Crafton aiming for his second straight Truck Series title

11/14/2014 10:30:50 AM

That could change on Friday night, as the series concludes its season at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Matt Crafton is in position to become the first driver to win consecutive titles in the series. If Crafton finishes 21st or better, or 22nd with at least one lap led, or 23rd and the most laps led, he will clinch the championship, regardless of any other driver's performance.

Crafton, the driver of the No. 88 Toyota for ThorSport Racing, enters the season-finale with a 25-point lead over second-place Ryan Blaney.

Last year, Crafton clinched his first truck championship by a 40-point margin over Ty Dillon, who is now a rookie in the Nationwide Series. Crafton won the title despite a 21st-place finish at Homestead. He came to this South Florida track with a 46-point advantage over Dillon, which meant he only needed to start the race to clinch.

Crafton will need to do more than just start this race to secure the championship, so how confident is he in his attempt to win a second straight title?

"It's something I haven't thought about, something I don't really put a lot of thought into," Crafton said. "If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it wasn't meant to be."

Crafton, a 38-year-old Tulare, California native, has scored two wins (Martinsville in March and Texas in June), 13 top-five finishes and 16 top-10s in 21 races this season. In 2013, he recorded only one victory (Kansas) but had 16 consecutive top-10 finishes to open the season. He also set a series record as the only driver who finished on the lead lap in each of the 22 races, completing all 3,391 laps run during the season.

"I feel a ton less pressure on me," Crafton said of contending for this year's championship compared to last year. "There is not one sleepless night that I've worried about if we're going to win this championship, how can we screw this thing up, how can we lose this thing. Last year, every two hours I would wake up from about mid-season on, but now, if it's meant to be it will be.

"It's all about having fast trucks, and we've had some very, very fast race trucks this year."

Crafton has finished outside the top-20 in just two races this season -- 23rd at Dover and 26th at Gateway. Both of those finishes were due to accidents. Last Friday, he placed second to Erik Jones at Phoenix.

Blaney, the 20-year-old son of NASCAR veteran Dave Blaney, is in his second full-season as driver of the No. 29 Ford for Brad Keselowski Racing. He has one win (Canada in August), 11 top-five finishes and 16 top-10s.

"If we don't win the championship, it's been a good year for us," Blaney said. "It's been great to be able to work with Brad Keselowski Racing again and even be in contention for it. For all (team owner) Brad (Keselowski) has done with me, the best thing I can do is to try to win a championship for him and (crew chief) Chad (Kendrick) and everyone at the race shop has done a great job putting us in the spots where hopefully we can even be in contention."

If Blaney were to win the title, he would become the youngest champion in series history.

Thirty-six teams are on the entry list for the Ford EcoBoost 200. Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson are those Sprint Cup regulars scheduled to compete in this race. Busch won last year's event at Homestead.

Series: NASCAR Camping World. Date: Friday, Nov. 14. Race: Ford EcoBoost 200. Site: Homestead-Miami Speedway. Track: 1.5-mile oval. Start time: 8 p.m. ET. Laps: 134. Miles: 201. 2013 Winner: Kyle Busch. Television: FOX Sports 1. Radio: Motor Racing Network (MRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.