Crafton looks to go ‘one better’ at Martinsville

Matt Crafton has enough positive karma left over from his 2013 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series experiences at Martinsville Speedway that he has every reason to believe his No. 88 Ideal Door / Menards Toyota Tundra can end up in Victory Lane following Saturday’s Kroger 250 .

“We were lined-up and ready to make something happen last fall when those guys in front of me decided to take each other out,” Crafton said of October’s Kroger 200. “We absolutely felt like we had a Menards Tundra to finish one spot better than we did in the spring but it just wasn’t meant to be.”

In the 2013 Kroger 250, Crafton — whose 17th-place Martinsville finish last fall was barely a hiccup on his way to last season’s NCWTS drivers’ championship — finished a fast-closing second behind record-tying ThorSport Racing teammate Johnny Sauter.

ThorSport’s third career one-two finish was in the same order as the first two — Sauter beating Crafton — and the senior ThorSport driver, who’s starting his 13th season racing for owners Duke and Rhonda Thorson would like nothing better than to mix it up.

“Johnny kicked-off last season winning two-straight and that was great,” Crafton said. “But our team won at Kansas — three out of the first four for ThorSport — and me and my guys want to win more, this season so we feel like Martinsville’s the best place to start.”

In the closing laps last fall Crafton was third behind Richard Childress Racing “allies” Kevin Harvick and Ty Dillon when the pair tangled exiting Turn 2. Crafon couldn’t avoid their nearly-stopped trucks and the damage to his Tundra knocked him to the back end of the top 20.

“Junior (crew chief Carl Joiner Jr.) and my guys know exactly what we need to do at Martinsville — we had darn good Tundras there twice last year,” Crafton said. “If that doggoned shoving match hadn’t broke out in front of us last year I still feel like we had a shot to win in the fall.

“And you know, in the spring, if we had 25 more laps to race there might’ve been a different ThorSport Tundra in Victory Lane.

Crafton, who with his team set a 19-year Truck Series record by completing every lap — in all, 3,391 — raced in 22 events last season, continued that roll in the 2014 Daytona opener. There’s no reason it can’t continue.

“Junior and I feel like our 2014 Tundra is going to continue the level of performance we had last season, and at Martinsville that was pretty good,” Crafton said. “In the end we had a truck that would stop, turn and dig up off the corner and obviously that’s what you need at Martinsville.”

While most of the Truck Series field has been idle since the Daytona opener in February, Crafton’s been active weekly. He served as stand-by driver for Richard Childress Racing Sprint Cup pilot Paul Menard while Menard and wife Jenn awaited the birth of their first daughter, Remi.

Crafton also made his fourth career NASCAR Nationwide Series start, all of them for RCR and three of them top-10 finishes, in March at Las Vegas.

“It was good keeping my hand on a steering wheel, but even better helping out a friend like Paul,” Crafton said. “Seat time’s always a good thing, and those Menards cars were some of the best.”

After opening inspection on Thursday afternoon, Martinsville’s Truck weekend’s on-track activity opens with extra practice time on Friday. The trucks hit the track from 9 – 11:45 a.m. ET and for final practice from 3 – 4:25 p.m. The latter session will be televised live on FOX Sports 1.

The Truck Series’ inaugural — since Daytona’s qualifying session was rained-out — multi-segment, elimination-style group Keystone Light Pole Qualifying session to set the36-truck starting lineup is Saturday at 11:10 a.m., again with live coverage on FOX Sports 1, beginning at 11.

Saturday’s 250-lap, 131.5-mile main event will be telecast live on FOX Sports 1 at 2:30 p.m. ET. The live broadcast on MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio begins with pre-race coverage at 2. Live timing & scoring for the weekend’s events will be at www.nascar.com.

ABOUT MENARDS: With 287 stores in 14 Midwestern states, Menards has the tools, materials and supplies for all your home improvement needs whether just needing a light bulb or can of paint to building a deck or new home. Menards is known throughout the home improvement industry as the low price leader; it’s no wonder their famous slogan – “SAVE BIG MONEY” – is so widely known and easy to remember. Menards does things right – the company’s strength and success can be seen in the well-stocked and maintained stores, the lowest prices in town and the way guests are always treated like family in a hometown hardware store atmosphere.

ABOUT IDEAL DOOR: Since 1963, Ideal Door has been an industry leader in sectional garage doors and the preferred choice of home owners, architects and builders for their current and future door needs. For more information, visit www.idealdoors.com.

ABOUT THORSPORT RACING: ThorSport Racing, based in a state-of-the-art 100,000-square-foot facility in Sandusky, Ohio, is the longest-tenured NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team. ThorSport, which has run in the Truck Series since 1996, in 2014 will run the No. 88 Menards Toyota Tundra driven by 2013 drivers’ champion Matt Crafton, the No. 98 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff/Nextant Aerospace/Carolina Nut Co./Curb Records Toyota Tundra driven by Johnny Sauter and the No. 13 VAMP/VaporBrands International, Inc. Toyota Tundra driven by Jeb Burton in the Truck Series and the No. 13 Toyota Camry in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards.

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