AVONDALE, Ariz. (Nov. 7, 2000) -- Consistency during the 2000 season put Matt Crafton in a position to win the Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR Touring championship, and the Tulare, Calif., driver ran away from his competitors on Goodyear...
AVONDALE, Ariz. (Nov. 7, 2000) -- Consistency during the 2000 season put Matt Crafton in a position to win the Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR Touring championship, and the Tulare, Calif., driver ran away from his competitors on Goodyear Eagle racing tires.
Crafton entered the season-ending Albertson's/Osco 125 at Phoenix International Raceway with a solid 113-point lead and needed a 31st or better finish to wrap up the championship. But rather than simply motoring through the race for a safe finish, Crafton decided to take no chances: he wanted to stay out front and out of harm's way.
He did his part by earning the Bud Pole award on the fast one-mile oval, leading a Goodyear 1-5 qualifying sweep that also saw nine of the top 10 qualifiers start on Goodyear rubber. Crafton then ran away from his competitors, escaping a multi-car pileup on lap two that all but eliminated his only rival for the title.
After leading the first 75 laps, Crafton's day came to an early end on lap 76 when the rear differential on his Smart&Final/Bushrod BBQ Sauce Ford Taurus gave up. He was credited with a 24th-place finish, more than enough for the championship.
"We wanted to win it on a winning note," said Crafton, who won the championship by 134 points. "My crew radioed me after that accident that Auggie (Vidovich) was caught up in the wreck and the championship was ours if we kept our nose clean. We didn't want to see Auggie get into that wreck; we wanted to race all the way down to the end.
"The car was awesome, and these Goodyear tires were awesome. They stayed under the car and I could drive the car as hard as I needed. If I overworked them a bit, I could back off a bit and go again. I've never had tires that could do that before. They were awesome."
Although Phoenix was Crafton's lowest finish of the year, it was more likely to find the new champion racing well inside the top 10 during the season. His championship run saw him score two wins at El Cajon, Calif., and Irwindale, Calif., 11 top-five finishes and 12 top-10s during the 19-race campaign. His tire of choice throughout the entire season: Goodyear Eagles.
Drivers in the Featherlite Southwest Series, as well as other NASCAR Touring Series, are free to change their tire choice during the season. While many drivers jumped between tire brands, Crafton, as well as Doug McCoun, M.K. Kanke and Greg Pursley competed exclusively on Goodyear Eagles. The quartet finished the season in first, third, fourth and fifth in the final points standings, respectively.
"This has been an unbelievable year and a lot of the credit goes to Goodyear," Crafton said. "There's a huge difference in the tires now from the beginning of the year. Goodyear has gone a long way in developing their short track tire this season and the engineers have helped me a lot. Over the last two-thirds of the season, Goodyear has brought a terrific tire to every race. Sure, we've had some downfalls, but we've had a lot more good times. You can't complain if you come out the champion."
"Goodyear congratulates Matt Crafton and his entire crew on their Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR Touring championship," said Carolyn Ashbee, Goodyear marketing manager, short track racing.
"We are proud of our association with NASCAR and our involvement in the seven NASCAR Touring Series around the country. These programs are important to the racers and their sponsors, and also to our nationwide network of race tire distributors. The success of drivers like Matt Crafton on Goodyear Eagles enables the dealer network to market our triumphs in their region with the goal of increasing Goodyear's market share in these hard-fought series.
"Goodyear assists the NASCAR Touring Series by providing the highest quality Goodyear Eagle Racing radial and bias-ply tires to the teams and then works with the drivers and crew chiefs to help them gain the most from their tires throughout the year."
One of the goals of the NASCAR Touring series is to prepare drivers for advancing to the higher levels of NASCAR racing. Crafton plans to compete in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2001, following in the footsteps of former Featherlite Southwest Series champions Ron Hornaday Jr. and Kurt Busch.
<pre> 2000 Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR Touring Standings TOTAL NUMBER OF RACES RUN: 19 Unofficial Pos Driver Pts Starts Wins Top 5 Top 10 Tires 1 Matt Crafton 2791 19 2 11 12 Goodyear 2 Auggie Vidovich 2651 19 4 7 12 mixed 3 Doug McCoun 2543 19 0 6 11 Goodyear 4 M.K. Kanke 2499 19 0 8 10 Goodyear 5 Gregory Pursley 2417 18 1 5 9 Goodyear 6 Sean Woodside 2370 19 1 4 8 mixed 7 Rocky Nash 2329 18 1 3 8 mixed 8 Darrell Lamoure 2192 19 0 1 7 mixed 9 Frank Maronski 2161 19 0 1 6 mixed 10 Bobby Lyon 2117 19 1 1 3 mixed