NASCAR & Auto Racing

Kyle Busch wins race at Homestead as Matt Crafton celebrates truck title

The night belonged to Kyle Busch.

The season belonged to Matt Crafton.

Busch won Friday’s Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but it was Crafton taking home NASCAR’s 2013 Camping World Truck Championship title for the year.

Busch added a 35th career trucks title to his illustrious career, which also includes 63 Nationwide titles and 24 Sprint Cup victories.

“It means a lot,” Busch said of the victory. “The fans were awesome in how they supported us tonight.

“It’s a very meaningful night for us,” Busch added. “Tonight, it was a do-or-die situation. This victory comes from a lot of hard work and dedication.”

For Crafton, the night certainly wasn’t all smooth riding. Actually, quite the opposite.

He finished the race in a battered and twisted car after being pushed into the wall by Joey Coulter. During the third green-white-checkered attempt to finish (auto racing’s equivalent to overtime), Crafton came out of the pits dragging metal and sparks flaring from underneath his damaged car.

He desperately wanted to finish 19th or better so his Toyota team could win the owner’s title, however it was impossible with the car damage he had sustained. He settled for a 21st-place finish.

Of Coulter knocking him into the wall, Crafton said, “I can’t believe the dude came up like I wasn’t even there.”

He added, “I’m kind of aggravated, because I wanted the owner’s championship also.

“But winning the season title is awesome.”

Crafton’s season-long title was a foregone conclusion before the race even started. All he had to do to clinch the title was start his engine Friday night.

He had built a more-than-comfortable 46-point lead heading into Friday’s race by finishing in the top 10 in 19 of the season’s first 21 races. Although he only won one race this season, in Kansas, Crafton’s consistently high finishes gave him an uncatchable advantage heading into the Homestead finale.

As usual, Crafton showed his consistency and patience. He ended up clinching the season-long title by 40 points. He also has a record 316 starts in the Truck Series.

Ryan Blaney, in a Ford, finished second in EcoBoost 200 with Jeb Burton in a Chevrolet taking third.

Nationwide duel

Austin Dillon, at the tender racing age of 23, already has raised a NASCAR championship trophy. He said Thursday his 2011 Camping World Truck title has provided a comfort level throughout the Nationwide series duel that will conclude with the Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

“I’m not as nervous about this one,” said Dillon, who in 2014 will advance into Sprint Cup ranks driving for grandfather Richard Childress. “The first one I was a lot younger, still kind of in the proving [stage].”

But Dillon’s remaining rival for the Nationwide crown has won a few championships of his own. Sam Hornish Jr. claimed three Indy-car titles as well as the 2006 Indianapolis 500 victory before shifting to stock cars in 2008.

The transition has been difficult, but he’s only eight points behind Dillon with 200 laps of Homestead’s 1.5-mile oval remaining. If neither leads a lap, Hornish would need to finish eight positions in front of Dillon to steal the trophy.

In the second practice Friday, Hornish’s fastest lap (166.348 mph) ranked 10th on the speed chart, Dillon’s 165.330 17th. Sprint Cup stars Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano will be among those lined up to qualify at 1 p.m.