Award moments in Miami for Dillon, Crafton
November 18, 2013, Holly Cain, NASCAR.com
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. -- On the heels of the weekend's Ford Championship season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, NASCAR's Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series series drivers and teams came to the Loews Miami Beach Hotel on Monday evening to celebrate the 2013 season and crown its champions.
Camping World Truck Series champion Matt Crafton delivered an emotional trophy acceptance speech while new Nationwide champ Austin Dillon -- one of only five drivers to win two of three NASCAR national series titles -- quoted the rapper Drake.
“We started from the bottom and now we're here," Dillon said ending the night with a rowdy standing ovation just moments after accepting a check for $1.2 million from series sponsor Nationwide Insurance.
The first major recognition of the evening went to Nationwide Series driver Regan Smith and 21-year old Camping World Truck Series driver Ty Dillon, who were voted Most Popular Drivers in their respective series. Both looked genuinely surprised to hear their names announced and confirmed as much later.
"A big thank you to all the Regan Smith fans and all those in Junior Nation," said Smith, who drives the No. 7 Chevy for Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s JR Motorsports team.
"I think the full power of Junior Nation has spoken and I'm very appreciative of that," he said with a wide grin.
The tuxes and gowns ceremony also mixed in humor and informality with the trophy presentations and corporate sponsor thank-yous that uniquely drive this sport. Co-hosts Rick Allen and Krista Voda spoke with the runner-up through fifth-place drivers seated on a couch, much like a late-night television show.
That setting produced most of the lighter moments of the night, including an exchange between Camping World Truck Series Rookie of the Year Ryan Blaney on stage and fellow competitor Darrell Wallace Jr. in the audience.
Blaney, 19, shared the couch with Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year, Kyle Larson, who like Wallace was a product of NASCAR's Drive for Diversity class.
With Larson looking on with a big smile, Blaney and Wallace took good-natured jabs at each other and joked about a YouTube video playing on the huge video screen on stage, showing the 20-somethings doing the hip hop dance "The Dougie."
Blaney declined to demonstrate on stage saying, "My bosses are out there in the audience."
Veteran Elliott Sadler, who finished fourth in the Nationwide Series championship, used the moment to announce both of his big sponsors -- OneMain Financial and Sports Clips -- re-upped this weekend to be on his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota in 2014.
Later in the evening, Sprint Cup driver Kyle Busch accepted his second Camping World Truck Series owner's title in the last four years. He thanked the list of young drivers that also drove his Toyotas to the trophy.
When he mentioned one of them, 17-year-old Erik Jones -- who became the youngest NASCAR national series winner in history earlier this month -- Busch laughed, "I say he's a kid and yet, I'm only 28."
By far, Crafton's champion's speech drew the largest applause of the evening.
The 37-year-old spoke about his small ThorSport Racing team, which resisted relocating to the NASCAR hub of North Carolina from the team's hometown, Sandusky, Ohio.
Crafton -- the first series champion in history to finish every lap of season competition -- captivated the audience during his speech. With tears in his eyes and his voice shaking, he asked, "What are the chances a 37-year-old man changes the entire outlook on his life on April 26?"
That was the day his daughter, Elladee, was born. Crafton noted the week before he took the championship points lead and after she was born, never relinquished it.
"She changed me," Crafton said.
Legendary owner Roger Penske accepted the trophy for Nationwide Series owner's championship. Four drivers combined for 13 wins in his No. 22 Ford and the title was something Penske had long sought.
The evening closed with a speech from Dillon, who stopped and looked over at the head table on stage where he had been seated between Penske and Dillon's team owner and grandfather, Richard Childress.
"To be sitting between two great guys like that is pretty awesome," Dillon said. "I can’t thank everybody enough.’"