Thursday, April 19, 2012

Riding Shotgun with Matt Crafton: Gaining momentum after Rockingham

Credit: ThorSport Racing/Rhonda Greer
In the second installment of 'Riding Shotgun' Matt Crafton spoke with Skirts and Scuffs about his 3rd-place finish at Rockingham, track repaves and Travis Pastrana's debut at Richmond.

After three races, two of which resulted in finishes outside the top 20, Matt Crafton was excited for Rockingham and his third-place finish last weekend.

“We needed the momentum. We have had very fast race trucks that have not been able to capitalize on any of them, this was the first time of the year that we got to finish one of the races that we actually started and have a good day to show the progress of the team,” Crafton said as he spoke on the much-needed run at Rockingham. That finish alone would net a gain of 12 positions in the points. The No. 88 Menards team now sits 11th as they head to Kansas Speedway this weekend.

With the great turnout at Rockingham, Crafton weighed in on the fate of the track.  

“I would love to go back twice! That is a real racetrack. You put it back in the driver’s hands instead of the technical. Some of these places we go to, you go there and hold it wide open and there is not much a driver can do. When you go out there and qualify at Texas, you hold it wide open and then when you race, you can have a great truck and a mediocre driver and still get a top-10 finish. A place like Rockingham that wears out the tires, you slip and slide around, I would say that separates the drivers and I truly believe that. Another perfect example is Atlanta that is one of the most awesome race tracks there is, Atlanta and Rockingham are my two favorite race tracks. You go fast but after a few laps it is put in the drivers’ hands, the sliding, it is all about throttle control and the steering instead of holding it wide open.”

In his post-race remarks Crafton referenced Rockingham and the current tracks that just repaved their surfaces. He said, “I think that all the race tracks should be like this -- Michigan and Pocono and all these race tracks that are putting all this new pavement on.  They need to grind them down and make them rough like this race track and wear the tires out.” Asking Matt to expand on that statement led to an enlightening conversation on the current topic of track repaves.

“I know they put the new pavement on because it is wore out and cracked, they are afraid it is going to come apart like Daytona did but I have no idea about Michigan. It is absolutely idiotic to repave that place, it was absolutely a blast to drive and race on. Now I think it is going to be a sleeper, [like] the other night at Texas with all green and no yellows, I hope there is no yellows at Michigan because they have so much grip in the track and are going so fast right now it is going to be ridiculous."

Crafton continued to explain his thoughts on how to address tracks in need of repaves. “Put the new pavement on but then do something where it does not have a ton of grip, you would go fast for a couple laps and then have a ton of fall off.”

After this weekend Kansas Speedway is also heading towards a repave and Crafton weighed in on that as well. “That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. It is idiotic; I do not know what they are getting out of it, maybe some tax break or something.”

Speaking of the Kansas race this weekend, SPEED’s setup show is featuring a Newlywed game with Matt and Ashley Crafton as contestants on the game show hosted by Rick Allen.

“It’s something they had to twist my arm to do to be totally honest,” Crafton said on the little game show skit. “I am here to drive a racecar and not play a newlywed game but it was a neat thing to do and see the answers that we gave. It was very cool.”
Credit: ThorSport Racing
Tune into the Setup show from Kansas at 1:30 pm EST and see the Craftons battle the Bueschers and the Gales and Rick Allen rocking a pretty rad blue suit!

Last time we spoke with Crafton the theme was clearly on the changes in his life – from new bride Ashley to crew chief Carl Joiner and the switch to Toyotas, new starts abounded for Matt. Taking the on-track changes in stride, Crafton is happy with everything.

“It’s been great; the Toyota people have been absolutely awesome to work with. Anything we ask for, they have given us above and beyond so far. I think now they are getting more and more excited because they saw how well Johnny and I both ran at Martinsville and Dakoda, he is showing progress each and every week. At Daytona Johnny was leading the race coming to the white when he was wrecked. We are showing them what we can do for them as well as what they can do for us. I think it is going to be a great partnership.”

As for crew chief Carl Joiner, he is fitting right in with the team. He and Crafton have worked together previously as a driver/crew chief pairing in the Southwest tour and with late models.

Leaving Kansas, the NCWTS will have three weeks off until their next race at Charlotte. For Crafton, there is no off time. In those three weeks he will be as busy as ever as he continues his work with Travis Pastrana who makes his Nationwide debut in one week.

“Leaving Kansas I fly home on Sunday, leave on Monday for the Pocono tire test which is Tuesday and Wednesday, and straight from there I head to Richmond to help Travis for his East and Nationwide deals. In the next two weeks I will be home maybe for 24 hours, not even that. I don’t have any off weeks”

Crafton’s schedule sounds exhausting but he says “I love helping him (Pastrana) and you are never going to find a greater person and someone who appreciates so much everything you do for them. That’s what makes it worth it.”


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