NASCAR Truck: championship four set for Homestead-Miami Speedway finale
Johnny Sauter (21) and Matt Crafton (88) on-track during the Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix International Speedway on Nov. 11, 2016 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR)
By AMANDA VINCENT
The checkered flag of the Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Ariz., Friday night also was the checkered flag on the round of six in the first-ever chase for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. With the season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 18 all that remains in the 2016 Truck Series season, the chase field has been whittled from six to the championship four drivers ahead of Homestead. Racing for the 2016 series title at HMS will be Johnny Sauter, Matt Crafton, Timothy Peters and Christopher Bell.
All four drivers will start at Homestead-Miami with matching 4000-point tallies. The highest race finisher among the four in the season-finale will be the 2016 Camping World Truck Series champion.
“It should be good. I don’t have any pressure, to be honest,” Crafton said. “I’ve won a couple of them (championship), and it feels good. We’ll just go out there and have a shot at it. At the end of the day, we had a little shot last year, and we threw a Hail Mary and came up a little bit short and got in a wreck at the end. It’s straight-up whoever wins; we’re taking off the gloves. I promise you that.”
Sauter headed into the Homestead race with his championship four slot already secured, having won the first two races in the round of six. He was the only driver, though, who already was guaranteed chase advancement heading into the Phoenix race.
Sauter, a Chevrolet driver, is the only non-Toyota driver to make the championship four.
William Byron, who leads the series with six trips to victory lane this year, looked to be well on his way to clinching one of the three remaining advancing spots, dominating the 150-lap race. He led 112 laps before his engine blew with fewer than 10 laps remaining. When his engine went up in smoke, so did his championship chances.
The other five round of six drivers finished in the top-10. Behind winner and Xfinity Series regular Daniel Suarez, Sauter took runner-up honors and two-time Truck Series champion Matt Crafton was third. Peters finished fifth, just behind non-chaser Cameron Hayley.
Bell finished seventh at Phoenix, while Ben Kennedy finished ninth. Like Byron, Kennedy’s chase ended with Saturday night’s race, despite the top-10 finish.
“It sucks, man; we didn’t want to get in that way,” Bell said of claiming the final chase advancing position after Byron fell out of contention. “But we wanted to get in; that’s the bottom line.”