By: Ashley McCubbin
Currently ranked fourth in points, it would seem as though Matt Crafton is having a solid start to the 2021 campaign. However, when asked to grade his performance, he offered a “C.”
“We haven’t led the laps that we want,” he told NEWS FROM THE PITS. “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.”
Through four races last season, Crafton was 11th in the standings with just one top-10, and ultimately was not part of the Championship 4. Meanwhile, he has three top-10’s in 2021 with a best finish of fifth at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Seeing ThorSport be a more familiar occurrence at the front of the field this year can be attributed to the manufacture switch, in returning back with Toyota from Ford.
““I love the Toyota people and everybody at TRD and all of the tools they give us,” he commented. “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.”
Crafton will hope to be the driver in victory lane this coming weekend at Bristol, after having previously picked up a checkered flag at Eldora Speedway on the dirt. He also ran a late model event last week as part of his preparation ahead of the event, wanting to see how the track would change throughout.
“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,” he commented.
Whether or not we do get to see a wide track on Saturday night will depend on the track preparation crew. Crafton felt they did a good job during the late model event, as they were able to run three-quarter up to teh fence as well as the bottom.
“We put on some amazing races,” he said. “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.”