Another year with the tough trucks of NASCAR has come and gone. With a familiar face hoisting the championship trophy, seven drivers were left wanting more as the checkered flag fell on 2019.
8. Tyler Ankrum
In a season that saw him miss the first three events (age restriction), this teenager, coming off a ARCA Menards Series East championship, hit the ground running. After two top 10s in his first three races, his first win came at Kentucky Speedway, vaulting the California kid into the playoffs.
He and DGR-Crosley surprisingly advanced to the Round of 6 (thanks to some ThorSport engine woes) but only earned one top 10 and finished outside of the top 20 three times in the playoffs. But finishing inside the top 10 40% of the time, the 2019 rookie of the year has a lot to look forward to in 2020 with GMS Racing.
Mr. Consistency for 2019 was just that: consistent. But his lack of wins quickly proved dividends, as his engine failure at the playoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway put him and the No. 98 ThorSport team behind the eight ball. Finishes of 10th and fourth in the Round of 8 wasn’t enough to help the regular season champion advance, despite what many called his best chance at a title to date.
The 2016 series champion earned only one win, uncharacteristic coming off his career-high six-win season in 2018. Only four top five finishes (including his Dover International Speedway win in early May) and 11 top 10s resulted in an average season for driver No. 13 in his first season back with ThorSport.
5. Austin Hill
Hattori Racing Enterprises and Hill gelled well in their first year together, earning four wins (two in the playoffs) in Hill’s first season wheeling the No. 16 Toyota. Coming off a championship with Brett Moffitt, the team started off the season where it left off 2018: victory lane.
Hill quieted the doubters with a win at Daytona International Speedway to kick things off. He went the rest of the regular season before winning the finale at Michigan International Speedway, following that up with a win to advance to the Round of 6 at Las Vegas and closing the book on 2019 with a dominant win at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Although he fell short of a Championship 4 appearance, Hill and HRE are poised for more success in 2020 in their sophomore season together.
4. Stewart Friesen
2019 represented Stewart Friesen‘s best career season to date. Not only did he earn his first Truck Series win at a venue that holds a special place in the Canadian dirt racer’s heart (Eldora Speedway), but he also made a statement by winning at the penultimate race at ISM Raceway to earn a spot in the Championship 4.
Unfortunately for the No. 52 group, it fell short at Homestead, coming home 11th after starting on the pole. But an 8.5 average finish was the best among full-time drivers. Next season, Friesen will remain with Halmar Friesen Racing but will switch manufacturers and align with Kyle Busch Motorsports.
3. Brett Moffitt
The Mustache Man and defending champion opened up his first season with GMS Racing (from HRE) with three top-five finishes in the first four races, remaining hot out of the gate. In total, Moffitt notched four wins, including the first two playoff races at Bristol and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
But after the opening couple races, he cooled down, but stayed hot enough to earn back-to-back Championship 4 appearances. He entered Homestead the favorite but came up just short. His 13 top-five finishes were best among full-time drivers, and he will look to build upon the momentum he and GMS forged in 2019 next season behind the wheel of the No. 23 Chevrolet.
The sensation that is the Melon Man came up one spot short of the ultimate prize in 2019, but Ross Chastain may as well have been the Dale Earnhardt Jr. of the Truck Series this season. Nobody didn’t like the guy (except perhaps some of his fellow drivers).
As soon as the Floridian declared his championship eligibility from the Xfinity Series to the Truck Series midway through the season, he and Niece Motorsports wound up leading the most laps (591) and earned the most top 10s (19) among full-time drivers. Three wins at Kansas, Gateway (one race after being disqualified at Iowa) and Pocono netted him his first checkered flags in his Truck career.
1. Matt Crafton
From here on out, Matt Crafton may be known as the man that beat the system, becoming the first national series champion in NASCAR history to win under the elimination style format (instituted in 2014) without winning a single race.
The now three-time champion earned seven top-five and 18 top-10 finishes (average finish of 8.8) throughout the 2019 season and is now within one title of tying NASCAR Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr. for the most all time in series history.
“We didn’t win tonight, but at the end of the day we can always say we won the battle,” Crafton said following his runner-up finish at Homestead. “We got the big trophy at the end of the year, and that’s all that matters, and it feels damned good, I’ll tell you that much.”