ThorSport Racing's Matt Crafton and Brad Keselowski Racing's Ryan Blaney head into this weekend's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in a head-to-head battle for the 2014 title, so it was only appropriate that they should divide the spoils in Thursday's two practice sessions.
Reigning champion Matt Crafton goes into this weekend with a 25 point lead at the top of the standings and topped the first early afternoon practice with a time of 32.388s (166.728mph), 0.072s faster than Blaney's BKR team mate Tyler Reddick with Blaney himself ending the hour-long session as third-fastest, while Crafton's team mate Johnny Sauter was in fourth.
Blaney - who was on pole for this race in 2013 - responded by topping the later 90-minute practice albeit with a slightly slower lap of 32.531s (165.996mph), with Reddick again the second-fastest man just 0.035s off his team mate's pace. The 18-year-old from California is currently leading Turner Scott Motorsport's Ben Kennedy by just three points in the competition for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year honours.
Crafton is vying to become the first driver in the series' history to win back-to-back championships. He could only manage the 17th fastest time in the second session, but then he only needs to finish 21st or better in Friday evening's Ford EcoBoost 200 to be assured of retaining his title, while Blaney must go all out for the win and hope for an early setback to sideline Crafton.
The driver in third place in the standings, Kyle Busch Motorsport's Darrell Wallace Jr., is 46 points behind the series leader which means that he is too far back to challenge for the lead the moment that Crafton starts the race. Wallace sat out the first practice but was eighth fastest in the later session.
His boss, team owner Kyle Busch, also sat out the earlier session but was subsequently third fastest in the second in the #51 KBM Toyota, which is leading the owners championship by 18 points from Crafton's #88 ThorSport entry. Busch won the 2013 Homestead trucks race by a slender margin over Blaney.
Last year's series runner up Ty Dillon will make only his second trucks start of 2014 in the #9 NTS Motorsports entry, filling in for Brennan Newberry who is unwell this weekend. He also sat out the first practice, before placing 19th in the later session.
There will be no further practice opportunities for the Truck Series field ahead or qualifying on Friday afternoon at 2.45pm local time (7.45pm GMT). Friday will also see practice and qualifying for the Sprint Cup Series and two practice sessions for the NASCAR Nationwide Series competitors.
While the new Chase format means that the Sprint Cup battle is wide open between Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman, the Nationwide title has already been clinched by JR Motorsports' Chase Elliot last week at Phoenix International Raceway, who in doing so became the youngest ever NASCAR national series champion at the age of 18 years, 11 months, 11 days, beating the previous record holder Brian Vickers by over a year.
Full practice 1 times from Homestead
Full practice 2 times from Homestead