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ThorSport Racing enters Friday’s race with Truck Series’ top two points leaders

- jutter@charlotteobserver.com
Friday, May. 17, 2013

Even a sizable NASCAR penalty couldn’t alter the historic team accomplishment reached by ThorSport Racing.

Following last month’s Truck Series race at Kansas, ThorSport drivers Johnny Sauter and Matt Crafton were first and second, respectively, in the series standings. It marked the first time in the organization’s 18-year history its drivers held the top two positions in points.

Even a 25-point penalty assessed by NASCAR following the Kansas weekend to Sauter’s team for unapproved modifications to a fuel cell didn’t alter the dynamic – just the order.

Crafton is the series points leader, with Sauter tied for second with Jeb Burton, 13 points behind Crafton.

The series returns to action with Friday night’s N.C. Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Not only is Crafton the series points leader but he is fresh off a victory at Kansas and rolling into Charlotte, a track where he earned his first series victory in 2008.

“For sure, this is the fulfillment of a dream,” Crafton said after his Kansas win. “I can’t thank (sponsor) Menards enough, Toyota – and (owners) Duke and Rhonda Thorson.

“Doing it out of Sandusky, Ohio – everybody said it can’t be done (running a team outside the Charlotte area) – and we’re making fools out of all the ones that said it can’t be done.”

The Thorsons opened their new cutting-edge racing headquarters in August 2011, with a total investment of between $2.5 and $5 million. The 100,000-square-foot facility houses about 50 ThorSport trucks and cars.

This season’s performance – Sauter and Crafton have combined to win three of the season’s first four races – serves as powerful validation of the Thorsons’ investment in the sport and the quality of those working for them.

“Our mission from Day 1 is to win every single race and a championship,” said the team’s general manager, David Pepper.

“I just can’t say enough about every member of this race team. Nobody gives up. To be sitting here one-two in the points and have three of the four wins – I’m just so proud of every one of these guys.”

The next two races should provide a good chance for Crafton to expand on his points lead.

In 10 races at the 1.5-mile track, Crafton has two top-fives and at one point had a streak of seven consecutive Top-10 finishes at the track.

Dover International Speedway, a week after the Charlotte race, is another solid track for Crafton. He finished third in 2011 and has seven Top-10s in 12 starts.

Crafton also has a recent addition to his family, which has kept him busy in the down time between series races.

He and his wife, Ashley, welcomed the birth of daughter, Elladee Ann, late last month.

“Everybody tells you how it feels – and how you’re going to feel – how much you’ll love having a child of your own,” said Crafton, 36. “But it’s way, way more than I ever, ever thought it could possibly be.

“It’s indescribable, really.”

Crafton describes his state of mind as “good, though maybe a little sleep-deprived.” He knows things won’t level off until the team returns to the track this week.

“I got to go with business as usual as much as I can, and I honestly can’t tell you how much we’re enjoying this,” he said.

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