Friday, May 18, 2012

Riding Shotgun with Matt Crafton: Live from Charlotte

Credit: Debbie Ross/Skirts and Scuffs
'Riding Shotgun' is taking a new twist this weekend, live at Charlotte Motor Speedway and given the opportunity to speak to Matt Crafton face-to-face, we chatted a few minutes after final practice.

As we have been documenting, Crafton is not only busy with his duties as driver of the No. 88 Menard's Toyota Tundra for ThorSport Racing, but he has also been working with Nationwide Series rookie Travis Pastrana. Even this weekend, a home race for most NASCAR stars, Crafton is hopping on board a plane tonight, heading to Iowa to see Pastrana and will be back at the Charlotte track tomorrow to watch Paul Menard. His schedule never stops.

Starting out the one-day show at CMS, Crafton posted the fourth-fastest time in first practice and followed that with seventh in second and final practice. Based on his speeds, he will go out in 38th position for qualifying this afternoon. 

Skirts and Scuffs: How is your truck doing so far, two practices into the day?
Matt Crafton (MC): Good, we were very happy with the first practice and second practice started off...the track changes so much here from when it was cooler here this morning. That's why on race runs, since we are going to race at night, there is no track that will change as much as Charlotte does. We didn't pay any attention to our times or speeds in the second practice, we just worked on our first practice. 

S&S: I noticed that in final practice you were 15th and worked your way up, were you working on something during that time?
MC: No, we just wanted to A, B two things really quick and didn't worry about the speed, then we did our qualifying run there at the end. Yeah, we'll be fine with it. 

S&S: Would you say this is one of your stronger tracks? (In 9 races at CMS, Crafton has 1 win, 2 top 5s and 7 top 10s)
MC: It's the place I got my first win in the Truck series, its definitely been a place that has been very good to me. The last two years it hasn't been as good to me and last year we got caught up in someone else's stupidity.

S&S: What's it like to be home in Charlotte for at least a few days, given your schedule as of late?
MC: I'm not, after tonight I get on a plane with Kurt Busch and head to Iowa to be at Travis' deal tomorrow.

S&S: So you were home maybe a few hours again?
MC: Yeah! Well, this week I have been during the week but it's been pretty crazy. It'll be nice, I am going to be there through Travis' practices tomorrow and then come back here to watch Paul Menard tomorrow night in the All-Star race, to support him. Back forth, back forth.

S&S: I know fans on Twitter are intently following along with you and asking questions about Travis' progress so far. What are your thoughts?
MC: He is doing an awesome job! Getting a hang of it and it was only his second race ever in a Nationwide car at Darlington, to finish on the lead lap although he did hit the fence in qualifying, he has made leaps and bounds every week. We have a really good friendship/relationship and he trusts me and everything I am telling him on the setup.

I get in the car and I will drive it a little bit, to give him a good A B and give him some ground work so when I am not there he can build off of it.

S&S: How is it for you, jumping into the Nationwide car versus a Truck? Is there a noticeable difference?
MC: They are a little, little bit different but not something you are going to say 'Oh My God' this is way different. With a race car they have a little less drag, but it's not that much different.

The biggest thing I have is trying to reach the pedals! He is 6'2" and I am 5'10", it is a task to reach the pedals. It's tough!

S&S: The Truck series is only heading into their 5th race today. Looking ahead at your schedule are you trying to map out a game plan?
MC: No, we don't. Every race track that are coming up, we go to Dover and Kentucky is one of them, we have been really fast at. Really looking forward to going to Dover, that is a place that I love.

S&S: What about your thoughts on the Pocono tire test? It had rave reviews but I also remember you not "loving" the track overall.
MC: I like that track, it is definitely going to be a lot different racing than it was. It's got a ton of grip, it's going to be very interesting to see if they get enough rubber down to have a second groove. I am a little worried about how much you are going to be able to move around. 


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