Crafton Leads Ohio Brigade into Mansfield with Win in Charlotte ThorSport Racing's Matt Crafton couldn't have timed it any better. Driving for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' only full-time Ohio-based team, Crafton drove his No. 88 Menards ...
Crafton Leads Ohio Brigade into Mansfield with Win in Charlotte
ThorSport Racing's Matt Crafton couldn't have timed it any better. Driving for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' only full-time Ohio-based team, Crafton drove his No. 88 Menards Chevrolet to his first career victory in last Friday's North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte. It was the final series event scheduled before it moves to Mansfield Motorsports Park for this Saturday's Ohio 250.
It has been a long time in coming for Crafton. With the win he ended a winless drought of 177 races dating back to his first start at California Speedway in October 2000.
For his ThorSport team, based just 45 minutes north of Mansfield in Sandusky, Ohio, it was the group's first win since Sylvania native Terry Cook won at the now-defunct Flemington Speedway in New Jersey in August 1998.
Crafton may have more laps around the Mansfield half-mile that most of the field combined. Before the track was added to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series schedule, he and the team turned hundreds of laps in private testing at the track. NASCAR regulations now prohibit private testing at any track currently on the schedule.
"We have some extra laps there that some of the other teams don't because we were so close," Crafton said. "They've all caught up to us by now. But I would really love to come out to Mansfield and get a win. It would mean a lot. We went down and stole one on all the other teams' home turf in Charlotte now we need to defend ours and get the win up here."
Crafton, a native of Tulare, California, spent three years living in nearby Sandusky. The ThorSport team will also field the No. 13 Chevrolet for Greenwood, Indiana's Shelby Howard.
Other Ohio drivers entered in the Ohio 250 include six-time series winner Terry Cook, Sylvania, driving the No. 60 Wyler.com Toyota; Jack Smith, Elyria, driving the No. 63 Dave Porter Truck Sales Ford; Tim Cowen, Ashland, driving the No. 42 Cowen Logistics Ford; and Gary St. Amant, Delaware, driving the No. 72 Jegs Chevrolet.
Cook, a former late model champion at Toledo Speedway and Sandusky Speedway in Ohio, is the state's most successful NASCAR driver since Tim Richmond. Richmond, from nearby Ashland, scored 13 Cup Series wins and two wins in the Nationwide Series in his short NASCAR career.
For Cook, racing in Ohio gives him a hometown feel.
"It really does. I spent five years living in Sandusky and have a lot of friends and family that make the short trip down to come and watch," Cook said. "It is pretty special to run in Ohio, especially since the Truck race is the only national-level NASCAR race in Ohio. It would be pretty big for me personally to win one in the Buckeye State."
Ohio-based owners fielding entries in the Ohio 250 include Sandusky's Duke and Rhonda Thorson (No. 13 ThorSport Racing Chevrolet and No. 88 Menards Chevrolet); Columbus's Bob and Stephen Germain (No. 9 Construct Corps Toyota and No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota), Ashland's Bob Cowen (No. 42 Cowen Logistics Ford), and Jeffrey Wyler (No. 60 Wyler.com Toyota).
Germain Racing's Marks will be making his first-ever appearance at Mansfield and is already looking forward to getting in front of the Ohio fans.
"I've heard the Mansfield fans are some of the best in the sport, and I look forward to meeting them on Thursday evening in downtown," he said. "We've been able to do some good short-track testing and I think the Construct Corps Tundra will be very competitive. The short tracks are wild in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and they are a lot of fun. I think the Ohio 250 will be a good race."
The Ohio 250 weekend kicks off Thursday May 22 with Race Fest in downtown Mansfield. Several drivers will sign autographs -- including 2004 Ohio 250 winner Jack Sprague, 1995 NASCAR Busch Series champion Johnny Benson, former Formula One driver Scott Speed, Matt Crafton, Shelby Howard, Justin Marks, Brian Scott, Tim Cowen and Jack Smith. Other drivers signing autographs include Benny Gordon, Danny Jackson, and Gary St. Amant from the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series, Charlie Shutlz from the ISMA Supermodifieds, Todd McQuillen from the HOSS 410 Sprints, and Mike Osgar from the ASA Late Model Series. Several display vehicles will be on display as well highlighting each of the racing series that will compete at the track throughout the 2008 racing season. The transporter parade moves into downtown shortly after 5 P.M., the autograph session kicks off at 6 P.M. and it will be followed by a question and answer session with the drivers at 7 P.M.
Practice and qualifying will take place on "Graham Auto Mall Pole Day," Friday May 23, with the first practice session at 11 A.M. and qualifying runs taking place at 6:30 P.M. Gates open on Saturday May 24 at 9 A.M. with fans allowed to walk on and around the speedway until 10:30 A.M. The driver's meeting -- which fans can watch from the grassy hill in turns three and four -- is scheduled for 11 A.M. with pre-race ceremonies at 12:30 P.M. The command to start engines for the fifth annual Ohio 250 is slated for shortly after 1 P.M.
Tickets are still available by calling (419) 525-RACE (7223) or online at www.mansfieldmotorsportsonline.com.
- credit: mmp