Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Menards Chevrolet Silvarado for ThorSport Racing, is one of the longest active drivers in the Camping World Truck Series. I had the opportunity to speak with Matt prior to the Nashville race and ask him some questions. I really enjoy this chance to learn more about him. I would personally like to thank Matt and Demi Knight, his PR representative, for allowing me to do this interview for Skirts and Scuffs.
|Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs|
Matt Crafton (MC): No, it's not that we are doing anything different. We just have better luck. For the last two years we have done everything pretty much the same. We have a new motor program and they are building some new trucks but we keep trying to make things better and better. It’s the little things here and there. I have just had a better start to this season. You have to be lucky and I'd rather be lucky than good sometimes.
AE: ThorSport Racing is based in Sandusky, Ohio. Out of the NASCAR Hub. Is that where you too are based?
MC: No, I live in Mooresville (NC). I think that is one of the good things, not being in the shop everyday. I would love to be at the shop everyday, but as a race car driver you don’t need to be at the shop and deal with all the day to day drama and all the stuff that goes on. You need to go to the track every week with a clear head, and I know my guys are behind me and a majority have been with me since I started the Truck Series. I am sure they are happy that I am not there bothering them. I might slow the work progress down 'cause I like to joke with them. I do go up there once a month, for about two to three days, then come back home. As I always say, distance makes the heart grow fonder. They are more excited to see me since I am not there every day.
AE: Do you have any tracks that you consider a favorite, something you see on the schedule and star and say, "Hey, that’s somewhere I really like and may win at?"
MC: Yeah, I love going to Atlanta. Atlanta is one I circle. Then Bristol, but at the same time you say, "Oh, that could be bad, too." Kentucky is one of the ones that I love to go to, it's really cool that we are going there twice this year. I am happy about that.
AE: On the opposite end, are there any tracks that you feel are somewhere you need to get better at?
MC: Yeah, we are going there this weekend (meaning Nashville). It's been a track that we have been decent at, but we have never had any great success where we can mark the race down and say, "Hey, we were good there that day." It's kind of been a thorn in our side. When they added it to the schedule twice, ouch, that was a thorn in my side.
AE: How would you feel if the Truck Series had a chase format like the Cup Series?
MC: I don’t think it's that critical for us. Our points chase usually is pretty good the way they are now.
AE: How do you personally feel about Sprint Cup drivers driving in the Truck Series? Does it steal a win from a NCWTS regular?
MC: I love it, I think they should. It adds more to the sport when people who like Kyle Busch come to a race 'cause they want to see him run in a Truck race. It’s a little bit cheaper to go to a Truck race, so if they can do that, they can watch their favorite Cup driver. At the same time, as a driver the way I look at it, you gotta be able to beat them and go run in a Truck if you ever think about going into Cup.
|Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs|
MC: No, absolutely not, that’s ridiculous!
AE: That's nice to hear an opinion that welcomes it!
MC: You gotta learn to be able to run with them. They bring a lot of resources, a lot of stuff to their programs when they come and run Trucks and that helps them. You just got to learn to beat them. The only thing that is a little bit negative, it’s a little bit easier for them to get sponsors. Companies are going to want to go with a Cup driver to get more TV time out of it. At the same time if you are running for wins each and every week, you are going to get that TV time.
AE: Speaking of sponsors, your partnership with Menards has been a long one. You seem to have such a great relationship.
MC: Yeah, Menards has been behind me, they have supported me through thick and through thin. I couldn’t ask for a better sponsor and I am not just saying that because they are my sponsor now. I just couldn’t ask for anybody better.
AE: I heard a rumor that some people are suggesting Truck Series races be run mid-week. What do you think about this suggestion? How would it affect you?
MC: I have heard people talk about that, I just don’t know what they would be trying to get out of that! Why would you want to mess with it! That’s my biggest thing, why would you want to mess with the Truck Series? Our fan base keeps getting bigger and bigger every year, TV ratings keep getting better, so why would you want to throw a curve ball and mess it up?
AE: Personally I don’t see how it would work for the teams.
MC: I would say most or all the teams are full-time guys, but at the same time there are teams with guys who run eight to 10 races and that is going to be harder for them without a doubt. I just 100% disagree with that!
AE: In doing my research on you, I came across a fact that says you wear a Davey Allison shirt under your firesuit for every race. Is this true? Why?
MC: Yeap, yeap I do, I wear it every race! That was one of my all-time favorite race car drivers growing up, when I was racing he was my hero. He was one of the greatest race car drivers out there and what really made me like him was how he treated fans and how he treated people. First, second, it didn’t matter who you were - he was always going to take the time to sign some stuff for you. If the autograph session was an hour and there was still a line, he was going to be that driver that stayed there to make sure every autograph was signed. He always told me that and that’s something I remembered when I came into the Truck Series. At the end of the day, these people are who allow you to have a job and do what you love to do.
AE: I was wondering about the personal link between you and Davey because it seems there was a close connection.
MC: How I got to know him was my dad raced in California and it was 1988, it was the first year I met Davey, I was 11 maybe 12 years old. I met Davey when he drove my Dad’s car; there was a handful of times he drove my dad’s car throughout the next few years. We just became really good friends with him, he stayed in contact with us, and when he was in town or we were there a day would get marked off to have dinner with us. That was a really cool thing. I have a pair of his driving shoes he gave me. I remember going to the racetrack trying to get my parents to get me driving shoes - back then you just drove - but he overheard me talking to my mom about trying to get me some driving shoes so after the race he gave them to me. He had won a couple races in those shoes, I think it was Michigan, he signed them and made me promise that I wouldn’t just put them on a shelf, that I would wear them. I wore them for years, the autograph is still on them and you can still see it. They are put up now.
AE: You have been racing since you were a young kid, right? How did you start off?
MC: Yeah, about 7 years old raced a little bit then. When I was a teenager just kept racing more and more, I raced go-karts around home when I was 7/8 years old and than 10/11 years old just kept racing more and more. I have a funny story - back in California you had to be 16 to be able to drive a midget/a micro midget and all that stuff. My birthday was in June and the season started in March. It’s a funny story now and a lot of people gave her a bad time about it. My mom made me a fake birth certificate, changed my birthday so I could start racing! A lot of the older guys knew and didn’t like that they were being beat by someone who was only 15.
AE: Nowadays you see kids starting their race careers younger and younger, so technically you started late. I just saw a piece on TV about kids starting at the ages of 4 and 5 with racing careers.
MC: We would have started younger but the law back then said you had to be 16. It was unheard of to start at 15. I can remember some of the races when I was 7 or 8 years old, racing (a) dirt track. I was leading the race, had a nice lead, then spinning out in front of the whole field and they ran me over. I was sitting on the race track crying, I had just got run over, and my dad came over and asked me if I was going to cry or if I was going to race.
AE: So I take it your parents were very supportive of you choosing to race? (Evident by mom’s choice with the birth certificate)
MC: Very, very supportive! Like I said at 7 or 8 years old, are you going to cry or are you going to race? I knew I better shut up and race. He knew I wasn’t hurt, that I was more scared than anything.
AE: It has to be great to know you parents have always supported you. Do they make it to races now?
MC: They used to come a lot. My dad still works on some race teams, so he travels with other people down the West Coast and they live on the East Coast. Whenever I am close to them and whenever we are in Charlotte, you can count on them being there. My dad has always been my biggest supporter and at the same time he is the first one to tell me if I did something wrong. He tells me what I could have done better and why I lost, it's constructive criticism and that’s how you get better. If I would have done this, we could have won today. I got to thank my parents a lot for being that way!