CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It may be offseason time for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, but two-time series champion Matt Crafton isn’t slowing down a bit.
In fact, he’s more excited than ever to keep racing, even if it’s not behind the wheel of his “usual office.”
Crafton will make his USAC National Midget Series debut in the upcoming Junior Knepper 55 on Dec. 16, inside DuQuoin’s Southern Illinois Center, driving a potent Toyota-powered entry for powerhouse Keith Kunz Motorsports.
The effort will mark Crafton’s first-ever start in a national midget, coming on the heels of a season where he broke through for a win at Eldora Speedway in the Truck Series’ annual Dirt Derby and finished fourth in the series standings behind eventual champion and soon-to-be dirt teammate Christopher Bell, who will also compete at DuQuoin in a Kunz car.
It was a deal that Crafton said came about over dinner and cocktails with Jack Irving, the Director of Team & Support Services at Toyota Racing Development.
“Jack Irving and I … we were just sitting down, having dinner one night a couple of months ago and thought it would be a great idea for me to drive a midget,” said Crafton after being honored Saturday night during the NASCAR Awards in Charlotte.
“I didn’t think it was too crazy when he brought it up. At that point, it was just casual conversation. I said ‘Yeah, let’s do it’ and he texted (Keith) Kunz to see if it was okay. Two days later, he told me, ‘Okay, pick where you want to go.’”
Crafton admitted that the option of DuQuoin in December was most appealing, specifically because it didn’t fall during the heat of his main championship battle in the Trucks with ThorSport Racing.
“They threw out some options during the race season, but I didn’t want to do it in the middle of the Truck schedule, so I just picked it because it was during the offseason,” said Crafton, who added that he’s ready, despite a few jitters.
“Jack has no pressure on him; I’m the one who has to go out and drive the thing!” he chuckled. “It’s something I’ve never done and I’m excited for the new challenge.”
Crafton hadn’t even sat in a midget before Wednesday, when he was fitted at the Kunz shop for his seat, so he admitted that he will be relying on a couple of dirt aces from the Truck Series as he makes his USAC debut.
“Bell being my teammate (at DuQuoin) will help a ton. Chase Briscoe … he won’t be my teammate, but he sent me some in-car footage of him racing at DuQuoin and I’ve watched it 10 times, just to see what I can learn. I mean, you get about four laps, and then you try to race your way into the main event. There’s gonna be a lot of cars there, so it won’t be easy.”
“I talked to Bell this week, and he has a simulator with the midget on it, so I may go over to his house and run the simulator a little bit and see if I can figure out anything there.”
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