Editor’s Note: Please welcome Shane Smith to our Bench Racing Blog here as one of our newest writers. Shane is a big-time Facebook guru and runs the very popular NASCAR Off Track Facebook page. He'll now be a contributor On Pit Row too. Please leave some comment love after the post, and share it on your favorite social sites.
I became a NASCAR fan during the summer of 2010. My first race I ever watched was the last Camping World Truck Series (CWTS) Race at Gateway International Raceway. At the beginning of the race my buddies told me “Hey rookie pick a driver for the Truck Race.” Heck not knowing a darn thing about NASCAR I choose the bright neon #88 with Menards on the hood. After doing some research on my new driver I noticed that Matt Crafton was born and raised in Tulare, Ca which was only 20 minutes from my hometown of Porterville, Ca. It is so exciting to not only have a hometown boy be your favorite CWTS driver but just have a friendly down to earth family man that drives a bright neon Toyota truck.
After a few races in to watching this awesome sport, I choose the other bright yellow neon but on the Sprint Cup series side #27 Paul Menard. In the fall of 2012, and having only two seasons of racing under my belt I was asked to help run a facebook page called Nascar Off Track. The owner of the page eventually left and it was just me running a page with just under 150 likes. I worked so hard in boosting the likes and currently it has just over 9,000 likes. Looking back on all that I have accomplished it makes me smile and just say Nascar is an awesome sport.
All about #88 Matt Crafton
Matt Crafton was born on June 11, 1976 in Tulare, California. He went to Tulare Union High School and graduated in the summer of 1995.
He began racing at the age of seven after receiving a go-kart as a gift for completing kindergarten. Matt won numerous regional and national go-kart championships before moving on to midgets, micro- sprints and late models. Matt’s father Danny Crafton had a legacy in West Coast late model racing, and when he was injured with three races remaining in the 1996 season Danny chose Matt as his substitute driver. Matt’s performance in those races led Danny to hang up his helmet and step out of his familiar # 46 to make room for his son. Matt made his dream a reality in 2000 by winning four races and the NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Tour championship.
Matt made his Camping World Truck series debut at Auto Club Speedway in the 2000 season finale where he finished ninth. Matt then received a full-time ride and sponsorship from Thor-Sport Racing. He had eleven top 10’s and finished twelfth in the championship standings. Menards came on board in 2002 and joined the team as an associate sponsor in 2002 and during that season he earned six top 10’s and he finished fifteenth in points. Crafton earned eleven top 10’s before finishing eleventh in points in 2003.
In early 2004, Matt was hired by Kevin Harvick Incorporated (KHI) to pilot the #6. He posted a best finish of third in two races and he finished the season fifth in the CWTS final standings that season. Following that season he was released from KHI and returned back to ThorSport to begin the 2005 season.
From the 2005-2013 season, Matt has continued to race for Thor-Sport Racing and he posted 3 wins, 175 top 10’s, and 7 pole positions. The milestone accomplishments during this period were:
- 2013 CWTS Series Champion
- Matt still holds the record of 333 consecutive starts in the CWTS. This record was broken in the 3rd race of the 2013 season.
At the start of the 2014 season, Matt was the fan favorite to win back-to-back championships. In 17 starts this season he has posted 2 wins, 10 top 5’s and 13 top 10 finishes. Matt currently sits atop the CWTS point’s leader board with a 19 point cushion over teammate Johnny Sauter. There are five races remaining in the 2014 CWTS season and we shall see if the #88 can repeat and become the first ever repeat champion in the CWTS which would mark yet another milestone for Mr Matt Crafton.
Photo credit: BethAnne Heisler - OnPitRow.com