Crafton and Menards Back in 2014
November 14, 2013 | 7:00 A.M. EST
The 2014 Truck Series campaign will mark the 10th consecutive year that Crafton will drive the No. 88 Menards truck for ThorSport. (Photo: Getty Images)
The announcement's timing is special because Crafton will be feted today by the motorsports and national media at Homestead-Miami Speedway in South Florida at NASCAR's annual championship contenders press coneference.
Crafton has opened a 46-point lead on 2011 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards champion Ty Dillon, the younger brother of 2011 Truck Series champion Austin Dillon, and thus only has to take the green flag for Friday night's Ford EcoBoost 200, part of NASCAR's annual "Championship Weekend" at the 1.5-mile high-banked oval, to clinch his and ThorSport's first NASCAR national series championship.
When that occurs Menards, the Midwest home-improvement store chain with a long history in racing, will own its third stock-car championship this season to go with the ARCA drivers' and owners' championships won by 10-time champion Frank Kimmel in ThorSport's No. 44 Ansell / Menards Toyota in October. This weekend Kimmel will race as a teammate to Crafton and Johnny Sauter for the second time this season.
The 2014 Truck Series campaign will mark the 10th consecutive year that Crafton, who owns the series' record for consecutive starts, 315, going into Friday's season finale, will drive the No. 88 Menards truck for ThorSport, and his 13th overall for the team based near Lake Erie.
"Matt's consistency and competitiveness at a very high level epitomizes what ThorSport is all about," team owner Duke Thorson said. "We're pleased to keep Matt and Menards together moving into the future and look forward to their continued success.
"Partnering with Menards in the Camping World Truck Series is the perfect example of how beneficial a combined sports marketing and business-to-business program can be for both Menards and ThorSport."
"It doesn't get much better than to race for Duke and Rhonda Thorson, who have always given us everything we need to be competitive," Crafton said. "Representing Menards and their partners, as supportive as they've been for all these years, is also pretty special."
Menards has been allied with ThorSport for the past 12 years, the first two with Crafton driving before the Tulare, Calif., native took a one-year hiatus from ThorSport to drive for Kevin Harvick Inc., in 2004. Crafton has finished in the top-10 in the Truck Series standings in eight of the last nine seasons he's raced for ThorSport and he's finished in the top 10 in 55 percent of his career Truck starts (175 of 315).
ThorSport, with support from Ansell Gloves and Menards formed an ARCA Racing Series team in 2012 with Kimmel as driver and Crafton's five-year truck chief Jeriod Prince as crew chief. This season Kimmel won his 10th ARCA championship, which was also Menards' first stock car title.
"We appreciate the positive energy that Matt Crafton, ThorSport Racing and our racing sponsors have provided through the years," Menards' Promotions Manager/Spokesperson Jeff Abbott said. "And we look forward to continuing this relationship in the coming year."
Crafton won the NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Series championship in 2000 before making his first start for ThorSport in that year's Truck Series season finale.