Toyota Racing – Matt Crafton
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Quotes
BRISTOL, Tenn. (March 24, 2021) – ThorSport Racing driver Matt Crafton was made available to media via videoconference prior to the Bristol event today:
MATT CRAFTON, No. 88 Menards Toyota Tundra, ThorSport Racing
What did you learn last weekend that you think you will be able to apply to this weekend?
“Just seeing what the track did throughout a run and seeing how the track changed. All dirt tracks since I’ve been racing them these last few years, they all change, they all look a little different – where you can go, where you can’t go, preferred lane and just seeing how much it would widen out, so I definitely learned some stuff on it.”
Do you think it will widen out?
“It will widen out if the track prep people will let it. It showed that the other night. We ran three-quarter up the way to the fence; we ran on the bottom. We put on some amazing races. I don’t know if you were able to watch it but the late models – the really, really fast stuff – was more painted in the middle of the race track, but if you want to call it more the hobby stock – the heavier cars – they put on probably the best race of the weekend and at the end of the day that’s what the Trucks and the Cup cars are going to be. They are heavier vehicles. They were three-wide, four-wide at points and door slamming each other. It should be exciting without a doubt.”
Can you give me a sense of the challenge of dirt racing for those who don’t have very much experience?
“It’s one thing to be good on it. There’s going to be some drivers go out when it’s heavy – and we will call it muddy at that point – it’s got a lot of traction. Those are the easier tracks to drive. When the track slicks out – when it’s really slick – and you are really struggling for traction, that’s when you separate the guys that can drive the dirt and can’t drive the dirt as much – where experience will pay off and understanding where you should be on the racetrack and where you shouldn’t be. I enjoy it so much because it’s so different than something I’ve raced my whole life and I started racing it with the trucks. I started racing other people’s cars and I fell in love with it and ended up buying my own car and spend a lot of time doing it. I think I’ve raced 15 races this year already on dirt.”
How big is the disparity going to be? Can someone learn and figure it out and score a top-10?
“Without a doubt. These guys are all really good race car drivers. They are going to figure it out without a doubt. I hope for the Cup race’s sake and the Truck race’s sake that maybe at some point that on one of the breaks that they work the track just a little bit at that point. Only thing that I’m a little bit worried about is it taking rubber – and if it takes rubber, it will become a one-lane racetrack at that point. That’s one of the things that I will be pushing for would be during one of the pit stop breaks that we have that they go out there and work the track a little bit to get it where it’s multi-groove again.”
What are your thoughts on a lot of Cup drivers running with the Trucks this weekend?
“I’m not so much worried about the Cup drivers. It’s those dirt guys that you are a little bit more worried about and this guy – Kyle Larson – I would be worried about that guy as well. He does a little bit of everything. He’s going to be one of the ones to beat, no doubt. (Stewart) Friesen will be really, really fast as well. You’ve got Mike Marlar, a World of Outlaws dirt late model champion. You are going to have a lot of really, really good drivers out there without a doubt.”
How big would you say this race is when it compares to other races in your career?
“It’s just going to be a really cool race. The Cup guys that are in it – it’s going to be cool to race them, but at the end of the day – I think they should be able to race with us every week. They should push for that. I’m not one of the advocates where they only get to run four or five races. I wish that Kyle could get to run more of them, and Kevin (Harvick) would get to be able to run more of them and (Brad) Keselowski. One of my biggest wins I can honestly say was Eldora. I won that race, just because I put so much into it myself. I spent so much of my hard-earned Truck money, asphalt racing, to go and buy a dirt car and try to perfect that. That one is definitely one of my top wins without a doubt. It would be awesome to able to do it in Bristol, especially the first time NASCAR is on Bristol with the dirt.”
Do you think a cushion will develop at the track and are you concerned about that?
“No. I don’t think there is going to be a cushion – there is a difference in a cushion and widening out. It is a finer dirt on there than Eldora. Eldora, you build the big cushion up against the wall, but you will widen out when the moisture starts drying up on the bottom, you are going to start looking for moisture. It will widen out at that point, but I don’t see a cushion building, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to be wide with good side-by-side racing.”
What do you think about the return to Toyota? Do you feel like you are getting a little more support from the manufacturer?
“I love the Toyota people and everybody at TRD and all of the tools they give us. I’ve spent so much time on the simulator this year – all of the sims that they give us – and it’s amazing what we’ve learned already this early in the year, which is making our stuff better and better and we see how much better we can still get. Everybody at TRD – it’s truly amazing the tools that they give you to make you build a winner.”
What would you grade your performance so far this year?
“I’d give it a C, at best. We haven’t led the laps that we want. I think we’ve led one. We’ve been decent, but we haven’t been great. We know the areas that we need to keep working on and Junior (Carl Joiner, crew chief) and every one of these guys, Duke and Rhonda (Thorson, team owners) are giving us the go ahead to go get it and keep working on it. That’s what we are doing, and I think you are going to see us keep getting better and better.”
Why do you think so much emphasis has been put on this weekend?
“I think because it’s something you can’t go to the simulator. It’s not something that we’ve ever done. Majority of the NASCAR drivers have no dirt background, or virtually no dirt background, so whenever there’s something like this that comes up, you better figure it out because that one race at the end of the day could land you in the chase and be able to fight for a championship. That’s why you see so many people going off and driving different dirt cars to try to get that experience. We don’t need that experience when we go to Bristol or Atlanta or anything like that, because we’ve been there, and we’ve all raced on asphalt tracks and we all haven’t raced on dirt.”
What do the Cup drivers add in terms of exposure for this race?
“I think it’s good that we have as many Cup drivers in it, because it does help. The Cup guys have a lot of fan base and for them to be able to run the Truck race is great. I wish they would come do it more and get us more exposure and be able to race and compete against those guys. At the end of the day, kids that are wanting to go Cup racing need to learn how to race and beat those Cup guys and if you can’t learn to beat them in the Truck Series, I guess you don’t need to move up.”
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