Matt Crafton entered Friday night’s Truck Series finale as the clear underdog. As evidenced by FOX’s prerace show dubbing him that and essentially saying he only had a fighting chance of being in contention.
Entering a Championship race with the likes of Brett Moffitt, Ross Chastain, and Stewart Friesen being labeled the underdog was correct for Crafton. The other three drivers all have multiple wins in 2019. They’ve all shown consistent speed throughout the season.
Matt Crafton hasn’t won a race since Eldora 2017, he only had two Top-3 finishes heading into the finale at Homestead. Yet, Crafton left with what everyone wanted.
After 134 laps on the Homestead high banks, it was Crafton who crossed the finish line first among the Championship 4 drivers thus taking the title and breaking NASCAR’s knockout playoff format in the process.
Matt Crafton is your 2019 Gander Outdoors Truck Series Champ after finishing second to Austin Hill who captured his 4th win of the season. Ironically it was Crafton who knocked Hill out of the Championship 4 last weekend at Phoenix. Had Hill remained in the Championship 4 he’d have been the champ, bittersweet for the HRE bunch. Christian Eckes came home third wrapping up the Owner’s Championship for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
Crafton Broke The System
NASCAR implemented this knockout playoff format to put an emphasis on winning. The more wins you get in the regular season gives you a cushion of points for the playoffs so there is a large incentive on winning. Guys like Kyle Busch in the Cup Series this season could have a few bad races and still make it to the final race. Once in the playoffs a win in that round automatically advances you to the next round, again a massive emphasis has been put on winning.
Crafton didn’t win in the regular season. He didn’t win in the playoffs, he didn’t even have a Top-5 over the previous 13 races before Friday night’s second-place finish. His last Top-5 before that happened at Iowa back on June 16th, and now he’s the champ.
This playoff format was implemented to avoid situations like this. Where a non-winner wins the title. It almost happened in 2014 with Ryan Newman, it happened this year with Matt Crafton. On one hand, it’s refreshing to see someone make a mockery of NASCAR’s gimmicky system for choosing a champ. On the other hand its a bummer for the guys that were competitive all year.
Don’t hate the player hate the game. Crafton and team played by the rules that were laid out in front of them. At the end of the day, they exploited a flaw in the system.
Now, of course, everything had to work out perfectly for Crafton to get here. Without the Illmor debacle at Las Vegas, Tyler Ankrum’s bad problems, and Austin Hill’s bad race at Phoenix Crafton doesn’t make it to Homestead. Consistency has always been the key to winning championships. Apparently it still is as much as NASCAR doesn’t want it to be.
This is the outlier, the anomaly, this won’t happen every year with this format but when it does you have to question the validity of the championship. Granted rules are rules and they won per the rules but it does leave a poor after taste.
Was Crafton really the best truck this year?
The answer is easily no.
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