A late-race battle for the lead and the Camping World Truck Series championship turned into a wreck and opened the door to Victory Lane for Timothy Peters.
While racing for the lead with 30 of 150 laps remaining, Matt Crafton drifted up the track into then-leader Erik Jones. Jones slammed into the wall and Crafton crossed back across the track and hit his ThorSport Racing teammate Johnny Sauter.
After a nearly 12-minute red flag to clean the track of debris, Peters inherited the lead when Jones pit for repairs and held off John Hunter Nemechek over the final 23 laps to win Friday night’s Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix International Raceway.
Crafton ended up with a 23rd place finish and his chance at a third consecutive series championship will officially end when he takes the green flag in next weekend’s series finale at Homestead, Fla.
Jones managed to salvage a ninth-place finish in the race and holds a 19-point lead over Tyler Reddick with only next weekend’s race remaining. Jones can clinch his first series championship by finishing 15th or better in the race.
“I think Matt was trying to get a good run off of (Turn) 4 and I was rolling out of it and then I got hit in the left-rear,” Jones said. “It’s unfortunate because we had the two fastest trucks and I don’t think there was anyone else in the field that had anything for us all night.
“It’s a shame. I wished we could have raced for the win side-by-side but things are going to happen when you’re racing that hard and that close together.”
Crafton took blame for the incident.
“I made a mistake. Mistakes happen and we’re all human,” he said. “I hate it for my guys because we had a great truck.”
Reddick, who finished fifth, felt he saw a chance to compete for the win and make up even more ground in the championship battle slip away on his team’s final pit stop in the race.
“It was a good effort by everyone. It was a real shame we had a little hiccup on our last pit stop,” he said. “We had a real strong run going. It was just bad timing because we came out (pit road) only behind the guys we were racing for the championship.”
The win by Peters continues a late-season surge for the Red Horse Racing driver, who has finished sixth or higher in the last seven races, including two victories.
“What an amazing night, just an amazing night,” said Peters. “You never want to see that happen, it was just hard racing from what I saw, but we’ve had our back luck, too.
“We had a top-five truck for sure but we worked our way into position to get the win and that’s what we did.”
The win is the 10th in Peters’ career.
Toyota clinched the 2015 series manufacturers’ championship with Peters’ win. It is Toyota’s eighth title, tying Chevrolet for the most in series history.
John West Townley finished third and Daniel Suarez was fourth.