Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Mike Neff · Saturday April 20, 2013
Matt Crafton has been competing in the Camping World Truck Series since his debut race in 2000 in a Duke Thorson owned Truck. This past weekend he set the record for consecutive starts in the series with his 297 run, still in a Thorson truck. All but 25 of Crafton’s record setting starts have been in a ThorSport truck. He spent the 2004 season in a Kevin Harvick Truck before returning to his long time owner and friend Duke Thorson.
Crafton has garnered two wins in the Truck Series during his impressive streak and has also had a myriad of teammates in 13 years of driving for ThorSport. While Crafton stays focused throughout the Truck season, he knows how to have some fun in the off-season. He runs a sand rail around in the desert, not far from his home in the Southwest but also loves running on some of the most historic tracks. He sat down with Mike Neff at Rockingham to discuss a vast assortment of things pertaining to racing and not so much.
Mike Neff: You finished second in another ThorSport 1-2 finish. Is that just frustrating or is it encouraging because the organization is obviously moving in the right direction to win a title?
Matt Crafton: I’ve never really been happy about finishing second in my life. It is cool for Duke and Rhonda Thorson. To have the 1-2 finish is a good day but it is not what I came there to do.
Neff: You’ve run almost your entire career out of the ThorSport garage. Is it to a point where it is almost like you’re part of the family. Can you imagine going somewhere else to run at this point or are you in for the duration?
Crafton: I’d like to say this is where I will be forever. We’ve got a great group of guys besides my jack man (laughs with his jack man in the hauler) but you know there is always a weak link in the chain. Duke and Rhonda Thorson, at the end of the day, I have to thank them for what they’ve done for me and this entire organization. Menards has been awesome to this organization. And then, as a sponsor, we’re going on our 11th or 12th year with them this year, which is just unheard of these days. For a sponsor to be with a team that long so it is very cool.
Neff: We’re only two races in. Johnny has won the first two and you’ve finished ninth and second. Early, early, early on, but how do you feel about your championship chances?
Crafton: I think we have a very good shot. (punches a passing teammate after they punch him in the groin.) I think we have a very good shot. We just have to make the best out of our bad days. At Daytona, we were 25th with five to go and finished ninth. Martinsville shows the depth this team has and how good we really are. We were inches from going a lap down on the first run and, with all of the adjustments we made in a Truck race, when you don’t get that many chances, and the swings and changes we made and what Junior Joiner and these guys do through their communication is phenomenal and that is what is going to make us win a championship.
Neff: Do you still have one or two sand rails that you go out and run out West?
Crafton: I have one, only can afford one (laughs). Barely can afford that. I go out there quite a bit during the Winter. We play out in the desert. Go out there during Thanksgiving and New Year’s. We go out the weeks of Phoenix and Vegas when the Cup and Nationwide guys are out there. There are a couple of guys that I go with and meet up with friends from California and go out there.
Neff: Is that in a National Park or just an open area in the desert?
Crafton: It is just open area. They have pain in the ass BLM people, I don’t know what their job is, they are kind of like cops. They’re good to have out there because there are a lot of idiots out there on New Year’s and Thanksgiving weekends but sometimes they can take their jobs a little too serious and beat you up a little bit. I haven’t had any problems with them other than letting off a few too many fireworks.
Neff: Are you still spotting and coaching some drivers?
Crafton: Just Travis, I was helping out Travis Pastrana up until this year, when he went to Roush. They’re pretty much doing everything in house. He still calls me after every practice and every week before he goes to the race track. When he’s in North Carolina, he lives at my house so we watch videos. He’ll watch video stuff when I’m not there and call me and go over it with me or while he’s watching he’ll ask questions about the race track or after practice he’ll call and ask questions to try and get as much help as he can.
Neff:I’d like to bring up Menards again. I know you mentioned them earlier but they’ve been with you pretty much your whole career. How much fun is it being around Mr. Menard? I was exposed to him growing up in Indianapolis and his love for that place, but just his enthusiasm that he has for racing in general.
Crafton: That is what is so cool John Menard and how much he has put into this sport. I know he doesn’t own a team anymore but he sponsors us, he’s with Paul. He has affiliations with so many different racing programs. He’s affiliated with the Nationwide team at RCR. He does it because he loves it and, at the end of the day, you can’t ask for a better man.
Neff: Looking at your background, you ran open wheel for a while. Midgets, sprints, even micro sprints, was that with wings?
Crafton: I ran all of them. Micro Midgets, Mini Sprints, winged and wingless from the time I was 15 until I was 18. Mom made me a fake birth certificate so I could run when I was 15 so that I could run the full season. I was going to turn 16 in the middle of the season and I wanted to race for a championship so we had to fudge on my driver’s license by a year. Back then it was kind of unheard of for people to drive while they were 15 but that’s what we did.
Neff: Did you ever run Mini Outlaws at Cycleland?
Crafton: I’ve only run at California at Teluride, Visalia, Hanford and Ventura. That’s pretty much all of the places I ran that stuff.
Neff: Southwest Featherlites was kind of K&N level back when you ran it right?
Crafton: It was Late Models. I still wish NASCAR had that series. It was Perimeter Late Models in the Southwest, Northwest, Midwest and All-Pro series throughout the United States. We all ran by the same rule book. The year I won the championship we ran 18 races and there wasn’t one race where we didn’t send cars home running B-Mains. We sat on the pole at Phoenix when 70 cars showed up to try and make a 43 car field. It was that way every week and the thing is it went away because they wanted to make the K&N series bigger and they thought all of the guys who were running Late Models could get rid of them and pick up K&N cars but at that point all of your Late Models are flower pots because no one had a use for them. The perimeter cars couldn’t run anywhere on a weekly show because those were generally straight rail or big spring cars. It made me sick because I built a brand new car. I went to Phoenix four times in four years and the last two times I was there, in a 100 lap race, I led 85 laps in one race and 83 in the other and broke a rear end on both of them, just absolutely destroying the field. I got the Truck ride and the second year I built a new car because my folks had gotten rid of the one I was racing, just so I could go back and win that race because it was such a thorn in my side. I hadn’t won it until the last one. The last Copper World Classic for the Southwest Tour is the one I won, it is very, very cool that I have that trophy. My dad had raced the Southwest Tour since it had started in the 80s and he’d finished second in that race and just to be able to go there and all of the just “bad ass” race car drivers who ran that race, Bobby Allison, Kenny Schrader, there were so many guys that used to come and run that race I just had to win it. It would just always get away from me so I built my car and literally ran it twice and then they announced they were getting rid of the series. Needless to say I had to take it in the shorts to get rid of that car.
Neff: You should have brought it out here to run at Martinsville.
Crafton: The thing is that was a perimeter car. The stuff they run at Martinsville is straight rail and big spring cars. So I was going to have to do so much work to it, and the motors are different, that it was just going to be a big money pit.
Neff: Martinsville is still perimeter cars. They don’t have straight rail cars.
Crafton: I didn’t know that. I loved going everywhere the Southwest Tour went, it was just so cool. We used to go to Phoenix twice a year, Pike’s Peak (Colorado Springs), we used to race Vegas, the big track. They’d put plates on the fiberglass body cars and go around there. That was my plate racing training. That was racing the way it ought to be.
Neff: I was asked to ask you this question. Do you still have your giant lifted truck?
Crafton: I do, I have a ’78 Ford F-150. I bought a little mini Ford when I turned 16 I got that working for my parents. My dad always had a ’73 that he bought brand new and I always loved the body style of that truck. I saved and saved and I’ll never forget, a guy wanted $1,800 for the truck and I had saved $1,500 in my sock drawer for it. It was sitting behind a place called Engines Only. It was dirty and nasty and needed a ton of work, but it had a fresh 460 in it. I bought that truck and rebuilt it in my dad’s shop. I still have it to this day. Since then, now that I can afford it a little more, I tore it completely down and powder coated the frame, made it a four link like Monster Trucks are. It has coil overs all the way around, although I drive it on pavement, it’ll never see dirt again.
Neff: If it is so high, how do you get into it?
Crafton: It isn’t that high. It used to be higher. It’s really not that hard to get into it. I’d say it is about 8-10 inches of lift. It used to be bigger but I wanted to make it practical. Getting in, the door is at your waste. You grab the steering wheel and jump a little and you’re in.
Neff: You’re getting ready to set a record for consecutive starts in the Camping World Truck Series. What does that record 297th start mean to you? You’ve been around forever?
Crafton: It makes me feel old as hell to be honest (laughs). The thing is 36 isn’t that old. Jimmie Johnson is still winning titles and we’re still up front and winning races. At the end of the day I can’t say enough about Duke and Rhonda Thorson and Menards for giving me the opportunity to do what I love to do. I wake up every day and guys always joke about living the dream but I honestly am living the dream. Without those people it wouldn’t be possible.
Neff: We talked about the Southwest Tour and short track racing. Would you like to see the series get back onto more short tracks, which is what it was founded on, or do you like running the mile and a half tracks more?
Crafton: I wish we could pick and choose our mile and a halfs that we run. I love going to mile and a half tracks because there are so many more fans that they can fit into the place. Some of the short tracks we just can’t fit all of the fans in. I wish we’d go to some of the good short tracks, not some of the really rough places we used to go to before. I wish we’d go run Irwindale. It is one of the best short tracks in the country with side-by-side racing all of the time. One of the coolest tracks that is going to be is the new Mesa Marin. It is going to be as nice or nicer than Irwindale. It is awesome and I’d love to see us go back out there. There are some short tracks in other places that we could go to. I wish we could go to 28 races and add some more short tracks. Milwaukee would be awesome. Memphis, there are two awesome, awesome race tracks that always used to have good crowds but I just don’t know why we went away from them.
Neff: Nashville would be a great place to see the Trucks race.
Crafton: I wish they’d take a bulldozer to the place. I hated it. Because it was concrete.
Neff: Oh no, I’m talking about the fairgrounds.
Crafton: Oh, I’m sorry, I was talking the Super Speedway, that was terrible. It was follow the leader all of the time. If they want to make the Super Speedway great they can tear up the concrete and put asphalt down. Everybody ran around the bottom and couldn’t make any moves. It made for a terrible race, in my opinion. The Fairgrounds would be awesome. I’ve never been there, I’ve never seen the place, but I’ve watched races on tape and it looks like it would be great and I’ve always heard it was great. I heard it was similar to Mesa Marin where we used to go with the Trucks and the Southwest Tour.
As I said in the Media Center ealier, I wish they could figure out a way to keep these newly paved race tracks from being so smooth. As much technology as they have today, after they laid down the smooth surface, they should be able to go around and blow sand down into the surface and pit it all up. That would make racing fantastic. Michigan wasn’t always the best racing to watch but as a driver it was great. Look at California. It was an awesome race because you could go anywhere. Kyle got passed and went to the top and found something and was chasing those guys down when they got into each other. My favorite race tracks are Atlanta and Rockingham because I can go anywhere and make my car work. My stuff isn’t working on the bottom, I can go to the middle, I can go to the top, I’m going to try another groove and make my stuff work. That is the way racing ought to be and that is the reason why, as drivers, we love these places because the driver makes the difference. The paved Michigan is pathetic racing. Somebody asked me at Michigan and I told them it was the stupidest thing they could have done because the racing was going to be terrible.
Crafton made his 297th start in the Trucks, ran near the front of the pack and eventually came home in sixth place. That leaves him third in the point standings after three races, 20 points behind his teammate Johnny Sauter, who is the leader. If Crafton can stay competitive and keep Duke and Rhonda Thorson happy, he very well could start another 297 races.
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