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DOVER, Del. - A pair of rookies took center stage Friday at Dover International Speedway: Brett Moffitt came away with the Sunoco 150 checkered flag and Ryan Truex earned the 2009 NASCAR Camping World Series East championship.
Truex, a 17-year-old development driver for Michael Waltrip Racing, finished eighth on Friday but it was the performance throughout the 11-race season that put him in the championship Winner’s Circle following the Sunoco 150. Truex finished his first season in NASCAR’s top development series with three wins and eight top 10s.
“We didn’t have the best car today, but I think we showed why we are champions,” Truex said. “We can adjust on a car and make it better.
“I just can’t say how much I appreciate everyone at Michael Waltrip Racing, everyone on my team, my parents and my brother. I’m really fortunate, and I can’t explain how much it means.”
The main championship contender for Truex – Eddie MacDonald – finished one position behind Truex in the race and wound up 34 points out of the championship (1,719 – 1,685).
“We based our race strategy on racing the 71 car [MacDonald],” said Mike Greci, crew chief of the No. 00 NAPA Toyota driven by Truex. “We were able to come out of here with a pretty good finish. We knew we had to come out here and race the 71, and they’ve been a first class team all year long, so we’re pretty fortunate.”
Truex clinched his first title at the same track that his older brother, Martin Truex Jr., earned his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory. Truex Jr. was in attendance Friday to cheer on his sibling.
“I’m so proud of the job he has done, not only this weekend, but throughout the season,” Truex Jr. said. “Coming in with limited experience in stock cars, I’m really impressed with the way he’s handled himself behind the wheel, taking care of his equipment, being smart and just going out and winning races.”
Jody Lavender was the third driver to enter the day with a mathematical chance at the championship, 102 points back of Truex. His race ended with a 17th-place finish, seven laps down.
Friday’s season finale was dominated on the track by Moffitt, also 17. The Grimes, Iowa, native led four different times for 85 laps and crossed the line two and a half seconds ahead of Ryan Gifford for the Sunoco 150 victory.
“This is definitely the best win so far in my career,” Moffitt said. “Coming here for my first time and winning just feels amazing.”
Boosted by the win, Moffitt finished his rookie campaign third in the championship standings, 38 points ahead of Lavender.
Following Richard Childress Racing development driver Gifford across the line at Dover was Corey LaJoie, David Mayhew, and Alan Tardiff. Steve Park, Ryan Duff, Truex, MacDonald and Jarit Johnson rounded out the top 10.
Gifford tied his previous best finish while LaJoie and Johnson had the best finishes of their brief careers in the series.
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Matt DiBenedetto set the track qualifying record earlier in the day and led three different times for 31 laps, but a mid-race accident left him two laps down in 11th.
With the 2009 season complete, the next racing event on the schedule for NASCAR Camping World Series teams will be the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown on Jan. 29-30, 2010 in Toyota Speedway at Irwindale (Calif.). Truex and Moffitt already had secured spots in the Showdown by virtue of wins earlier this year.
Following Friday’s race, Truex and Greci announced that the team currently plans to defend their championship in 2010. MWR will also look to run a limited NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule with Truex after he turns 18 in March.
Truex and the rest of the NASCAR touring series champions will be honored at the Touring Series Gala in Concord, N.C., Saturday, Nov. 14.
RESULTS | LAP-BY-LAP RECAP | UPDATED POINTS STANDINGS | VIDEO OF NASCAR SPRINT CUP DRIVER MARTIN TRUEX JR TALKING ABOUT WATCHING HIS BROTHER RYAN WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP | VIDEO OF RYAN TRUEX CHAMPIONSHIP CELEBRATION | AUDIO OF POST-RACE PRESS CONFERENCE WITH TOP THREE FINISHERS IN SUNOCO 150 | AUDIO OF POST-RACE PRESS CONFERENCE WITH RYAN TRUEX AND CREW CHIEF MIKE GRECI | VIDEO OF POST-RACE PRESS CONFERENCE WITH TOP THREE FINISHERS IN SUNOCO 150
Below, Brett Moffitt celebrates winning the Sunoco 150 at Dover. Getty Images for NASCAR