Daytona Beach, FL (February 9, 2001) - Matt Crafton will live the dream so many racers have - to race at Daytona International Speedway. His resume is filled with the accomplishments similar to other rookies in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series,...
Daytona Beach, FL (February 9, 2001) - Matt Crafton will live the dream so many racers have - to race at Daytona International Speedway. His resume is filled with the accomplishments similar to other rookies in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, Busch or Winson Cup. However this rookie has much more to offer than most seem to realize.
Crafton, reigning champion of the NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Series, has come to Daytona to prove to himself that he is a qualified driver who deserves to one day be at the highest level of racing possible - the Winston Cup Series. In order to get there, he looks at this race and all the events surrounding Daytona as "critical" to success.
"The hardest part about racing is having 100% concentration. Staying focused for that length of time is difficult, but it is a true test to see who can get the job done. That, along with a great engine, crew chief, team and sponsors," stated Matt Crafton.
Golf is the same way. Crafton has a great appreciation for golf and plays every chance he can get.
"I enjoy the game and have a great appreciation for Tiger Woods. He is a great example of how crucial concentration is to winning championships," stated Crafton.
Crafton started racing before he began golfing. At age seven, Crafton won regional and national championships racing Go-Karts and then moved into 250 Midgets at age 15. In his first year he set six fast times, won five trophy dashes and five main events. He raced 250 Midgets successfully for two years and then moved into Mini Sprints. In 1996, Danny Crafton, father of Matt Crafton, was injured while racing in the NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Series. Matt took over driving for his father and it was that opportunity that lead to Matt's journey to the championship title in 2000.
"Growing up, I raced Go-Karts with Kevin Harvick and against Kurt Busch in the tour (NFSS)." Crafton said. " Since winning the championship and coming on board with the truck series, Dan Press, Ernie Irvan and Kevin have all been very helpful teaching me the ropes."
Matt's idol has been, and always will be Davey Allison, personal friend of the Crafton family. In 1988, Davey drove Danny Crafton's Ford Thunderbird in the NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Series at Madera Speedway. Davey signed a poster for Matt, who was 11-years-old at the time, and he gave him a t-shirt. To date, that same Davey Allison t-shirt is part of Matt's standard race attire. He wears it underneath his driving suit. Another "standard" to Matt's race attire is a painted image of Mighty Mouse on the back of his helmet.
"Outside of wearing my t-shirt for every race, I also watch out for black cats and I don't pass the salt shaker. I make sure I set it down for the other person to pick it up. Davey Allison got me started doing that one," stated Crafton. "When we tested here (Daytona) last month, a black cat ran in front of our car as we left the hotel on our way to the track. That was the same day the motor blew."
So the real question for Matt is Ford or Chevy?
"I have grown up racing Fords and owning Ford vehicles. With the change to Chevrolet, I understand they have the best horsepower for trucks. We plan to put those new SB2 engines to a real test," stated Matt Crafton.
The No. 88 Chevrolet Silverado of SealMaster Racing is what Crafton will pilot in the 2001 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Team owner, Duke and Rhonda Thorson, are pleased to have Matt in their organization.
"We are very pleased to have Matt on board." Thorson said. "He is one of the many reasons we are optimistic about the 2001 season. The team has come a long way since we ran our first truck race back in 1996. We are working hard to become a consistent winner and championship contender. In Matt, we hired a talented young driver with the heart of a warrior."
As for veteran crew chief and the SealMaster Racing team, they too are eager to see great things come to them. After a season of severe growing pains in 2000, they spent all winter making necessary changes.
"I learned a lot about what needs to happen during the winter months after my first season as crew chief. This year we feel more prepared and capable of going for the win at each race during the 2001 season, especially when we race near Matt's hometown of Bakersfield," state Jerry Cook, crew chief for the No. 88 SealMaster Racing Chevy.
Throughout the 2001 race season, Crafton will be spending his spare time racing in other circuits such as the Winston West and NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Series. He will also be participating in charity and community events state-wide starting with the annual MS Walk for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. His passion for helping the community started at age 17 when he visited the Valley Children's Hospital in Fresno, California. Crafton believes volunteering gives him the balance every human should have as well as remembering the people who have helped him get where he is today. "I can't thank my family enough for all their support. They always told me not to give up on my dreams. It is because of them, my girlfriend and the fans that I am at the level of racing I am at today," stated Matt Crafton.
Fans can catch Matt Crafton racing live Friday, Feb. 16 on ESPN as the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series kicks off at Daytona International Speedway with the Florida Dodge Dealers 250 (250 miles, 100 laps). The #88 Chevy will be painted bright yellow. Sponsors for the race include Pickuptruck.com, Microsoft, Discount Auto Parts, Red Line Oil, Berryman, Cintas, Gargoyles and SealMaster Industries.