Friday’s roundup: Peters wins after contenders crash
Avondale, Ariz. — Timothy Peters won the Truck Series race at Phoenix International Raceway on Friday night after championship contenders Erik Jones and Matt Crafton wrecked while racing for the lead.
Jones entered the race with a 17-point lead in the standings over the two-time defending series champion. But as they raced for position with 31 laps remaining, Crafton lost control of his truck and bumped into Jones.
Crafton then careened into teammate Johnny Sauter to end the race for both drivers.
Jones was able to continue, but had to pit and was no longer a threat for his third consecutive win at Phoenix. He finished ninth.
“At that moment, I wasn’t thinking about the championship. I was thinking about winning the race,” Jones said.
Headed into the season finale next week at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Jones has a 19-point lead in the standings over Tyler Reddick. Crafton fell 32 points behind Jones, who only needs to finish 15th or better at Homestead to win his first career title.
Crafton took full responsibility for causing the wreck.
“I just got loose, it was 100 percent my fault,” Crafton said. “It was close, tight racing. I made a mistake, mistakes happen, we’re all human.”
Jones said he didn’t want to discuss the contact with Crafton, which ended his shot at the victory.
“I think there’s definitely hard racing, definitely some hard racing,” Jones said. “He didn’t want to cede the lead, obviously, and he made a mistake and slipped up.”
Peters’ victory gave Toyota its eighth manufacturers’ championship.
John Hunter Nemechek finished second and was followed by John Wes Townley, Daniel Suarez and Reddick.
Rico Abreu made his Truck Series debut but was caught in an early crash that ended his evening. He was trying to get approved by NASCAR for next week’s finale, and wasn’t sure if he’ll get permission to race on the bigger track.
“Hopefully we can get to Homestead, we didn’t get to run that many laps,” Abreu said. “I was really just racing behind guys and understanding what your truck does. I just was learning, it was a learning process.”
Johnson wins Sprint Cup pole
Jimmie Johnson is doing his best to play spoiler now that his championship chances are done.
The six-time NASCAR champion was eliminated from the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship in the first round of the playoffs. But his win last week at Texas denied Brad Keselowski a spot in the finale, and now he’s on the pole for the final elimination race.
Johnson turned a lap at 143.158 mph in qualifying to win the pole at Phoenix International Raceway. His effort kept Kurt Busch, who is still in the Chase, from the top starting spot for Sunday’s race.
There are seven drivers vying for three spots next week in the title-deciding finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Only Jeff Gordon has clinched a berth in the final four.
“There’s nothing better,” Johnson said. “If you can’t be in it, you may as well go out there and spoil it.”
Johnson has five wins this season, but a mechanical failure in the first elimination race of the Chase bounced him from the playoffs.
Busch was second and the highest-qualifying driver still eligible for the championship. Busch led the second round of qualifying with a track record speed of 142.982 mph, but he was bumped from the pole in the third and final round of qualifying.
Busch likely needs to win Sunday to advance to the final four.
“The car has speed,” Busch said. “We’ve got to stay focused on getting this 41 car punching its ticket down to Homestead.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Johnson’s teammate at Hendrick Motorsports who was eliminated from the Chase in the second round, qualified third.
Carl Edwards qualified fourth and was followed by Martin Truex Jr. as two drivers trying to advance into Homestead landed inside the top-five.