Crafton Crowned Champion
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on November 15, 2013 | 10:23 P.M. EST
The 37-year-old Crafton entered Friday night’s Ford EcoBoost 200 with such a lead that all he needed to do was start the race and he would be champion. (Photo: Getty Images)
HOMESTEAD, Fla. - Matt Crafton earned the reward for a lifetime of racing by winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship.
Thirty years after Crafton recevied a go-kart as a kindergarten graduation gift, he scored the top accomplishment of his career.
All it took was starting his truck.
The 37-year-old Crafton entered Friday night’s Ford EcoBoost 200 with such a lead that all he needed to do was start the race and he would be champion.
Even as he neared his title, he grew anxious.
After starting his engine - officially becoming champion - he got on the radio and said: “Will they get the pace car going? Just want to get the green flag.’’
When he he did, it was a different Crafton than the one who has protected a points lead he gained after his victory in April at Kansas Speedway. He never lost the points lead, but it took a toll, having to protect his position. After finishing last weekend’s race at Phoenix and all but assuring the title, he was most pleased that he would not have to hold back in the season finale.
He didn’t. He charged to the lead and later battled with three other trucks for position. Crafton stayed near the front. He was not cruising but racing.
He later fell out of the top 10 after pitting during a caution when others did not. Crafton fought his truck’s handling while running around 12th place. At one point, as he described his truck’s handling, he said: “It still gets too tight. It went to neutral. I saw little baby Jesus & then lifted.’’
Crafton made a move on the outside of Joey Coulter but Coulter moved up and they made contact, sending Crafton into the wall. Crafton's truck suffered damage on both sides and had to pit for repairs. He finished 21st, allowing Kyle Busch Motorsports to beat Crafton's ThorSport Racing for the owner's title on a tiebreaker.
The driver's championship - Crafton finished 40 points ahead of runner-up Ty Dillon - rewards Crafton's service in the series. He's competed regularly in the series since 2001. His 316 career starts ranks among the top five in series history. Although he’s not moved full-time to the Nationwide or Sprint Cup level, he’s happy where he’s racing.
"My biggest deal is whatever I do, I want to be competitive,’’ he said. “I'm not going to lie, there's people that have called me. You're going to run a Cup car, you're going to run 25th or 43rd at best. I don't want to do that, I don't care. I'm probably going to make more money, but I'm going to be a miserable SOB on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday just riding around like that.
“I know they're racing their butts off. If you're not Hendrick, RCR, Penske, you're not going to contend to win. All these guys are about the same age as me, I don't think they're going anywhere anytime soon. I'm getting the opportunity to do what I love to do: race, be competitive, being able to win races and win a championship.’’