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Best of 2013 | Truck Series

By Jim Utter
jutter@charlotteobserver.com
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/12/19/19/42/1larbF.Em.138.jpeg|210
    CHRIS GRAYTHEN - GETTY
    Truck series champion Matt Crafton celebrates with his team in Victory Lane after the Nov. 15 Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on in Homestead, Fla.
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    STEVE HELBER - AP
    Darrell Wallace Jr., right, winner of Oct. 26 Truck race, smiles as he listens to Wendell Scott Jr., left, during an news conference the following day at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/12/19/19/42/BOEbL.Em.138.jpeg|182
    TOM PENNINGTON - GETTY
    Austin Dillon celebrates after winning the July 24 Truck Series’ inaugural Mudsummer Classic at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/12/19/19/42/VHamq.Em.138.jpeg|474
    JENNIFER STEWART - GETTY
    Erik Jones celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Nov. 8 Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Ariz. Jones, 17, became the youngest winner in the NASCAR Truck Series.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/12/19/19/42/1b0DZh.Em.138.jpeg|473
    GEOFF BURKE - GETTY
    Jeb Burton looks on during a September practice for the enjoyillinois.com 225 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.

Driver of the year

The most improved driver in the Truck series also was its champion. Although Matt Crafton won just one race in 2013, he finally mastered the consistency necessary to compete for a championship. He began the season with 16 consecutive top-10 finishes and ended the year with 19 in 22 races.

Team of the year

ThorSport Racing not only won its first series title with Crafton, but its drivers – Crafton and Johnny Sauter – were the only drivers to lead the standings. Sauter won the first two races of the season, then he turned the points lead over to Crafton following the fourth race and Crafton never relinquished it.

Race of the year

It might not have been the most competitive, but the inaugural Truck series race at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, certainly drew the most attention, in large part because it was the first NASCAR national series race on dirt in more than 40 years. Austin Dillon, a former Truck Series champion, used his extensive dirt-racing experience to hold off Kyle Larson, another dirt ace.

Runner-up race of the year

The inaugural race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario, certainly provided one of the most exciting finishes of the season. Ty Dillon and Chase Elliott were running first and second coming to the checkered flag when Elliott wrecked Dillon and sent him into the tire barrier. Elliott went on to claim his first series victory.

Newcomer of the year

Jeb Burton, the son of former Daytona 500 champion Ward Burton, had a spectacular season. He finished fifth in the standings, won a series-high seven poles and earned his first win June 7 at Texas.

Quote of the year

“The 3 (Ty Dillon) just dumped me. That’s exactly the reason I’m leaving (Richard Childress Racing) because you’ve got those kids (Ty and his older brother Austin) coming up and they’ve got no respect for what they do in this sport. They’ve had everything fed to them with a spoon.” – Kevin Harvick after getting wrecked during the Oct. 26 Martinsville, Va., race by Ty Dillon. Harvick would apologize for his remarks.

Best tweet

“We Came. We Saw. We Conquered.” – Driver Darrell Wallace Jr., who earned his first series victory Oct. 26 at Martinsville and became just the second African-American driver to win a NASCAR national series race and the first since 1963.

Biggest OMG moment

Following a run-in on the final lap of the Sept. 1 race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, drivers Max Papis and Mike Skeen continued their battle after the race. First, a crew member for Skeen attempted to go after Papis as he was sitting in his truck, only to be body-slammed to the ground. Then, Skeen’s girlfriend confronted Papis in the garage area and slapped him hard across the face.

Biggest surprise winner

In a battle between drivers who had never won in the series, 17-year-old Erik Jones pulled away from Ross Chastainover the final 10 laps Nov. 8 at Phoenix to become the youngest winner in series history. Jones was making his fifth series start.

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter.
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