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Crafton has seen plenty on way to team record

August 05, 2011, Mark Aumann, NASCAR.com

LONG POND, Pa. -- ThorSport will make 354th Truck start Saturday at Pocono, most in series history

When Matt Crafton showed up in 2000 at what's now called Auto Club Speedway in Fontana to make his debut with ThorSport Racing, the truck was missing a fairly important item: namely a racing seat.

"We actually mounted my seat in the parking lot at Fontana," Crafton said Friday at Pocono Raceway as the team prepared for its record 354th Truck Series race. "I showed up there and sat in the truck and they did everything there the day before the race. That shows how far this deal has come."

"Me and Duke still argue who's going to get that truck. That truck is sitting in a storage unit. And I've told him I'm going to break the lock and steal that truck. He's not getting that one."

--MATT CRAFTON

When Crafton takes the green flag in Saturday's Good Sam RV Emergency Road Service 125, the Sandusky, Ohio-based team owned by Duke and Rhonda Thorson will surpass the previous record of 353 starts, set by Jack Roush's team before it left the series following the 2009 season.

ThorSport made its debut with Terry Cook behind the wheel, finishing 12th at Milwaukee in 1996, the first of three races the team made that season. Cook scored the first win for ThorSport two years later at New Jersey's Flemington Speedway.

Crafton joined the team for the last race of the 2000 season, and with the exception of the one season he spent with Kevin Harvick Inc., has been the lead driver for ThorSport ever since.

"I think we had four trucks total and that was counting the Daytona truck," Crafton said. "I remember the first race for them at the end of 2000, I raced the truck there that they actually raced at Daytona.

"It's kind of funny to look back and it's insane to think that somebody would bring a superspeedway truck to Fontana. That's some of the stuff we did. We really didn't know any better at that point."

Thorson added a truck for Johnny Sauter in 2009 and Dakoda Armstrong made it a three-truck team when he made his series debut at Iowa last month.

Thorson's original shop was a tiny garage that had two bays, Crafton said. Later this month, the team will have a grand opening of its new facility, one big enough to house all three of ThorSport's teams under one roof.

"The first shop we were in was maybe 3,000 square feet, at that," Crafton said. "Then it went to 10,000 square feet and now 100,000 square feet. It's amazing to see how it's changed."

When Thorson announced plans to expand, Crafton said he thought the idea was crazy.

"Last year, he said he bought a building that was an old beef packing plant," Crafton said. "He had these plans drawn up and these pictures of what it was going to look like.

"Duke never ceases to amaze me at the stuff he's done. I can honestly tell you, I thought he had lost his mind. It smelled bad in there. You definitely wouldn't go into the place in the dark. It was really, really scary. And to see where it came from and what it is now is absolutely unbelievable."

Crafton said many teams have thrown a lot of money at trying to be competitive, only to wind up out of the sport. But in his opinion, ThorSport's objective was to spend within its means and grow at a sustainable pace.

"We just slowly built and built each and every year," Crafton said. "And when John Menard's truck team shut down, we got some of that equipment and got sponsored by Menard. Things turned for the better when we started getting some of those trucks."

That led to Crafton's first win, which came at Charlotte in 2008.

"The truck that I won at Charlotte with was originally one of the old Goodwrench trucks from Richard Childress that John Menard had gotten," Crafton said. "There's a lot of history in the trucks we have.

"It's kind of funny, me and Duke still argue who's going to get that truck. That truck is sitting in a storage unit. And I've told him I'm going to break the lock and steal that truck. He's not getting that one."

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