Martinsville II: Matt Crafton preview

Matt Crafton Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain at Martinsville HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (October 19, 2004) - The last five weeks of Matt Crafton's racing career have been anything but enjoyable. He is coming off his fifth disappointing race in a row...

Matt Crafton
Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain at Martinsville

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (October 19, 2004) - The last five weeks of Matt Crafton's racing career have been anything but enjoyable. He is coming off his fifth disappointing race in a row and just learned he will not be back at Kevin Harvick, Inc., (KHI) for the 2005 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) season. That means the Tulare, Calif., native is heading into this Saturday's Kroger 200 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway with a nothing to lose, everything to gain, mentality as he looks to overcome his string of bad luck and secure his first NCTS win.

"It is unbelievable the way our luck has turned on us," says Crafton. "I thought for sure we were well on our way to getting this gorilla off our back at Texas last weekend. You obviously always want to run well and up front every race, but now I am really going after these last four races as if I have nothing to lose and even more to gain for the 2005 season. I still have a job to do for KHI and GM Goodwrench, but I also have to make sure I get all I can out on the track to catch the eyes of other owners for next year."

Growing up on the short tracks in California, Crafton is more ready than ever for this weekend's 105.2-mile event. He heads to the newly resurfaced .526-mile paper clip oval with two top-10 finishes, one top-15 finish, and one top-20 finish, but is going to settle for nothing less than a top-five effort this weekend.

"I've had some pretty good runs at Martinsville and I've had some pretty bad runs as well," explains Crafton. "It's definitely one of those tracks that can bite you or you can love it. I really like the track and you always know you are going to have some rubbing at these short tracks, but all in all I think it gets back to your roots. Racing the short tracks is what I grew up doing. I had never been on anything bigger than a mile until a few years ago. It's always neat to go back to the short tracks because you can lean on your competitors a little more."

No. 6 GM Goodwrench driver Matt Crafton on Martinsville Speedway...

What are your thoughts on the new surface?

"The speeds have picked up three or four tenths here with the new surface. The late-models were the first to run on the new surface and a bunch of them broke track records. A few of the NEXTEL Cup teams have tested it out as well and they were on track to break some track records also. They have done an awesome job and the place looks really smooth. There are no bumps and there isn't a big transition from concrete to asphalt, so I am really looking forward to the race."

What makes this short track so unique?

"This place is honestly different than a lot of short tracks I have ever run. It's got what they call two drag strips and two tight corners, so it is definitely a tough one to get a handle on. I have always raced pretty well there. We just need to work on our qualifying effort a little bit."

Do you like these companion events with the NNCS?

"This year they have been a real advantage for me because I have been able to get some really good advice from Kevin (Harvick). It helps when you and your boss are running on the same track on the same weekend. Also, at a lot of these companion events, we get some big crowds and Martinsville is a really good companion event that really brings the fans. The truck series has definitely grabbed the attention of more fans with more manufacturers like Toyota coming in. That has really made Chevrolet pick their program up which has ultimately made the racing better."

No. 6 GM Goodwrench crew chief Wally Rogers on Martinsville Speedway...

How does the new surface effect your game plan for this weekend?

"I have heard the new surface is a whole lot smoother than it has been in the past. The set-up we ran with in the spring should be pretty close to start with, but I think we are going to have to make some changes to compromise with the new surface. We didn't qualify well, but we raced awesome and finished seventh. The downside to everything is that we can't catch a break right now. We caught a lot of breaks at the start of the year, but we just can't seem to catch any right now. On the positive side, we have run fantastic. I don't think anybody can complain with the way we have run. We will just keep plugging away and when the luck changes it is going to be big."

Points of Interest...

* Runnin' It...Team GM Goodwrench will take their short-track chassis No.003 to Martinsville Speedway for this weekend's 105.2-mile race. This chassis has already brought home top-10 finishes this year in Martinsville, Va., Mansfield, Ohio, Memphis, Tenn., Milwaukee, Wis., Madison, Ill., and Indianapolis, Ind.

* Career-Bests...In 2004, Crafton has seen his career-best start and career-best finish take place. His career-best start of fourth came in May at Lowe's Motor Speedway and again in August at Nashville Superspeedway. His career-best finish of third came at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway six races ago.

* A Texas Mishap...Crafton's series leading top-10 finishes came to an end last weekend when Shane Hmiel lost control of his truck putting Crafton into the turn 2 wall. This is Crafton's fifth disappointing race in a row that has led him to hand over the most top-10 finishes to Bobby Hamilton and Carl Edwards.

* Movin' on up...In 2004, Crafton's average starting and finishing positions have decreased substantially since he began in the series in 2001. He has improved his average starts from 17.0 to 13.2 and his average finishes have jumped from 16.3 to 11.8.

* Birds eye view...Veteran NASCAR driver Rick Carelli has been in the spotter stand since Texas in June and has helped steer Crafton to three of his four top-five finishes and nine of his 13 top-10 finishes.

* All in the family...Crafton's father works at Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR). Danny Crafton has worked at MWR for the last two years and his shop duties include mechanical/electrical work.

* Start time...for Saturday's Kroger 200 is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. EDT. TV coverage of the 200-lap event on SPEED starts at 1:00 p.m. EDT, with radio coverage on MRN beginning at 1:00 p.m. EDT. Remember times and dates of the race may change, so check your local listings.

-khi-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Michael Waltrip , Kevin Harvick , Matt Crafton , Shane Hmiel , Rick Carelli , Carl Edwards
Teams Michael Waltrip Racing