By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
AVONDALE, Arizona — It started off with three ThorSport Racing drivers when the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series playoffs began in late August. Now going into the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, only one made it to the big stage. That man was two-time series champion Matt Crafton.
Crafton entered into Friday’s Lucas Oil 150 at ISM Raceway outside the cutoff line, trailing Austin Hill by nine points. When crossed the line in sixth, Crafton beat Hill by seven points to claim the fourth and final spot.
As far as the Owners’ title is concerned, the No. 88 ThorSport Ford F-150 squad won’t be a part of that battle since the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports team claimed the spot.
Instead, Crafton’s focus will be on both the driver’s title and dealing with the Chevrolet trio of Phoenix winner Stewart Friesen, Ross Chastain and defending champion Brett Moffitt.
Through all of that, the pressure was non-existent for the 43-year-old Californian as he knew he had nothing to lose but a lot to gain from the drop of the green flag to the 150th and final lap being completed.
Now his mind is set on the task at hand which is to hoist the Truck Series title for the third time.
“That’s the way my mentality was. That’s the way I drove it,” Crafton said. “I knew we had a really fast truck. It was really good on long runs but I didn’t qualify quite as we hoped but I’ve won a race before at Homestead and won a couple of championships there. I know we can do what we need to do next week.”
Crafton’s advancement into the finale also meant two things. He’s the only Ford competitor in the four-man battle but it also meant that Toyota were out of the war for the first time since the playoffs were introduced in 2016.
When asked about what it’ll mean to win the title with Ford in his second season with the manufacturer, Crafton said it would be an honor to bring a championship to the “Blue Oval” for the first time since Greg Biffle in 2000.
“It’d be awesome to be able to go to Homestead and win a championship for Ford,” Crafton said. “I’ve been a Ford family. My dad raced Ford for a long time and I just got with Ford last year. It would be honor to be able to give them a Truck Series championship.”
The Ford EcoBoost 200 will go down Friday November 15 with live coverage taking place at 5:30 pm EST on FS1.
Crafton said the 1.5-mile circuit is an interesting one because of the amount of tire wear and fall offs, where getting the right balance has to be mastered right from the very get-go.
“You have one shot to get the balance of the truck good,” Crafton said. “It’s always interesting but at the end of the day we know what three trucks we’re going to be racing for the championship. It would be nice to be able to win the race and the championship.”