Our selection for “NorCal Driver of the Week” is veteran NorCal race car driver, Matt Crafton, who got his second career win in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on Saturday night in Newton, Iowa at the Iowa Speedway. Matt drives the No. 88 Menards Chevrolet Silverado for ThorSport Racing from Sandusky, Ohio. The 35 year old driver is from Tulare, south of Visalia, on Highway 99. Matt is a 1995 graduate of Tulare Union High School. He began racing at age seven after receiving a Go-Kart as a gift for completing kindergarten. Young Matt won regional and national championships before moving on to midgets and micro sprints at age 15. He started competing in the Featherlite Southwest Series in 1996 at age 20, winning the championship in 2000. Also that year, he competed in the final race of year in the Truck Series at California Speedway. Since then, Matt has started 258 consecutive races in the Truck Series and has earned the nickname “Mr. Consistency”.
Earlier this year Matt shared this: “I say this all the time – Duke and Rhonda Thorson are like second parents to me. Duke and I talk on the phone sometimes twice a day, just talking about life,” says Crafton. “They are such a strong, supportive leadership team for all of their drivers. I am so confident going to the track that they ‘have my back,’ in however we perform. So me and my guys know on the 88 that we have a responsibility to that family. The Menards family, and also the ThorSport family. This can be our year.”
Matt finished 1/3 of a second ahead of 2nd place finisher Austin Dillon, grandson of Richard Childress. Matt’s team got him out fourth for the lap 161 restart, one of the fastest pitstops of the day. Crafton raced to the front and battled Dillon, who briefly took the lead on lap 188. For 3 laps they raced door to door. “It felt a lot longer than that because I was holding my breath,” said Crafton. “I knew if I got him underneath me, I could make him piss his right, rear tire off and make it loose,” Crafton said. “Just get the tire hot, it starts slipping. And once it started slipping, he was in trouble.” “Once I got clear of him, I felt like I could drive away from him.” and he did.
“This win was exactly what we needed,” said Crafton in victory lane. “This means so much to me, the team and all the sponsors that support us. This is really a huge momentum-builder for the team. In the last four weeks, anything that could have gone wrong did, and now here we are in victory lane. Our truck was really loose at the beginning, but once it came to me, we only needed minor air pressure adjustments for the rest of the night.”
With this win, Matt moved up from 8th to 5th in the series point standings, only 44 points behind teammate Johnny Sauter. After being the points leader for several weeks early in the year it is nice to be back in the top 5. Matt’s next race is Friday, July 22nd at Nashville Superspeedway.
Congratulations Matt, from all of us here at NorCal Car Culture, it was a great race, and you and your team earned a well deserved trip to victory lane.
To keep up to date on Matt Crafton’s race results please visit his driver page at www.racing-reference.info.