In the end, Matt Crafton didn’t score a win during the 2019 Gander Outdoors NASCAR Truck Series season, but to become a three-time series champion it wasn’t required.
Consistency had propelled Crafton through much of the season and into the playoffs, but he still rose to the occasion on Friday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway with perhaps his best performance of the year.
He still didn’t win – finishing second to eventual race winner Austin Hill – but he out-ran the other three drivers in contention for the championship, and that’s all that’s required to win the title.
“This thing was phenomenal. Hill had a rocket ship and there at the end of the race I felt like I could have raced him harder, but at the same time I felt like I could have lost a lot of time racing him,” Crafton said.
“At the end of the day it was about winning the war and not the battle.”
It was also a good summation of Crafton’s 2019 season.
Winning isn't everything
By the end of the year, he had finished with seven top-five and 18 top-10 finishes and won three poles in 23 races. He had finished second in a race one previous time this year, at Texas in June.
Even in Crafton’s two previous championship seasons (2013 and 2014), he won a combined total of three races. Consistency has always been the driving factor of his No. 88 ThorSport Racing team.
“It's been a rough year for sure. We’ve had a lot of issues, but we’ve had speed and we kind of made a pact that we were going to stick with a certain package dating back to last year, and I feel like we’re making gains on it,” said Crafton’s crew chief, Junior Joiner.
Crafton, 43, agreed.
“I’d say we made gains without a doubt. We didn’t win tonight, but at the end of the day we can always say we won the battle,” he said.
“We got the big trophy at the end of the year, and that’s all that matters, and it feels damned good, I’ll tell you that much.”