By: Caroline Ashcraft, University of Miami
MIAMI – There was no champagne flowing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Championship Friday night, simply because the new champion isn’t of age yet. History was made at Homestead-Miami Speedway, as 19-year-old Erik Jones clinched the 2015 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Championship by finishing 6th in the Ford EcoBoost 200. He became the youngest championship winner in the 20-year history of the series, at 19 years, 5 months and 21 days.
“I’d say I was [racing] conservative. I stayed out of situations I didn’t want to be in and stayed in the middle of the top 10 all night,” said Jones. “Ultimately, we did what we needed to do.”
Jones, a driver for Kyle Busch Motorsports, went into the night with a 19-point lead ahead of fellow 19-year-old Tyler Reddick. Although the two 19-year olds finished 1-2 in the final 2015 Camping World Truck Series standings, it was 39-year old Matt Crafton who captured the checkered flag in Friday night’s Ford EcoBoost 200. He concluded the season in 3rd spot.
Crafton, who won back-to-back truck series championships in 2013 and 2014, ran into trouble at Phoenix International Raceway last week where he finished 23rd, and went into Friday’s race third in points, 32 points behind Jones. After winning the “21 Means 21” Pole Award, Crafton led the race for 92 of the 134 laps, finishing 2.943 seconds ahead of second place John Hunter Nemechek.
“To take my gloves off and only have to worry about winning was great,” said Crafton, when asked about being out of the running for the championship. “Six wins and as many laps as we led, it’s been a dream season. I was having so much fun there at the end.”
“I told him I make you look good a whole lot, but man, you made me look good tonight,” said Crafton’s crew chief Junior Joiner.
The Ford EcoBoost 200 win is Crafton’s sixth win this season, with Jones winning three races, and Reddick winning two.
This is the first driver championship for Kyle Busch as a team owner, and has helped Kyle Busch Motorsports to be the first team in NASCAR history to win three consecutive owner titles.
“There’s nothing better than to build the company from the ground up and be where we are today,” said Busch. “It means so much to have the opportunity to help these young drivers.”
“To bring this home for myself and KBM, I couldn’t as for a better ending then that,” said Jones.
On top of taking home the championship, Jones was awarded the Camping World Truck series Rookie of Year award.
“So many things had to come into play for me to even be here in this moment,” said Jones. “I’ve had a great three years with these guys, and I couldn’t think of a better way to thank them.”
The Ford EcoBoost 200 is the kickoff of Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, NASCAR’s championship weekend, which also includes the Ford EcoBoost 300 XFINITY race on Saturday at 3 p.m. and Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 Sprint Cup Series Championship race, which starts at 2:45 p.m.