report on the race, click here.