Matt Crafton can’t wait to get behind the seat of his Ford F150 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Wednesday.
The two-time NASCAR Camping World Truck champion is participating in the open series test and sharing the seat with his returning ThorSport Racing teammates Ben Rhodes and Grant Enfinger.
The Charlotte test marks the first time ThorSport will make its public debut with Ford Performance since the manufacturer change was announced on Monday.
“I’m looking forward to working with Ford,” Crafton said. “It’s what I started with in NASCAR in my old Southwest Tour days. I started racing a Ford out west. It’s all my dad has ever owned and raced. So it’s very exciting for him.
“He’s always said that when I started racing another manufacturer, ‘I don’t know if I can root for you because I’ve always driven a Ford, you’ve always driven a Ford.’ But now I guess I have a new fan—my dad.”
Not an easy switch
The manufacturer switch does pose it’s challenges. ThorSport has at least 16 trucks just to swap over before the NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway in three weeks. The teams worked overtime just to have one truck prepared for this week’s test.
“We have to cut everything off from the windshield bed forward and put all the new Ford noses on it and the Ford back half,” Crafton said. “There’s a lot going on in Sandusky (Ohio). Those guys are doing a lot to get the stuff done.
“We just finished the first truck this weekend, but we haven’t taken a truck to the wind tunnel yet. We have no idea what we’ve got. So it should be fun. But I’m really looking forward to driving this F150 this year.”
Crafton’s off-season has included plenty of extra-curricular racing. He ran his first midget race in the Junior Knepper 55 USAC and finished fourth in his first heat race. Crafton came from ninth to fourth and was racing for a transfer spot when a car spun ahead of him ended his B-Main.
Crafton had hoped to run the Chili Bowl earlier this month, but he couldn’t find a seat in time.
“It’s definitely something that’s on the bucket list,” Crafton said. “I had so much fun. I’m very critical of myself. I went there and struggled the first practice. The second practice, I thought I was way better.
“Christopher Bell was so excited. He thought I was like a kid out there. He was ecstatic watching me. ‘Are you having fun?’ That’s all he wanted to know all night was if I was having fun. He was like, ‘I can’t read you, Matt.’ And that was because I was starting to do better. I wanted to do better. I was one spot away from transferring into the main and I got spun and killed it. But when somebody has a ride open, I’ll be there and definitely have a blast doing it.”
Recently his focus has turned to his dirt modified that he’ll race at Volusia Speedway Park prior to Speedweeks. Crafton has been working around the clock to prepare his cars for the race two weeks from now.
“My dirt modified, that’s my hobby,” Crafton said. “That’s what I do for fun on the side. I love it. We’re actually building cars in house now. Elite Chassis moved into my shop. I’m going to race Volusia and probably 10 other races throughout the year and get ready for Eldora again.”