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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Truckin’ Thursdays: ThorSport Racing Down But Not Out

Frontstretch’s Truck Series content is presented by American Trucks

Over the hours of Sunday night, just a couple days removed from its trip to Texas Motor Speedway, ThorSport Racing suffered a major fire at its shop, located in Sandusky, Ohio. With multiple agencies responding to the fire, it was contained and located mainly in the suspension area of the shop.

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The next morning, the team issued a statement, saying the fire would not impact the team’s ability to travel to Iowa Speedway for this weekend’s race.  That provides a sense of relief for ThorSport drivers Matt Crafton, Ben Rhodes, Cameron Hayley and Rico Abreu who know they’ll be racing.

“Shortly after midnight on Monday morning, a fire broke out in the basement of the ThorSport Racing shop, located in Sandusky, Ohio,” the team said via an official release. “At this time, we can confirm that no one was injured. We are currently working with the fire department and local officials to contain the blaze, and assess the damage.”

The outpouring of support throughout the day on Monday from drivers, teams and fans alike came from all over. Even Allison Thorson, daughter of team owners Duke and Rhonda, posted a heartfelt letter on her Twitter page on Monday:

As many of you may have seen, ThorSport Racing, home of our four NCWTS teams, caught on fire in the middle of the night. This is a major loss as our teams are in the midst of back to back weeks of racing competition, let alone the amazing facility and all the equipment and tools in the building.

For the racing team:

To work for a racing team is extremely tough. This is not a regular 40 hour work week. A racing season and off season is a very demanding schedule as guys are putting their “elbow grease” to use day in and day out. As well as in the shop and at the track at least 30 weeks out of the year. SO many hours, time, and commitment have been in that shop in an effort to create fast, tough, and competitive race trucks. I’m at a loss of words for the equipment, tools, and trucks that cannot be recovered.

For my family:

I am the proud daughter of Duke and Rhonda Thorson. I’ve grown up shadowing an incredible couple create a racing empire since 1996 in the Truck series. They truly created a team from notion. It was crushing to hear the news early this morning because I am very familiar with the dream my dad has worked so hard to make happen almost over two decades. He is the hardest working and most passionate person I have ever been around.

All in all, this has hurt us all deep down within. But no doubt in my mind we as a family and a team will find a way to make this work, deal with what has happened, and move forward from this. ThorSport Racing has had lots on track success within the past few years, but that is ONLY because of the foundation that started in the race shop in Sandusky, Ohio.

That you, thank you, thank you, to each individual that has reached out with condolences, offering help and assistance. We appreciate the community of Sandusky and the surrounding area. This first took 15 fire trucks from several town to take down as well as local grocery stores supplying food for all helping with the fire. Also, thank you to teams and local facilities offering us to set up shop on their facility.

God Bless,

Allison Thorson

As the team was allowed to re-enter the shop, the heavy damage became apparent, as the team revealed a handful of photos on its Facebook page.

“On behalf of everyone at ThorSport Racing we would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to the Cities of Sandusky and Perkins Township and surrounding areas for the outpouring of support we received yesterday,” the post on Facebook read. “First and foremost we would like to thank the local fire and police departments, and all the brave men and women who came to our aid. Through their courageous efforts we were able to contain the fire to one portion of the building and salvage numerous race trucks and equipment.

“Times like these bring you closer as a team and community, and we would like to thank some of the local businesses (Wendy’s, Sandusky Walmart, Jimmy Johns, and countless others) who supplied us with water, food, and supplies. The recovery process will be long, but we will persevere and be stronger for it. We are ‪#‎ThorSportStrong‬!”

2016 CWTS ThorSport Suspension Shop Credit ThorSport
Suspension shop where the fire originated. (Photo: ThorSport Racing)
2016 CWTS ThorSport Shop Looking Into the Suspension Room Credit ThorSport
From the shop looking into the suspension shop. (Photo: ThorSport Racing)
2016 CWTS ThorSport Shop Floor Credit ThorSport
Shop Floor (Photo: ThorSport Racing)
2016 CWTS ThorSport Setup Plates Credit ThorSport
Setup Plates (Photo: ThorSport Racing)
2016 CWTS ThorSport Main Lobby Credit ThorSport
Main Lobby (Photo: ThorSport Racing)
2016 CWTS ThorSport Hauler Bay Credit ThorSport
Hauler Bay (Photo: ThorSport Racing)
2016 CWTS ThorSport 13 & 88 Setup Area Credit ThorSport
Nos. 13 & 88 Setup Area (Photo: ThorSport Racing)

But there was also a glimmer of hope coming out of an otherwise stressful day.

Despite the devastation of the fire, the loss could have been so much more. The multiple agencies that responded managed to keep the fire contained to a smaller portion of the 10,000 square foot facility, though the losses are still pretty significant according to an NBC Sports report.

  • Fire destroyed the fab shop and suspension room – where Pepper said the fire originated. All their suspension, driveline and brake components in that area were destroyed.
  • The three trucks they lost were a speedway truck that ran at Daytona International Speedway, a new intermediate truck and a new road course chassis.
  • Pepper estimated that 35-40 percent of the 100,000-square foot shop was lost.

“The shock of it hasn’t set in,’’ ThorSport general manager David Pepper told NBC Sports on Tuesday. “We’re working over in a parking lot. It’s not going to be so dissimilar when we go to Iowa and we work out of the back of the haulers.

“What’s going to be difficult is next week. We’re done with the race. We’re supposed to come back home and park our transporters in the hauler bay and we unload and … we go to work in the shop and get our next trucks,” he continued. “That’s not going to be the case. We’re currently trying to find a home and we hope to have one in the next five days, a building to go to, but now we’ve got to basically turn the world upside down.’’

In the last few days since news of the fire broke, the NASCAR community has opened up its arms, offering whatever assistance possible.

“Multiple different race teams, not only our Toyota partners, have reached out offering trucks and transporters and shop space and pull-down (rig) time,’’ Pepper continued. “The outpouring of concern for us as competitors, it is nothing less than overwhelming. I want to tell everyone thank you.’’

There’s plenty of work ahead as the team continues to assess the damage and work to move forward while still trying to go along with the remainder of the Truck Series season, but nothing would ease that pain more than success as the year works its way toward the Chase.

Despite its losses and the long road ahead, the one thing you can be sure of is that ThorSport is down, but not out.