Even though Matt Crafton’s slept better the past few days than he has for months, he hasn’t lost his season-long focus on what he plans to consummate Friday night following the Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway: securing the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ drivers’ and owners’ championships with his No. 88 Ideal Door / Menards Toyota for ThorSport Racing.
Crafton, who’s had a career year in one of ThorSport’s two full-time Toyota Tundras, has already clinched the drivers’ championship, providing he takes the green flag for Friday night’s 22nd race of the 2013 season. Crafton did that by opening a 46-point lead over second-place Ty Dillon following the penultimate race last Friday at Phoenix International Raceway.
But the owners’ championship is vitally important for ThorSport owners Duke and Rhonda Thorson, who in the 18th season of their stock car racing organization’s existence are also having a “career year.”
ThorSport has already won the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards’ drivers’ and owners’ championships courtesy of 10-time ARCA champion Frank Kimmel, who raced his second season with ThorSport in 2013.
Those championships were also primary sponsor Menards’ first in stock car racing. And Crafton would like nothing better than to give Menards its fourth title of the season. To do it, Crafton will have to capitalize on the 23-point advantage his No. 88 team has over Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 51 Tundra squad.
All Crafton need do is finish at least 18th at Homestead and nothing owner/driver Busch does matters. Different scenarios exist whereby Crafton could finish lower, but the best truth for him is that in 10 of his last 11 Homestead starts, Crafton has finished 17th or better — with five of them top-10 finishes.
In addition, Crafton’s worst finish this season, in which he opened with 16 consecutive top-10 finishes, is 17th while he has only two non-top-10 results.
“We’re looking forward to taking the green flag and getting one of those championships out of the way,” Crafton said. “But we’re going to Homestead trying to win a race, no different than we’ve done any of the other 21 weeks this season. We’re focused on that and if we do our jobs the owners’ title will be where it belongs this season.
“Our teammate, Frank Kimmel, won his season-finale race and ideally that’s the way you’d want to do it, for ThorSport, Menards, Toyota, Triad (Racing Technologies, engine supplier) and everyone that’s involved.”
In 12 career races at Homestead, Crafton has an average start of 13.58 and an average finish of 12.08. But in a 315-race Truck Series career — in which Crafton has fashioned a series record for consecutive starts with an uninterrupted string from his debut at the 2000 season finale until now — he has 175 top-10 finishes, a 55-percent ratio.
But obviously Crafton and crew chief Carl “Junior” Joiner have taken their game to another level this season with 19 top 10s in 21 starts. They won Crafton’s third career victory earlier this season on the 1.5-mile intermediate track at Kansas.
“Homestead is my kind of racetrack,” Crafton said, smiling. “Since they reconfigured it, even though the pavement is relatively new, the progressive banking they put in allows you to search all over the place to find a lane in which your truck will work.
“Racing in the (NASCAR Featherlite) Southwest Tour earlier in my career taught me to do that and as a driver, having options is the best thing you can have. I’m really looking forward to this race at Homestead probably more than any of the dozen or so I’ve done there.”
One thing Crafton’s done is catch up on his rest, since his fifth-place finish last week at Phoenix.
“Just being able to sleep will be the coolest thing about only having to start the race at Homestead,” Crafton said in the aftermath at PIR. “I’m not going to lie, for the last month-and-a-half, it’s been tough.”
Crafton’s led the championship standings after the last 18 races and this weekend will earn another notable series landmark for ThorSport, which becomes the first Truck Series operation to lead the standings all season. Sauter started the season with two consecutive wins, led after the first three races and Crafton took over the championship lead at Kansas.
Crafton has also completed all 3,243 laps run this season, the only series driver to achieve that feat. Friday’s race will extend his record to 316 consecutive starts.
Homestead’s one-day Truck Series race format begins with a single practice from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. ET Friday, with live TV coverage on FOX Sports 1. Keystone Light Pole Qualifying to set the starting lineup is scheduled at 4:30 p.m., with TV coverage on FOX Sports 2.
Friday’s 134-lap, 201-mile main event will be telecast live on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, preceded by The Setup pre-race show at 7:30. The live broadcast on MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio also begins at 7:30. Live timing & scoring for the day’s events will be at www.nascar.com.