Kansas: Matt Crafton - NASCAR spotlight

Matt Crafton and ThorSport Racing making move on championship top 10 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 1, 2003) -- Matt Crafton, his sophomore slump on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series a distant memory, is settling in with some consistent ...

Matt Crafton and ThorSport Racing making move on championship top 10

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 1, 2003) -- Matt Crafton, his sophomore slump on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series a distant memory, is settling in with some consistent finishes in 2003.

In his third season behind the wheel of the No. 88 Menards/Enzyme Solutions Chevrolet, Crafton again is turning heads as he did in 2001 -- a season in which the Tulare, Calif. competitor posted 11 top-10 finishes.

The 27-year-old former NASCAR Touring Division, Southwest Series champion hasn't reached the top of the hill quite yet but Crafton believes the crest is in sight.

In workmanlike fashion, Crafton has assembled four top-10 finishes over his past five starts. He's also finished on the lead lap five times in the last six races.

The burst has moved Crafton and his ThorSport Racing team to within four points of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship top 10 entering Saturday's O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 at Kansas Speedway.

Crafton heads for Kansas following a ninth-place performance in last week's GNC 200 at The Milwaukee Mile.

"We're happy to get the top-10 finishes but we're still not satisfied," said Crafton. "We won't be satisfied until we're in the top five and racing for the win."

This week's race marks the 150th on the series for ThorSport, an Ohio-based team that's been fulltime in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series since the 1998 season. Terry Cook (No. 29 Power Stroke Diesel/Oil Mate Ford) supplied the team's only victory to date in August 1998 at Flemington (N.J.) Speedway.

Progress has been by small increments but Crafton believes the team has a winning future.

"[Owners] Duke and Rhonda Thorson have made a tremendous commitment to the success of this race team, not just this year, but from the time they started in 1996," he said. "I'd like nothing better than to reward that commitment with top-five runs and some wins.

"I think we are getting closer to that every week."

In early May, Thorson hired Dave Fuge Jr., last season's championship crew chief with Mike Bliss, as a consultant. Veteran crew members Chris Atwood, formerly with Bobby Hamilton Racing and Rich Riley, a member of the 2002 Joe Gibbs Racing effort with Coy Gibbs, also joined the team. Jerry Cook continues as Crafton's crew chief.

"We already had a lot of veteran guys who knew their stuff," said Crafton. "We've added more experience, more talent and I think it's started to show in the results."

Crafton feels his team has struggled on the type of track they'll face this week -- a medium-banked, 1.5-mile oval. Still, Crafton finished 10th in last year's O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 and, with the team's improvement, could be on the verge of a breakthrough performance on Saturday.

"We think that we'll be better on those tracks this year because of some of the changes we've made," said Crafton. "We'll start to see if we're right this weekend."

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Coy Gibbs , Terry Cook , Matt Crafton , Mike Bliss
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing