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Crafton becomes first back-to-back champion in Truck Series

Homestead, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Matt Crafton clinched the 2014 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship with a ninth-place finish in Friday night's season-ending Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Crafton became the first driver to win back-to-back titles in the 20-year history of the series. He ended the season 21 points ahead of his closest competitor, Ryan Blaney, who finished fifth in this race. Crafton entered the season-finale with a 25-point advantage over Blaney. A finish of 21st or better had guaranteed him the championship.

"It's definitely an awesome feeling to say you're back-to-back champion," Crafton said. "I definitely didn't want to talk about it at all the last few weeks. Without a doubt, I wanted to go out there and do my job and try to win more races and lead more laps, and that's what we did.

"I'm not going to lie, tonight's race for me was not much fun having to sit there and ride around because I know the truck was a lot better, but I couldn't put myself in any bad position. I just have to wait for everything to file out and just sit there and ride because I couldn't take any chances of getting tore up."

Crafton, a 38-year-old Tulare, California native, scored two wins, 13 top-five finishes and 17 top-10s in 22 races this season. He became the fourth driver to win multiple championships in the series, joining Ron Hornaday Jr. (1996, '98, 2007 and '09), Jack Sprague (1997, '99 and 2001) and Todd Bodine (2006 and '10).

"It's awesome, and to be on the list with those guys is unreal," Crafton said. "I've watched Ron Hornaday race with my dad in the '80s, and he was an unreal race car driver, and to see Jack Sprague and all those guys win the championships. To say I'm on the list with them is pretty cool."

Darrell Wallace Jr. won the race after passing his teammate and team owner, Kyle Busch, with 16 laps remaining and then holding off a hard-charging Kyle Larson in the final laps. Wallace beat Larson to the finish line by just 0.3 seconds for his fourth win of the season and the fifth of his Truck Series career.

It's the first time Wallace has won a truck race on a 1.5-mile racetrack.

"I can't thank my guys (No. 54 Kyle Busch Motorsports team) enough for continuing to come up each and every race and never give up and have that desire to win," Wallace said. "I told them before the race started, we want it more than anybody else. We don't have a shot at the title, but we want this race more than anybody else. Let's show that.

"I had to work for it there. I had to battle off Kyle (Larson) and Kyle (Busch), so a lot of things knocked off tonight in the mile-and-a-half win. We beat the boss finally. It was another battle with Larson like Eldora (July 23 race), running up against the fence like Eldora. Just had to be smart about it. Just had a lot of fun."

Larson started on the pole and led 96 of the first 100 laps, but during the last round of pit stops under caution, he exited pit road in third. Larson made several attempts to overtake Wallace for the lead in the closing laps but could not make the pass.

"There was a couple times where I got a good run off of (turn) 4 and thought about doing a slide job and just thought better of it," Larson said. "I tried it one time there and wished the lap truck hadn't been there so I could run it even deeper. (Wallace) was able to squeeze back around me, and that was about my last real shot. I tried something there the last lap, but I figured it wasn't going to work."

Timothy Peters finished third, while Busch ended up in fourth. Blaney had to overcome a broken shifter he experienced during a pit stop just past the halfway point to place fifth.

Busch's No. 51 team clinched its second straight and third overall owners' championship in the series. The No. 51 concluded the season 24 points in front of ThorSport Racing's No. 88 team, with Crafton as their driver.

Busch drove the No. 51 Toyota in 10 races this season, while 18-year-old Erik Jones was behind the wheel of it in 12 events. Busch scored seven victories and Jones three, including last week's race at Phoenix.

"It's a great milestone for us and a great accomplishment just on the fact that it's what we can race for," Busch said of the owners' title. "Truly to have two drivers being able to compete and to have one (Jones) of those be a rookie and an up-and-coming driver in the series and in NASCAR and to be able to go out there and capture an owners' championship, accumulating more points than the series champion says a lot about our team, a lot about our organization."

KBM is the second team in the series to win consecutive owners' title. Xpress Motorsports first did it from 2002-03.

The No. 51 and 54 teams for KBM combined for 14 wins in the 22 races this year. Toyota's 18th victory this season tied Chevrolet (2010) for the series record of most wins by a manufacturer in a single season.

Ben Kennedy, the great-grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., earned rookie-of-the-year honors in the series this season. Kennedy finished 17th in the race.