Homestead, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Matt Crafton officially clinched the 2013 Camping World Truck Series championship by simply starting Friday night's race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but Kyle Busch took the checkered flag and gave his No. 51 team the owner's title in the series.
Crafton's first championship came in his 13th full season in the series and with ThorSport Racing. But his finish in this season-ending race did not go as well as he hoped it would.
During the first of three green-white-checkered attempts, Crafton was involved in an accident on the backstretch when he made contact with the wall after Joey Coulter bumped into him. Crafton pitted multiple times during the cautions before he ended up finishing 21st -- his worst of the season. He completed all 148 laps, which allowed him to set a series record for finishing every lap this season. There were 22 races.
"At the point when we had our last pit stop, I didn't honestly think that we could get back there and win the race, and that's what we came here to do was win the race and lock up the owner's championship," Crafton said. "When we started the race, we got the driver's championship, and we wanted to get to victory lane and get the owner's championship. It's a shame."
Crafton made his record-extending 316th consecutive start in the series. The 37-year-old Tulare, Calif. native ended the season with one win (April 20 race at Kansas) and a series-high 19 top-10 finishes. Crafton finished the year 40 points ahead of his closest competitor, Ty Dillon, who placed 14th. He entered this race with a 46-point advantage, needing only to start it in order to win the championship.
"It was an awesome day and an awesome year," Crafton said. "It's been the greatest year of my life so far."
Crafton became the 13th different driver to win a championship in the 19-year history of the series.
On Thursday, ThorSport announced that Crafton had signed a multi-year contract extension with the team. Menards will continue to sponsor his No. 88 Toyota in 2014.
Busch passed Ross Chastain for the lead after a restart on lap 99 and then exchanged the top spot with Austin Dillon multiple times before Busch ran in front for good on lap 117.
Ryan Blaney, the pole sitter, challenged Busch for the lead during the final lap, but he beat Blaney to the finish line by just 0.08 seconds. It was Busch's fifth victory of the season and the 35th of his truck career. He won at Homestead for the first time in 2010.
"It's a very meaningful night for us, everyone at Kyle Busch Motorsports," Busch said. "This certainly means a lot to myself and (wife) Samantha. It was a do or die situation tonight. We knew that we had to come here and win the race. Early, it didn't look like we had the truck capable of doing that. But I just kept putting good laps out there and trying to stay off the fence. It was certainly a race of being up as close as you can without getting into it."
Busch now has 21 wins combined in all three of NASCAR's national touring series this year. He has 12 victories in Nationwide and four in Sprint Cup.
KBM's No. 51 team and Crafton's No. 88 ThorSport Racing team ended the season with the same amount of points (804), but the 51 won the owner's title in a tiebreaker by virtue of its six wins this year compared to one for the 88.
Two weeks ago, Busch finished 28th at Texas after suffering engine failure in the late going. It gave the 88 team a 32-point lead over the 51 at the time. But Erik Jones drove the 51 truck to victory in last week's race at Phoenix, keeping KBM's title hopes alive. Jones became the youngest race winner in series history at age 17.
"Without Erik Jones winning last weekend, we wouldn't have been in this position this weekend to come out here and have the opportunity with those bonus points to be close enough. Matt unfortunately had trouble, and I hate it for his team. And (ThorSport Racing team owners) Duke and Rhonda (Thorson), I know how long they've been in this sport and how much they wanted to win an owner's championship. If there's any consolation prize, I mean tying, you can't get any closer than that."
In 2010, KBM became the first team in the series to win the owner's title in its inaugural season.
Blaney led the most laps with 67 compared to 62 for Busch. While leading on lap 94, Blaney ran high up the track and scraped the wall, which put Busch to the front.
"I got into that wall there leading Kyle, just trying to keep the lead," said Blaney, who finished second. "You're running so close to the edge every single lap at this racetrack, six inches from the wall, sometimes you slip up and there's no getting out of the wall once you touch it. That was my mistake. My guys made a great call at the end to come in and take two tires to give me a shot at it. Just didn't quite get there in time."
Blaney, the 19-year-old son of NASCAR veteran Dave Blaney, won the rookie-of- the-year title in the series. He's the youngest driver in trucks to do it.
Jeb Burton, also a rookie this season, finished third. Burton made contact with the wall on lap 130, which forced the sixth caution and set up the first two-lap overtime finish attempt.
Brendan Gaughan took the fourth spot, and Ron Hornaday Jr., who drove the No. 34 truck for Turner Scott Motorsports, was fifth. Hornaday was released from his ride at NTS Motorsports following the Phoenix race.
John Wes Townley, German Quiroga, Chastain, Timothy Peters, and Cale Gale, who won his first truck race one year ago at Homestead, completed the top-10.