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NASCAR Truck: Austin Hill wins race, Matt Crafton takes title at Homestead-Miami

HOMESTEAD, FLORIDA – NOVEMBER 15: Austin Hill, driver of the #16 Chiba Toyopet Toyota, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2019 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

By AMANDA VINCENT

Three NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series drivers/teams had reason to celebrate after Friday night’s EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the 2019 season-finale. Austin Hill won his fourth race of the season, Matt Crafton became a three-time Truck Series champion after finishing the race in second, and Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 51 team celebrated an owners’ championship after its driver for the evening, Christian Eckes, finished the race in the third position.

“It feels amazing,” Crafton said. ”It’s one step closer to what (four-time champion Ron) Hornaday has done, and they called us the underdog. I heard (Todd) Bodine and everybody say I was the underdog, and I didn’t have it. We fought harder. I guarantee you every one of these guys worked harder, and this Menard Ford F-150 was fast tonight. The first run I was like, ‘Oh, boy we’re in trouble.’ But we just made air-pressure adjustments from there. We made a few adjustments to tighten it up, because we thought the track was gonna be green; it was gonna go away, but this thing ran flawless all night, and the motor was very good, as well and everything just went our way. I was praying there, ‘I do not want a yellow right here at the end of this thing.’”

Also, with Hill’s win and Eckes’ third-place finish, Toyota won the manufacturers’ championship.

“The success Toyota has had this year is just another testament to the hard work and dedication of our teams and drivers, whether it’s our young, up-and-coming drivers or veterans like Kyle Busch,” Toyota North America Group Manager of Motorsports and Asset Management Paul Doleshal said. “The Truck Series has a long history of producing some of the best racing in NASCAR, and we’re proud to be able to continue to showcase the Tundra and to add another manufacturer’s championship to its name.”

Other championship drivers, Ross Chastain, Brett Moffitt, and Stewart Friesen finished fourth, fifth and 11th respectively. Chastain, Moffitt and Friesen’s teams also were in the running for the owners’ championship. But Crafton’s ThorSport Racing team wasn’t. That slot was the one that went to Eckes’ KBM team.

After an hour-and-a-half rain delay, the four title contenders, along with Eckes, ran in the top-10 for most of the race. Hill, though, led the way for a race-high 56 laps through the 134-lap event, including stage wins at lap 30 and lap 60.

After Friesen started on the pole, Chastain took the lead on lap one and led the first 28 laps. Hill took his first lead on lap 29 and led the final two laps of the opening stage. Between the two stages, he lost the lead on pit road and restarted sixth. On lap 44, he retook the lead.

Pit strategies varied in the second stage when some drivers, including Eckes, pitted when Ray Ciccarelli brought out a caution with a blown engine on lap 50. That caution was the only yellow flag of the race other than the two at the end of the two stages. All four championship drivers and Hill opted to stay out, instead pitting when the second stage ended.

After Hill won the second stage, Eckes, Ben Rhodes and Todd Gilliland were up front for the final restart after staying out at stage-end, having pitted during Ciccarelli’s caution. Hill took the lead from Eckes on lap 90, and soon after, Crafton took second from Eckes.

A green-flag cycle of pit stops began with about 40 laps remaining in the race, and when it completed, Crafton was up front with a two-second lead on Eckes. Hill was in third. Hill took his race-winning lead from Crafton on lap 112.

“I just have to give it all to my guys,” Hill said. “This is probably the best truck that I’ve had. I know we were really good at Vegas, but man, this thing was good. At Vegas we were on a different tire strategy than other guys, but we weren’t this time, and we just showed then how good we actually were. I’m excited for the win, but at the same time, it stings a little bit because I know if we would have been a little better in the round of six, we could be celebrating a win and a championship. I can’t thank everybody on this team enough. Can’t thank Chiba Toyopet, Toyota, TRD enough. With this win, we locked up the manufacturer’s championship for Toyota, so I’m really glad that I could be a part of that and help that out. Awesome way to end the season.”

Hill was eliminated from championship contention the previous weekend at ISM (formerly Phoenix International) Raceway.

Other top-10 finishers included Johnny Sauter in sixth, Grant Enfinger in seventh, Gilliland eighth, Sheldon Creed ninth and Parker Kligerman in 10th.

Below, is the complete finishing order of the Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway:

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Posted by on November 16, 2019. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,NASCAR,NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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