By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
It took Kyle Busch three attempts at a green-white-checkered flag finish to win Friday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but the overtime laps gave him an unexpected bonus: an owners’ championship for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
First things first. Matt Crafton qualified eighth, cranked his engine for the start of the race and won his first series championship in his 13th full year in the trucks, closing out Ty Dillon simply by starting the race.
“It’s an honor,” an emotional Crafton said after the race. “To be able to do it for (team owners) Duke and Rhonda Thorson that have been doing this for 18 years and give them their first championship … and me driving for them for 13 years full time … for (sponsor) Menard’s and all the people that have been behind me, and every one of these guys that work on this truck, it’s an honor to be able to give them this championship. These guys are the ones that work so hard. I’m just the one who gets to celebrate and look like a hero, because I get to drive a great truck all year.”
Crafton was wrecked on the first attempt at a green-white-checker and limped home in 21st, resulting in his team losing the owners’ title to Busch on a tiebreaker based on the number of victories during the season.
The win was Busch’s fifth of the season in 11 starts in his own No. 51 Toyota. It was his second win at the 1.5-mile track and the 35th of his career. Even with a win, though, Busch knew the chances of claiming the owners’ title were slim, given that his No. 51 entered the race 23 points behind Crafton’s No. 88 ThorSport Racing Toyota.
“There’ve been a lot of great things that we’ve been blessed with, first an owners’ championship in our first year out with our race team (2010) and now again here in 2013 with a different crew chief (Rudy Fugle) and a lot of different drivers behind the wheel,” Busch said.
“Having Denny Hamlin and Scott Bloomquist, Chad Hackenbracht and Erik Jones … and, of course, without Erik Jones’ win last weekend (at Phoenix), we wouldn’t be in this position this weekend to come out here and have the opportunity with those bonus points to be close enough.
“Matt had to have trouble [for us to take the title], and unfortunately he did.”
Ryan Blaney rallied from contact with the wall to finish second. Jeb Burton hit the wall twice and came home third. Fourth-place finisher Brendan Gaughan posted his fourth top five in as many races, and Ron Hornaday Jr. ran fifth in his first race in the No. 34 Turner Scott Motorsports entry.
Busch was leading when Burton scraped the wall for the second time on Lap 130 during a late green-flag run. That sent the race to overtime, and Busch led the field to the green flag on Lap 136, but a four-car wreck that collected Crafton in the melee necessitated the second green-white-checker.
Johnny Sauter’s wreck on Lap 142 caused the eighth caution of the evening to set up the third and final try at a two-lap shootout.
Blaney, 19, also made a statement in a close rookie-of-the-year battle against Darrell Wallace Jr., becoming the youngest Sunoco Rookie of the Year in series history. Blaney led 51 of the first 65 laps and was first onto pit road on Lap 65 after Darrell Wallace Jr. tagged the outside wall one circuit earlier.
Busch was first off pit road for a restart on Lap 70, but after a pitched battle for the lead that went four-wide at one juncture — with Busch, Blaney, Crafton and Hornaday all involved — Blaney reclaimed the top spot from Busch on Lap 78 and began to pull away.
Blaney’s lead grew to nearly one second by Lap 88, but Busch soon began to close. On Lap 94 Blaney scraped the outside wall to cause the fourth caution of the race and dropped to the back of the field after repairs but rallied late for the runner-up finish as the race went 14 laps beyond its posted distance.