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

1 Comment

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.

Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner on injured list; Musquin remains out

Shimoda injured
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Bad news continues to come out of the Monster Energy / Pro Circuit Kawasaki team as they announced Jo Shimoda injured his shoulder in a practice session and will not mount up when the Monster Energy Supercross 250 East division opens in Houston, Texas on February 4. A timetable has not been given for Shimoda’s return, but a press release from the team references multiple weeks.

“I’m doing my best to focus forward on my return to racing,” said Shimoda in the release. “Our goal was to compete for the 250 Supercross Eastern Regional Championship and I know we had been doing the right work to make that happen. Unfortunately, this crash will cause me to miss the start of the season, but I still aim to be back on the track racing for wins before the end of Supercross.”

Shimoda is joined on the sidelines by teammates Seth Hammaker and Austin Forkner, who also suffered injuries in recent weeks.

The news of Hammaker’s sidelining came just two days ago. His wrist injury is sufficient to require surgery, so he too will miss multiple weeks. Hammaker was scheduled to compete in the 250 East division alongside Shimoda.

Forkner was involved in a Lap 1 crash in the 250 West season opener at Anaheim. Multiple injuries, including an ACL tear, will sideline him for the remainder of the season. He described the injury and its aftermath on Instagram.

Forkner will be relieved by Carson Mumford, but not before that rider’s wrist has healed sufficiently. He is scheduled to debut with Kawasaki in Oakland for the rescheduled Round 2 Supercross race on February 18.

Shimoda finished fourth in the 2022 Supercross 250 West division and was second in 2021 points in 250 East. In 2021, Shimoda won his first Supercross race at Salt Lake City. Last year, he scored one podium and six top-fives in nine starts.

Shimoda finished second in last year’s outdoor Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season, where he added two more SuperMotocross wins including the Unadilla Nationals that kicked off a four-race streak of first- or second-place results.

Kawasaki is not the only team facing injury. Red Bull KTM initially reported Marvin Musquin would be out for the San Diego round with a wrist injury and “maybe more”. This week it was announced he will miss this week’s Triple Crown race in Anaheim and “at least the next several rounds.”