Opinion: Winless Matt Crafton is NASCAR’s most unorthodox champion

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November 16, 2019 03:17 AM

Opinion: Winless Matt Crafton is NASCAR’s most unorthodox champion

43-year-old is just the second winless champion in NASCAR history

Matt Weaver

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Motorsport Images – LAT

Matt Crafton’s third NASCAR Truck Series championship will go down as one of the ultimate statistical anomalies.

Matt Crafton, Junior Joiner and the ThorSport Racing No. 88 team cracked the code.
In finishing second to Austin Hill on Friday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the 43-year-old completed without a doubt, the most unorthodox championship in NASCAR history.
It is the long-awaited answer to the question “What happens when this championship format produces a winless champion?” It was the first winless championship season in Truck Series history and just the second overall winless season in NASCAR national touring history.
But the superlatives don’t end there.
Crafton hasn’t won since July 2017 in the Eldora Dirt Derby. He hasn’t won on pavement since May 2016 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.  
His last top five before Friday night was in June at Texas Motor Speedway. He led only 44 laps all season, including nine on Friday, good for 16th overall in the division.
This was only the second time that Crafton had finished higher in a race than Brett Moffitt, Ross Chastain and Stewart Friesen, his fellow championship race finalists.
In comparison?
Brett Moffitt: 10
Ross Chastain: 6
Stewart Friesen: 5
This was also the most disjointed championship in NASCAR history.
Before the start of the seven-race playoff, Crafton looked every bit like a bona fide championship contender. Sure, he barely scraped into the eight-driver playoff, but he had the best overall average finish in the division to that point.
And then, he suffered every possible misfortune imaginable, from a spec engine failure at Las Vegas to a loose engine control unit connector at Martinsville. And he just kept scraping by from round to round. His average finish in the playoffs was 12.5, down from 7.2 in the regular season.
The irony of course, is that Crafton himself bemoaned the format that just crowned him a champion back in August when he barely made the cut into the Round of 8.
“In racing, where I come from you put a whole season together to win a championship,” Crafton said. “You don’t just win one race and flounder around all year to make it to Homestead. You can do that now.”
In this case, was this putting a whole season together, floundering around or a little bit of both?
Crafton doesn’t care about your stats, opinions or negativity.
“When they talk about not winning a race and winning the championship, you know what, I’m going to sleep really good all winter long with this trophy because when you win a race, that’s very sweet, but usually you only have one week to gloat about it,” Crafton said. “But I’ve got like two and a half months to gloat about this championship before next year.”
And why not gloat?
Under the parameters of this format, Crafton earned an equal shot to race for a championship alongside Moffitt, Chastain and Friesen. There is something to be said about getting the job done when it mattered the most.
No one crashed out and there were no fluky cautions. The No. 88 team just took the war to their door and earned the championship.
And this is kind of what Crafton does: win championships in unusual ways.
His back-to-back championships in 2013 and 2014 were earned with one and two wins respectively. And then he came up short despite winning six races in 2015. And now he’s become the first winless champion.
That’s three wins across his three championship seasons.
“You know what we’ll say to that? We won the championship,” Crafton said. “It’s just as sweet to be totally honest. Yeah, it would have been great to win some of those battles throughout the year, but we went through a lot and we’ve had a lot of adversity this year.
“Without a doubt I felt like we should have won some races, but at the end of the day, we’re the 2019 Truck Series champion.”
Remarkably.

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Source:https://autoweek.com/article/nascar-gander-outdoors-truck-series/opinion-winless-matt-crafton-nascars-most-unorthodox

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