St. Louis: Matt Crafton preview

Matt Crafton Consistency is Key for Gateway Victory HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (July 13, 2004) - Matt Crafton, driver of the No. 6 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet Silverado, is coming off his career-best finish of fourth last weekend in Sparta, Kentucky as the...

Matt Crafton
Consistency is Key for Gateway Victory

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (July 13, 2004) - Matt Crafton, driver of the No. 6 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet Silverado, is coming off his career-best finish of fourth last weekend in Sparta, Kentucky as the NASCAR Craftsman Truck series (NCTS) stops in Madison, Ill., for Saturday nights running of the Dodge Dealers Ram Tough 200 at Gateway International Raceway. The Tulare, Calif., native is caught in a draft that is bringing him to the forefront of the series quicker than Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in a superspeedway race.

Now in his fourth year on the circuit, Crafton is enjoying his best season with a fully funded team. Owned by NEXTEL Cup star, Kevin Harvick, Kevin Harvick, Inc., (KHI) has all the resources and support from GM Goodwrench, the longest running sponsor in NASCAR history. That is something the 28-year old has not experienced during his first three years in the series.

"With the resources KHI has with their RCR motor program and GM Goodwrench has our sponsor, I am able to run in the top-10, top-five week-in and week-out," explains Crafton. "In the past, I was with an under funded team with limited resources and struggled at times to run up front. Kevin drove in a lot of the same series I drove in growing up and at times was with some under funded teams as well. I think he saw a lot of himself in me and decided to give me my best opportunity. I can't thank Kevin enough for that."

Crafton, one of the most consistent drivers in 2004, leads all NCTS drivers with nine top-10 finishes in 11 starts and has also added three top-five finishes to his resume. His last three attempts at the 1.25-mile egg-shaped oval have given him three top-10 finishes, with his best finish of seventh coming in 2001. Though generally happy with a top-10 finish, Crafton is settling for nothing less than a top-five finish this weekend as Team GM Goodwrench continues their quest for their first win and ultimately the points championship.

No. 6 GM Goodwrench driver Matt Crafton on Gateway...

Describe the egg shaped oval.

"The racetrack is definitely unique because it is relatively flat and really hard to get your set-up right in both corners. If you have the correct set-up in one set of corners, then there is a good chance it is no where close to where it needs to be for the other set. You just have to find a happy medium."

How do you manage the two distinct sets of corners?

"Turns 1 and 2 are definitely a different animal from turns 3 and 4. The first are really tight corners so I will have to downshift getting into the middle of the corners. I come off the corner pretty slow and be back in the throttle shifting down the backstretch heading into turns 3 and 4. I have to lift in turns 3 and 4 before I can get back in the gas, and then the process starts all over again. I would say turns 3 and 4 at Gateway are similar to turns 3 and 4 at Phoenix. I really like Phoenix and have run well there, so turns 3 and 4 at Gateway suit me fine. I look forward to going there because it is a driver's track. You can't just lay on the throttle and turn left."

You are fifth in points against some very good drivers and teams - your impression?

"We have had a pretty good season this far and been very consistent. We started off wanting to be consistent, finish every race in the top-10, top-five and now we are focusing on knocking down our top-fives to close in on our first win. Even though we have not won yet, we have definitely let our championship contending presence be known and that feels good."

No. 6 GM Goodwrench crew chief Wally Rogers on Gateway...

How hard is it as a crew chief to get the proper set-up?

"I have sat on the pole at St. Louis before and really like the place, but it is probably one of the most complicated tracks that we go to. It's hard to find the chassis set-up as well as a good motor set-up. We end up shifting there, so it will be somewhat like a road course. Turns 1 and 2 are a different shape than 3 and 4 so we will work on the motor aspect first and then focus on our chassis set-up. If you can get the set-up to be a little tight in the first turns and a little free in the last two, your balance will be just about perfect."

Points of Interest...

* Runnin' It...Team GM Goodwrench will take their short-track chassis No.003 to Gateway International Raceway for this weekend's 220-mile race. This chassis has already brought home top-10 finishes this year in Martinsville, Va., Mansfield, Ohio, Memphis, Tenn., and Milwaukee, Wis.

* Track Stat...Crafton's average finish in three visits to Gateway is ninth, which is his highest average finish of the 22 racetracks he has visited two or more times in his truck series career.

* 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 he just had his career-best finish of fourth at Kentucky Speedway last weekend.

* 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 12.3 and his average finishes have improved from 16.3 to 10.1.

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

* Did you know...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 Missouri-Illinois Dodge Dealers Ram Tough 200 is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. EDT. TV coverage of the 160-lap event on SPEED starts at 8:00 p.m., with radio coverage on MRN beginning at 7:30 p.m. Remember times and dates of the race may change, so check your local listings.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Michael Waltrip , Kevin Harvick , Matt Crafton , Rick Carelli
Teams Michael Waltrip Racing