Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Sports

Crafton wins NASCAR trucks series title

HOMESTEAD — Matt Crafton waited a week to start his championship party. It ended up being a subdued celebration.

Crafton won the NASCAR truck series title even before the green flag dropped on Friday's Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but he lost the owners' championship to Kyle Busch on a tiebreaker.

"It's kind of aggravating because we wanted the owners' championship as well, but it happens," Crafton said.

With a 46-point lead over Ty Dillon, all Crafton needed to do was start the 200-mile finale to secure his first championship in his 13 seasons. So when his engine fired and he took the track, it became official.

All that was left was the owner's title, which Crafton wanted to secure for longtime boss Duke Thorson. But Crafton was involved in a late wreck and was 21st, his lowest finish of the year.

In the end, Busch won the race and the owners' championship. The Sprint Cup regular's No. 51 truck won the tiebreaker with more victories than Crafton.

Ryan Blaney finished second, followed by Jeb Burton.

Crafton, 37, still became the first driver in the series' 19 years to complete every lap in a season.

The title was the first for ThorSport Racing, which is based in Sandusky, Ohio.

"This has been such a blessing," Crafton said. "You don't have to be in North Carolina to do this."

On Thursday, the team rewarded Crafton with a contract extension.

Franchitti's concussions: Dario Franchitti, three-time Indianapolis 500 winner and four-time IndyCar champion, retired because the threat of another concussion was too great, team owner Chip Ganassi said Friday.

"He was certainly heart­broken," Ganassi said, recounting a recent call Franchitti made to him from Scotland. "He's a bit of a realist about it, too."

Steve Olvey, an IndyCar consultant and the associate professor of Clinical Neurology/Neurosurgery at the University of Miami-Miller School of Medicine, told racer.com that Franchitti has had three concussions since 2002 and the one last month at Houston "was a big one, a significant concussion.

"He's got a higher risk for future concussions with less energy involved in a crash," Olvey said. "And, as we've seen in pro football, repeated concussions can lead to early dementia, so he's got to think of his future."

More IndyCar: Owner/driver Ed Carpenter will run a partial schedule in 2014, driving six oval races and turning all road/street courses over to Mike Conway. Conway, a two-time winner in the series, walked away from the 2012 season finale at Fontana, saying he was not comfortable racing on ovals. He has been interested in returning strictly on street and road courses, where Carpenter has struggled.

Formula One: Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel led a Red Bull 1-2 in practice for Sunday's U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, Texas. His lap of 1 minute, 37.305 seconds edged teammate Mark Webber at the Circuit of the Americas.

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