Matt Crafton dominates season finale but Erik Jones takes championship

Andrew Coppley/Harold Hinson Photography

By Jerry Jordan — HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Matt Crafton never dropped below fourth place in Friday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway but despite leading the most laps and winning the Ford EcoBoost 200, it wasn’t enough to overcome the championship points lead held by Erik Jones heading into the night.

The two-time defending truck series champion wanted to go for a record-breaking three straight but bad luck heading into the final races put him in a significant hole for the final showdown. Still, he went out and put on a clinic of what a driver has to do in order to prove he’s still got what it takes.

“Tonight’s win was awesome,” Crafton said. “Like I said, the last two years we haven’t been able to race here, and to be able to take the gloves off and don’t worry about a championship and just go out and win, and that’s all we had to do was worry about winning, and I said nothing else was going to make us happy. So that’s what we did tonight.

“We had a phenomenal season. Six wins and 700 ‑‑ I think they said 780 laps we led. That’s a pretty good season. We just had one column that was bad for us: DNFs. I made mistakes and everybody made mistakes. But I promise you one thing, it’s going to make us stronger for 2016.”

For Jones, it was an incredible championship win and one that his team’s owner, Kyle Busch, believed was possible before he ever signed Jones to a contract to drive the No. 4 Toyota Tundra. The 19-year-old driver became the youngest champion in series history and ended his season with three wins, 11 Top Fives, 20 Top Tens and five starts from the pole.

“I think it’s going to take some time to sink in, you know, but just an awesome season,” Jones said. “Just a real team effort from the start, and some of the adversity we went through early on, and putting the team back together to championship form there for the latter part of the season and really going and working for the championship and earning ourselves a cushion coming into Homestead, and honestly still being able to run strong at Homestead all day.

“I don’t think we ever put ourselves in a position to be in a situation we didn’t want to be in. I thought we did a good job of letting everything sort out and then kind of going to work and getting spots. It’s a shame, I think we had a really good truck, but we never really needed to race or had the opportunity to go up and race with the guys up front. You know, we just kind of ran around the middle part of the top 10 all day, and that’s honestly all we needed to do.”

Even though Busch has multiple owner’s championships under his belt in the Camping World Truck Series, Jones was able to bring something to Kyle Busch Motorsports that it had never been able to secure in the past – a driver championship.

“It’s an honor,” Busch said. “You know, it’s certainly been a lot of blood, sweat and tears over the years, but it’s been pretty awesome, as well, too. I can’t say enough about the people, everyone that’s been at Kyle Busch Motorsports at the beginning, been there now or future. You know, it certainly has been pretty awesome to work with every one of those individuals, and it takes a lot of that in order to get the job done the way that we have over our existence in the series, and to set the record of winning an owner’s championship the first year out was pretty awesome, and then to continue that on with different people on down the line with Eric Phillips and with Rudy and Jerry now, we’ll see how that continues to go on down through the years.

“But I can’t say enough about the kid to my right. Erik Jones here is just awesome. He did a great job racing against me in South Florida, I guess the panhandle there in Pensacola, with having the opportunity to race in the Snowball Derby together. We had fun. I never would have expected to get beat by him in that race, but the last run of the race he did a great job. We raced clean, we raced hard, and he scored the victory, and I knew he was going to be good that day, and to get him signed up with Kyle Busch Motorsports and to have the opportunity to work with him over the last two seasons on the part‑time side and to get him ready for the full‑time side, you know, I’m thankful that he’s stuck with me and that he believed in what our plan was for him, to give him this shot and to give him this opportunity, and I think he’s got a lot of bigger and greater things to have on his plate with years to come.”

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