HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Kyle Busch had to survive three green-white-checkered restarts, but he held on to win Friday’s Ford EcoBoost 200 finale for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The victory allowed the Kyle Busch Motorsports team to lock up the series owners’ championship, besting the ThorSport Racing No. 88 driven by Matt Crafton. The teams actually tied in the standings, but the championship went to KBM because Busch’s No. 51 truck had more victories in 2013.
“Wow. It means a lot to Kyle Busch Motorsports, it means a lot to myself and my wife, but most importantly every one of our employees, everyone at the shop, everyone back at home, everyone here with us tonight,” Busch said.
Crafton clinched the 2013 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver championship simply by starting Friday’s finale.
For much of the race it looked as if Ryan Blaney was going to be the one going to victory lane at the 1.5-mile oval. Blaney started from the pole and had the dominant truck throughout most of the race, leading a race-high 67 laps.
However with 41 laps left Blaney made a mistake as his No. 29 Ford drifted into the outside wall in turn three, allowing Busch to take the lead as the caution flag waved. The entire field pitted under caution, with Ross Chastain taking two tires to take the lead off pit road ahead of Busch.
Busch was able to retake the race lead during the restart with 35 laps left, but only two laps later Spencer Gallagher and Nelson Piquet Jr. crashed on the front stretch to bring out the caution flag with 33 laps left.
The field returned to racing with 25 laps left and Busch was able to hold the race lead. The fight for the race lead quickly intensified, with Busch swapping the race lead with Austin Dillon multiple times. Eventually Busch was able to dispose of Dillon with 18 laps left, but Jeb Burton quickly took over for Dillon and began to challenge Busch for the lead.
Burton followed in Busch’s tire tracks for eight laps, looking for a way around Busch’s Toyota. However, with seven laps left Burton bounced his Chevrolet off the wall and allow Busch to pull away to a huge lead.
Three laps later Burton found the wall again, this time forcing NASCAR to wave the caution flag and set up a green-white-checkered restart. Busch was able to hold the lead again during the restart, but a wreck involving Brennan Newberry, Joey Coulter and Crafton on the backstretch brought out another caution flag.
The field lined back up for the second green-white-checkered attempt, but once again the caution came back out before one lap was completed when Johnny Sauter spun on the backstretch. Sauter’s crash set up the third and final green-white-checkered restart.
By this time Blaney, who had since gotten pitted for repairs and fresh tires, had made his way up to fourth for the final restart. He was able to get a big run during the restart and take second from Gaughan. He took a run at Busch in turns three and four on the final lap, but he simply ran out of time as Busch held on to win by just .082 of a second.
“This is so much fun to come out here and race for one, but to win races and to contend for owners’ championships. It is big for us,” Busch said.
Blaney’s second-place finish was enough to secure him the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Rookie of the Year Award for the 2013 season.
“We had a great Cooper Standard Ford F150 tonight. We led a lot of laps. I just lost concentration for one second and got in the wall,” Blaney said. “You’re on the edge so much here. You’re running just half a foot from the wall the whole time and one little slip can get you in it. Once you hit the wall it is hard to get off of it.”
Burton was able to recover from his contact with the wall to finish third. Gaughan was fourth ahead of Ron Hornaday Jr. in fifth.
Despite heavy damage during his late-crash with Coulter and Newberry, Crafton was able to finish the race on the lead lap in 21st position. He was the only driver to complete every lap during the 2013 season.
“Menards, Duke and Rhonda Thorson, every one of these guys work on this truck and make this possible,” Crafton said after the race. “It is an honor to get to drive this truck. These guys behind me give me such great trucks. I thought we had a shot at winning the race. We just had a bad pit stop and got hung back there and got in a wreck.
“All in all, I’m Camping World Truck Series champion. Nobody can take that away, right?”