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.

‘One and Only’ Kyle Larson wins Outlaws opener at Knoxville Raceway

Kyle Larson wins Knoxville
Paul Arch/World of Outlaws
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The magic of dirt racing wins for Kyle Larson continued Thursday night at Knoxville Raceway, where he scored his third consecutive World of Outlaws victory at the famed half-mile track to open “The One and Only.”

After starting 10th, Larson sliced through the field and passed pole-sitter Logan Schuchart to lead the final eight laps in the No. 57 of car owner Paul Silva.

“Just an awesome race,” Larson said after earning $10,000 for his second consecutive NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series victory (after winning at Pevely, Missouri, last Saturday), his sixth Outlaws victory this season and 14th of his career.

LARSON ON NASCAR‘I’d love an opportunity if it came’

“I was able to track Logan down and hit the bottom really well in (turns) 1 and 2 and got a run on him.  It felt like I needed to take advantage of that before we got to heavier traffic and slid him and felt some contact. So, glad to see him not in the wall or anything like that. Just, hard work there. Heartbeat is up again.”

Kyle Larson wins Knoxville
Kyle Larson scored his sixth World of Outlaws victory Thursday (Trent Gower/World of Outlaws).

It was the fourth Knoxville victory this year for Larson, who swept a World of Outlaws doubleheader weekend June 12-13 at the Sprint Car Captial of the World. He has more than 30 victories this year in sprint cars and midgets.

The One and Only continues Friday night with another $10,000 feature race that will set the starting lineup for Saturday’s Brownells Capitani Classic, which pays $50,000 to win.

The event is the Outlaws’ richest purse of 2020 and subs in for the annual Knoxville Nationals, which was canceled for COVID-19 concerns. Larson, a two-time Knoxville Nationals runner-up, has said winning The One and Only would be on the same as Knoxville’s signature event because of its tough three-day format.

Through the first of three nights, Schuchart and Larson are tied for second in The One and Only points standings, which factor in qualifying, heats, dash and feature races. Aaron Reutzel, an All Star Circuit of Champions stalwart who finished third Thursday, leads with 430 points.

A crash in Thursday’s 25-lap feature eliminated past Outlaws champions Brad Sweet and Donny Schatz after Cory Eliason spun in front of Sweet in Turn 1 to start the wreck, which also collected Sweet’s teammate, James McFadden. Sweet and Schatz finished outside the top 20, which moved Schuchart into the points lead for the 2020 season.

Schuchart still seemed slightly miffed after finishing second to Larson.

“As the race went on, I felt like I wasn’t hitting my marks as good,” he said. “I would have liked to of had a little bit better of a race with Kyle there. I wish his slide job was a little better there, but he’s got a reputation to live up to. That’s where you let other people make the rules and maybe we’ll get him next time.”


RESULTS

NOS Energy Drink Feature (25 Laps) – 1. 57-Kyle Larson [10]; 2. 1S-Logan Schuchart [1]; 3. 87-Aaron Reutzel [2]; 4. 2-Carson Macedo [24]; 5. 41-David Gravel [6]; 6. 21-Brian Brown [7]; 7. 71-Spencer Bayston [3]; 8. 18-Gio Scelzi [15]; 9. 12N-Joey Saldana [5]; 10. 5-Ian Madsen [19]; 11. 17A-Austin McCarl [21]; 12. 1A-Jacob Allen [11]; 13. 7BC-Tyler Courtney [16]; 14. 7S-Jason Sides [20]; 15. 24-Rico Abreu [22]; 16. 4-Terry McCarl [13]; 17. 2KS-Brooke Tatnell [18]; 18. O9-Matt Juhl [23]; 19. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild [25]; 20. 83-Daryn Pittman [9]; 21. 11K-Kraig Kinser [17]; 22. 15-Donny Schatz [8]; 23. 26-Cory Eliason [4]; 24. 49-Brad Sweet [12]; 25. 9-James McFadden [14]; Lap Leaders: Logan Schuchart 1-17, Kyle Larson 18-25; KSE Hard Charger Award: 2-Carson Macedo[+20]

Kyle Larson wins Knoxville
Kyle Larson celebrated with his family and team after the first night of The One and Only (Trent Gower/World of Outlaws).