Crafton and ThorSport to part at end of 2003 season SANDUSKY, Ohio - Matt Crafton has opted to leave the Menards Chevrolet Silverado at the conclusion of the 2003 season, it was announced Tuesday by Duke Thorson, owner of ThorSport Racing which...
Crafton and ThorSport to part at end of 2003 season
SANDUSKY, Ohio - Matt Crafton has opted to leave the Menards Chevrolet Silverado at the conclusion of the 2003 season, it was announced Tuesday by Duke Thorson, owner of ThorSport Racing which fields the No. 88 truck on the NASCAR Truck Series. Crafton has been with the team since October, 2000.
"Everybody involved with ThorSport is sad to know that Matt won't be coming back next year," Thorson said. "He's been a great part of the growth and development of our team for three years."
Crafton has made 63 consecutive truck starts in the No. 88 entry. He owns 27 top-10 finishes, including nine in 16 starts this season. In his most-recent race, the Tulare, Calif. native equaled his career-best finish of sixth in the August 20 event in Bristol, Tenn. Crafton qualified fifth for that event, a career-best as well.
"I'm very impressed with the progress the team has made in the last three years," Crafton said. "Duke and Rhonda Thorson are great owners and terrific people. They've made me and (my wife) Jocelyn feel at home from the time we showed up in Sandusky."
"Jerry Cook has done a great job building this team. He's put together a veteran group that's building trucks capable of running up front every week right now. I look at where the team is today versus where it was in 2000, and I'm proud to have been part of ThorSport during those three years."
"But the time has come for me to step out and look for another challenge. It wouldn't be fair for me to start looking for something else without first letting the team know what I was doing. ThorSport has a chance to be a top-10 team again next year. They deserve the time to hire the right driver so they can continue to grow and develop. This way, they can."
Thorson indicated that the driver selection process would begin immediately.
"As soon as Matt told me of this decision, I started working on a list," Thorson said. "I'm sure the list will get longer before it gets shorter. We'll look at our options carefully, review them with our sponsors and then make the best choice for all parties."
While losing Crafton creates a new challenge for Thorson, he was quick to note that the need to hire a driver doesn't impact his overall vision for ThorSport Racing.
"The last few weeks have been very exciting for us," Thorson said. "While everybody can see how we've been running in the top-10 consistently, most people can't see what we've been able to do off the race track.
"We recently received a commitment from Menards to stay with us through the 2004 season. Included in our program is the ability to continue to use engines from Menard Engine Development for the No. 88 truck as well as a second entry."
ThorSport entered a second truck for driver Cory Kruseman in two events in 2002. This season, the team has provided a truck and additional support for driver Tina Gordon in two events in a joint effort with Brevak Racing.
"We plan to expand to a two-truck program in 2004 in some fashion," Thorson said. "We're close to making it happen."
ThorSport entered the NASCAR Truck Series in July, 1996. The team has competed full-time since 1998 and owns one victory, two poles, five top-five and 44 top-10 finishes.
The next event for Crafton and the No. 88 ThorSport team is the Virginia is for Lovers 200 at the Richmond (Va.) International Raceway Thursday, September 4. That is the 17th of 25 races which comprise the 2003 NASCAR Truck Series campaign.
"While I'm looking at the future by making this decision, I remain focused on the current situation as well," Crafton said. "When I came to this team in 2000, I came to win. I have nine races left to get that done, and I'm going to do everything in my power to make it happen."