Race Weekend Central

Matt Crafton, Junior Joiner Fall Short Of 4th Championship as Decade-Long Partnership Ends

PHOENIX — Two years ago, Matt Crafton won a championship without winning a race.

Friday night (Nov. 5) at Phoenix Raceway, they had the chance to do it again, but fought handling all evening and wound up with a 12th-place finish in his No. 88 Menards Toyota Tundra.

“Really loose off the corner, just could not finish throttle,” Crafton said. “We were that way in practice and we chalked it up as a cool, cool morning. We didn’t panic and we didn’t want to over adjust it. Then we tightened it up just enough to qualify, qualified decent and then just was sideways all night.”

During the race, Vince Welch reported on the FOX Sports 1 broadcast that Crafton’s longtime crew chief, Junior Joiner, would not return next season. Frontstretch caught up with Joiner post-race, where he confirmed he wouldn’t return in 2022.

“Yeah, I’m done,” he said tersely.

Joiner concurred with his driver in what they were fighting handling wise all night, pointing to a lack of grip and inability to get back to the gas.

“No drive off. Didn’t work hard enough I guess,” he said while walking down pit road. “I guess busting your ass all f*****g year ain’t enough. We tried. We gave it hell but it wasn’t good enough.”

Crafton and Joiner have been paired together for 10 years in the Camping World Truck Series and have won three series titles, four when you include a Southwest Tour championship. Both hail from California and despite the strong language on the radio at times, the two have been among the series’ best pairings.

“Junior and I are like brothers,” Crafton said. “I understand where he’s coming from. He moved out here, (just) moved back to California and wanted to just do something different. Spending it hanging out with his family and doing everything he wanted to do.”

The series veteran has already turned his focus to finding a replacement shot caller for 2022, but reflected on his partnership with Joiner.

“I’ve done it before with a different crew chief and I’ll do it again,” he said. “It’s been phenomenal. We’ve had one heck of a run, won a lot of races together. He’s literally like a brother.”

When asked why he’d be stepping down from the pit box, Joiner explained, “it’s time to be a dad.”

After winning 13 races and multiple championships over a decade in the Truck Series, Joiner said he’ll still pop up occasionally at the track.

“I’m gonna still be around,” he said. “But I ain’t gonna crew chief. I’m done.”

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About the author

Davey is in his fifth season with Frontstretch and currently serves as a multimedia editor and reporter. He authors the "NASCAR Mailbox" column, spearheads the site's video content and hosts the Frontstretch Podcast weekly. He's covered the K&N Pro Series and ARCA extensively for NASCAR.com and currently serves as an associate producer for SiriusXM NASCAR Radio and production assistant for NBC Sports Washington. Follow him on Twitter @DaveyCenter.

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