Matt Crafton Sponsored by Menards Johnny Sauter Sponsored by Hot Honeys ThorSport 13 Jeb Burton

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Matt Crafton - Martinsville Speedway Post-Race

Crafton grabs Martinsville clock with Kroger 250 win

Defending NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers' champion Matt Crafton kicked his 2014 title run into high gear with a cherished first career victory -- and the grandfather clock that comes with it -- Sunday evening in the Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway in his No. 88 Ideal Door / Menards Toyota Tundra.

The race, originally scheduled for Saturday afternoon but postponed by rain until Sunday following the NASCAR Sprint Cup STP 500, took the green flag just after 5:30 p.m. ET and finished almost two hours later at dusk.

As intense as the race's closing stages were, Crafton found some comic relief in discussing whether or not he thought the race would run its full distance.

"I knew it was going to be close, especially right there at the end when we got the lead," Crafton said. "I think it was like 15 (laps) to go, you could definitely see it was getting dark and then it was five to go and we went green at that point -- it was getting dark and I told them it was getting dark.
 
"I knew they weren't going to listen to the guy that was leading the race (laughing). 'Oh yeah, he's screaming dark.'  I knew we were going to get it in at that point."
   
Crafton scored his fourth career NCWTS victory and his first since Kansas last spring by leading the race twice for 47 laps -- but most crucially by holding off two former Martinsville winners, Timothy Peters and Darrell Wallace Jr., on three restarts in the final seven laps, including two green-white-checkered restarts.
 
"Those last restarts I wanted to throw up in my helmet because I know what that grandfather clock would mean to all of us to be able to get that," Crafton said. "I was just trying to anticipate each green flag in that (restart) box and Timothy (Peters) kept lagging back so far. I would see him coming with a run and you don't want to fire too soon or too late and he's going to drive back by you.

"The second-to-last restart he almost went by me into Turn 1 and I got him held out there. I thought we would be all right then (but I was) just trying to be smart and not overdrive (Turn) 1. I thought I gave one away -- I drove it in there and I wheel-hopped and got loose getting into 1 and I said, 'Oh, don't do that again.'"

With the victory, Crafton moved to third in the championship, four points behind ThorSport Racing teammate Johnny Sauter -- who finished fourth in his No. 98 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff / Curb Records Tundra -- and Peters.

"I didn't think we were going to get it right, there, on those first two runs but that's just the way these ThorSport guys on my team never give up," Crafton said. "We made a track bar adjustment, another track bar adjustment, air pressure adjustment and finally we got that thing 'on.'

"I can't thank, like I said, every one of these guys (enough) -- Menards, Ideal Door, Toyota Tundra and those guys that raced me clean.Peters back there at the end and Bubba (Wallace Jr.) was back there and he couldn't move me."
 
Crafton's win gave Toyota its 114th Tundra victory and victories in the Truck Series' first two races for the sixth time, including 2013 when Sauter won them both -- including a one-two Martinsville finish with Crafton.
 
The most special aspect was it gave Crafton and wife Ashley the domestic conundrum of what to do with Martinsville's famous grandfather clock victor's trophy. Laughing the whole time, Crafton said that wouldn't be a problem.
 
"Finally got that grandfather clock," Crafton said through a grin, referring to his previous 26 unsuccessful attempts. "It's going to go somewhere in the living room without a doubt. My wife always tells me I get (a year)...

"The championship trophy, it sits by the front door and she says I can keep that one there for this year and hopefully we can put one there for next year. But she only lets me keep the (race) trophy in the living room area for one year until the next race to see if we can put another one back there."

Crafton gets his next chance on May 9, where he'll be defending champion at Kansas Speedway.

ABOUT MENARDS: With 287 stores in 14 Midwestern states, Menards has the tools, materials and supplies for all your home improvement needs whether just needing a light bulb or can of paint to building a deck or new home. Menards is known throughout the home improvement industry as the low price leader; it's no wonder their famous slogan - "SAVE BIG MONEY" - is so widely known and easy to remember. Menards does things right - the company's strength and success can be seen in the well-stocked and maintained stores, the lowest prices in town and the way guests are always treated like family in a hometown hardware store atmosphere.
 
ABOUT IDEAL DOOR: Since 1963, Ideal Door has been an industry leader in sectional garage doors and the preferred choice of home owners, architects and builders for their current and future door needs. For more information, visit www.idealdoors.com.

ABOUT THORSPORT RACING: ThorSport Racing, based in a state-of-the-art 100,000-square-foot facility in Sandusky, Ohio, is the longest-tenured NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team. ThorSport, which has run in the Truck Series since 1996, in 2014 will run the No. 88 Menards Toyota Tundra driven by 2013 drivers' champion Matt Crafton, the No. 98 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff/Nextant Aerospace/Carolina Nut Co./Curb Records Toyota Tundra driven by Johnny Sauter and the No. 13 VAMP/VaporBrands International, Inc. Toyota Tundra driven by Jeb Burton in the Truck Series and the No. 13 Toyota Camry in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards.

Matt Crafton - Martinsville Speedway Pre-Race

Crafton looks to go 'one better' at Martinsville

Matt Crafton has enough positive karma left over from his 2013 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series experiences at Martinsville Speedway that he has every reason to believe his No. 88 Ideal Door / Menards Toyota Tundra can end up in Victory Lane following Saturday's Kroger 250 .

"We were lined-up and ready to make something happen last fall when those guys in front of me decided to take each other out," Crafton said of October's Kroger 200. "We absolutely felt like we had a Menards Tundra to finish one spot better than we did in the spring but it just wasn't meant to be."

In the 2013 Kroger 250, Crafton -- whose 17th-place Martinsville finish last fall was barely a hiccup on his way to last season's NCWTS drivers' championship -- finished a fast-closing second behind record-tying ThorSport Racing teammate Johnny Sauter.

ThorSport's third career one-two finish was in the same order as the first two -- Sauter beating Crafton -- and the senior ThorSport driver, who's starting his 13th season racing for owners Duke and Rhonda Thorson would like nothing better than to mix it up.

"Johnny kicked-off last season winning two-straight and that was great," Crafton said. "But our team won at Kansas -- three out of the first four for ThorSport -- and me and my guys want to win more, this season so we feel like Martinsville's the best place to start."

In the closing laps last fall Crafton was third behind Richard Childress Racing "allies" Kevin Harvick and Ty Dillon when the pair tangled exiting Turn 2. Crafon couldn't avoid their nearly-stopped trucks and the damage to his Tundra knocked him to the back end of the top 20.

"Junior (crew chief Carl Joiner Jr.) and my guys know exactly what we need to do at Martinsville -- we had darn good Tundras there twice last year," Crafton said. "If that doggoned shoving match hadn't broke out in front of us last year I still feel like we had a shot to win in the fall.

"And you know, in the spring, if we had 25 more laps to race there might've been a different ThorSport Tundra in Victory Lane.

Crafton, who with his team set a 19-year Truck Series record by completing every lap -- in all, 3,391 -- raced in 22 events last season, continued that roll in the 2014 Daytona opener. There's no reason it can't continue.

"Junior and I feel like our 2014 Tundra is going to continue the level of performance we had last season, and at Martinsville that was pretty good," Crafton said. "In the end we had a truck that would stop, turn and dig up off the corner and obviously that's what you need at Martinsville."

While most of the Truck Series field has been idle since the Daytona opener in February, Crafton's been active weekly. He served as stand-by driver for Richard Childress Racing Sprint Cup pilot Paul Menard while Menard and wife Jenn awaited the birth of their first daughter, Remi.

Crafton also made his fourth career NASCAR Nationwide Series start, all of them for RCR and three of them top-10 finishes, in March at Las Vegas.

"It was good keeping my hand on a steering wheel, but even better helping out a friend like Paul," Crafton said. "Seat time's always a good thing, and those Menards cars were some of the best."

After opening inspection on Thursday afternoon, Martinsville's Truck weekend's on-track activity opens with extra practice time on Friday. The trucks hit the track from 9 - 11:45 a.m. ET and for final practice from 3 - 4:25 p.m. The latter session will be televised live on FOX Sports 1.

The Truck Series' inaugural -- since Daytona's qualifying session was rained-out -- multi-segment, elimination-style group Keystone Light Pole Qualifying session to set the36-truck starting lineup is Saturday at 11:10 a.m., again with live coverage on FOX Sports 1, beginning at 11.

Saturday's 250-lap, 131.5-mile main event will be telecast live on FOX Sports 1 at 2:30 p.m. ET. The live broadcast on MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio begins with pre-race coverage at 2. Live timing & scoring for the weekend's events will be at www.nascar.com.

ABOUT MENARDS: With 287 stores in 14 Midwestern states, Menards has the tools, materials and supplies for all your home improvement needs whether just needing a light bulb or can of paint to building a deck or new home. Menards is known throughout the home improvement industry as the low price leader; it's no wonder their famous slogan - "SAVE BIG MONEY" - is so widely known and easy to remember. Menards does things right - the company's strength and success can be seen in the well-stocked and maintained stores, the lowest prices in town and the way guests are always treated like family in a hometown hardware store atmosphere.

ABOUT IDEAL DOOR: Since 1963, Ideal Door has been an industry leader in sectional garage doors and the preferred choice of home owners, architects and builders for their current and future door needs. For more information, visit www.idealdoors.com.

ABOUT THORSPORT RACING: ThorSport Racing, based in a state-of-the-art 100,000-square-foot facility in Sandusky, Ohio, is the longest-tenured NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team. ThorSport, which has run in the Truck Series since 1996, in 2014 will run the No. 88 Menards Toyota Tundra driven by 2013 drivers' champion Matt Crafton, the No. 98 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff/Nextant Aerospace/Carolina Nut Co./Curb Records Toyota Tundra driven by Johnny Sauter and the No. 13 VAMP/VaporBrands International, Inc. Toyota Tundra driven by Jeb Burton in the Truck Series and the No. 13 Toyota Camry in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards.

Crafton - Daytona International Speedway Post-Race

Crafton opens NCWTS title defense with low-key Daytona

Matt Crafton opened the defense of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers' championship with a low-key 13th-place run Friday night in his No. 88 Fisher Nuts / Menards Toyota Tundra in the NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway.

Crafton started the weekend strong as he spent time atop the time sheets during the event's three practice sessions and ended up in the top five in all of them.

When the Truck Series' inaugural elimination-style group qualifying session was rained out earlier Friday, Crafton earned the fourth starting position based on his practice speeds.

However, that was the best his familiar bright yellow Tundra would show all night -- though he did get back to fifth with just 10 laps to go during a wild, 11-lap run to the finish after the fourth and final caution period in the 100-lap race.

"I hesitated as those other guys made a move and I thought I should've stayed outside, but I never thought the 17 (Timothy Peters) would make the run that he did," Crafton said on pit road after the race. "So that was 100 percent my fault. I guess I should have tried to jump up in front of him and see what I could do.

"But like I said, I take that one on the chin because I should've known enough to jump up and try it, but it was a shame, because I just didn't do it."

Much as the 2013 opener had been, Friday night's race turned into a struggle to maintain track position and, unlike a year ago when ThorSport teammate Todd Bodine hooked-up with Crafton in the last run and pushed him to ninth in a tandem draft, this time around that wasn't allowed.

And Bodine, at any rate, was a member of the FOX Sports 1 TV crew downstairs in the "Hollywood Hotel." Crafton certainly could've used some tandem help when he fell back as far as 32nd with 40 laps to go.

"It was a real adjustment because you could bump, but you couldn't lock (bumpers) and push at all,": Crafton said of NASCAR's latest mandate banning tandem drafting in which one truck locks its bumper to a partner and literally pushes the second truck around the racetrack at a much higher speed than either vehicle could attain on its own. "It is what it is and you definitely didn't want to hit your team truck too hard and wreck him, so you were limited in what you could do."

All bets seemed off when the fourth and final restart flag waved on the 90th lap.

"No, no, no," Crafton said when asked if he ever thought there wouldn't be a caution in the race's final laps, where plenty of paint was traded as about 15-20 trucks raced side-by-side for the last 11 laps. "There was no way -- never in my wildest dreams -- did I think we'd pull that off (laughing).

"I thought there would be a yellow, for sure and once we got the white (flag) I figured we were gonna finish the race upside-down and on fire. But I never thought we'd get to the finish line, the way everyone was beating and banging and just sliding all over the place."

Because several of the drivers that finished in front of Crafton, including race winner Kyle Busch and fourth place Ryan Truex aren't registered to earn Truck Series points, Crafton will go to Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in five weeks 10th in the championship, 12 points behind race runner-up Peters and 10 behind teammate Johnny Sauter, the defending race winner who finished third.

A year ago at Martinsville. Crafton finished runner-up to Sauter, which gave ThorSport its third one-two finish in its 18-year history, all of them by Sauter and Crafton and all of them in identical order.

"All-in-all this wasn't a bad way to start the season," Crafton said. "To be sitting here on pit road with three (ThorSport) Tundras sitting in one piece gives us a starting point and we've definitely got some good racetracks coming up."

Crafton - Daytona International Speedway Pre-Race

Crafton - Homestead-Miami Speedway Post-Race

Crafton - Homestead-Miami Speedway Pre-Race

Crafton - Phoenix International Raceway Post-Race

Crafton - Phoenix International Raceway Pre-Race

Crafton - Texas Motor Speedway Post-Race

Crafton - Texas Motor Speedway Pre-Race

Crafton - Martinsville Speedway Post-Race

Crafton - Martinsville Speedway Pre-Race

Crafton - Talladega Superspeedway Post-Race

Crafton - Talladega Superspeedway Pre-Race

Crafton - Las Vegas Motor Speedway Post-Race

Crafton - Las Vegas Motor Speedway Pre-Race

Crafton - Chicagoland Speedway Post-Race

Crafton - Chicagoland Speedway Pre-Race

Crafton - Iowa Speedway Post-Race

Crafton - Iowa Speedway Pre-Race

Crafton - Canadian Tire Motorsport Park Post-Race

Crafton - Canadian Tire Motorsport Park Pre-Race

Crafton - Bristol Motor Speedway Post-Race

Crafton - Bristol Motor Speedway Pre-Race

Crafton - Michigan International Speedway Post-Race

Crafton - Michigan International Speedway Pre-Race

Crafton - Pocono Raceway Post-Race

Crafton - Pocono Raceway Pre-Race

Crafton - Eldora Speedway Post-Race

Crafton - Eldora Speedway Pre-Race

Crafton - Iowa Speedway Post-Race

Crafton - Iowa Speedway Pre-Race

Crafton - Kentucky Speedway Post-Race

Crafton - Kentucky Speedway Pre-Race

Crafton - Texas Motor Speedway Post-Race

Crafton - Texas Motor Speedway Pre-Race

Crafton - Dover International Speedway Post-Race

Crafton - Dover International Speedway Pre-Race

Crafton - Charlotte Motor Speedway Post-Race

Crafton - Charlotte Motor Speedway Pre-Race

Crafton - Kansas Speedway Post-Race - Living a dream in Kansas Win

Crafton - Kansas Speedway Pre-Race

Crafton - Rockingham Speedway Post-Race

Crafton - Rockingham Speedway Pre-Race - Crafton sets record with start

Crafton - Martinsville Speedway Spring Post-Race

Crafton - Martinsville Speedway Spring Pre-Race

Crafton - Daytona International Speedway Post-Race

Crafton - Daytona International Speedway Pre-Race

Homestead-Miami Raceway Recap

Homestead-Miami Raceway Preview

Phoenix International Raceway Recap

Phoenix International Raceway Preview

Texas Motor Speedway Recap

Texas Motor Speedway Preview

Martinsville Superspeedway Recap

Martinsville Superspeedway Preview

Talladega Superspeedway Recap

Talladega Superspeedway Preview

Las Vegas Motor Speedway Recap

Kentucky Speedway Recap

Kentucky Speedway Preview

Iowa Speedway Recap

Iowa Speedway Preview

Atlanta Motor Speedway Recap

Atlanta Motor Speedway Preview

Matt Crafton - Bristol Motor Speedway Recap

Bristol Motor Speedway Preview

Michigan International Speedway Recap

Michigan International Speedway Preview

Pocono Raceway Recap

Pocono Raceway Preview

Lucas Oil Raceway Park ARCA Preview

Chicagoland Speedway Recap

Chicagoland Speedway Preview

Iowa Speedway Recap

Iowa Speedway Preview

Kentucky Speedway Recap

Kentucky Speedway Preview

Texas Motor Speedway Recap

Texas Motor Speedway Preview

Dover Speedway Recap

Dover Speedway Preview

Johnny Sauter - Martinsville Speedway Post-Race

Sauter shares point lead after Martinsville 4th

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (March 30, 2014) -- Johnny Sauter was frustrated after a paint-swapping battle Sunday resulted in a fourth-place finish for his No. 98 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff / Curb Records Toyota Tundra in the Kroger 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway.

The race, originally scheduled for Saturday afternoon but postponed by rain until Sunday following the NASCAR Sprint Cup STP 500, took the green flag just after 5:30 p.m. ET and finished almost two hours later at dusk.

The silver lining for Sauter was, for the second year in a row, he left Martinsville with no less than a share of the Truck Series' points lead. Sauter, who tied a NASCAR all-time national series record by winning the first two races last season, is tied with Timothy Peters atop the standings.

Four points behind in third is ThorSport Racing teammate Matt Crafton, who won Sunday's second race of the season in his No. 88 Ideal Door / Menards Tundra.

The feisty Sauter was feeling his oats Sunday after he led 61 of 256 laps -- one fewer than top lap-leader Ron Hornaday -- but only had fourth to show for it after he'd won this race in two of the last three seasons.

Sauter traded paint with several competitors but had little to say afterward, after the dust had settled.

"That's Martinsville," Sauter said, almost spitting out the words. "I've been dumped here plenty of times and if people don't like it, (oh, well)."

Sauter, who won three Truck Series races a year ago and started last season with victories at Daytona and Martinsville, had a hard-fought finish after an up-and-down day, as crew chief Gene Wachtel explained.

"It started with four of us having to push (start) the truck off pit road with a dead battery," Wachtel said with a laugh, after the field was impounded overnight behind the Sprint Cup garage, at which point it got cold enough for snow to fall on the speedway Sunday morning. "So that was a pretty good low point.

"But our truck was really good during the middle portion of the race, and we led a lot of laps there."

When Truck Series' group-style elimination qualifying was rained-out for the second consecutive race, Sauter lined his verdant green Smokey Snuff/Curb Tundra up 14th.

Any concerns the team had in two partially rain-splashed Friday practices were mostly allayed by the No. 98 Toyota's performance. Sauter moved up quickly and led for the first time at lap 112, past the halfway point until lap 137.

Sauter even held his own after he mistakenly left pit road with only two tires on his first pit stop when the rest of the top runners took four. Sauter was animated on his radio, but after coming out with good track position he only dropped a couple spots in the next stretch, before maneuvering himself into position to lead the race.

"At the end, there, on our last stop it cooled-off quite a bit and I made a small adjustment," Wachtel said, smiling again. "I don't know if the small adjustment was too much or if the track cooling down so much accounted for it, but we lost the balance of the truck a little bit at the end.

"We know we still ended up with a good finish -- a top-five finish. And we learned a lot this weekend. We'll go home and go through some of the things we learned with the extra (Friday) practice and get better next time."

The race's closing stages were intense, but so was the middle, as Sauter and Peters swapped the lead five times between laps 138 and 178 -- with at least one of the changes involving some of the body contact Sauter referred to, which resulted in payback later that almost knocked Sauter out of the top 10.

"Fourth is fourth and I obviously could never be satisfied or happy with that -- particularly after Gene and the guys worked as hard as they did to give me a pretty good Tundra," Sauter said. "We've been so good here, it's really hard to be happy when we have a shot to win, and don't."

Sauter was just inside the top 10 when the first of two green-white-checkered restarts occurred. On the backstretch Sauter made contact with Erik Jones in heavy traffic and Jones spun, creating the second GWC situation.

Sauter restarted eighth then but raced hard for a lap-and-a-half to get to fourth before a backstretch melee brought out a race-ending caution flag.

Sauter gets a chance to get his third consecutive top-five finish this season, which would equal his start a year ago, on May 9, when the series races at Kansas Speedway.

ABOUT SMOKEY MOUNTAIN: Smokey Mountain is America's original and best-selling tobacco-free smokeless brand. Appealing to adult smokeless tobacco consumers who are seeking tobacco-free and nicotine-free alternatives, Smokey Mountain is available in long cut and easy-to-use pouches. For more information visit www.SmokeySnuff.com.

ABOUT CURB RECORDS: Curb Records is one of the world's leading independent music companies. Owned and operated by Mike Curb since 1962, Curb Records has achieved 375 Billboard number one records, nearly 1,200 Billboard Top Ten records and charted just under 4,000 Billboard records. Today's roster includes some of the top names in Country, Christian and Pop/Rock music. Curb Records was honored as Billboard Magazine's 2001 Country Music Label of the Year and Radio & Records Magazine's 2005 Overall Gold Label of the Year. For more information visit www.curb.com.

ABOUT THORSPORT RACING: ThorSport Racing, based in a state-of-the-art 100,000-square-foot facility in Sandusky, Ohio, is the longest-tenured NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team. ThorSport, which has run in the Truck Series since 1996, in 2014 will run the No. 88 Menards Toyota Tundra driven by 2013 drivers' champion Matt Crafton, the No. 98 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff/Nextant Aerospace/Carolina Nut Co./Curb Records Toyota Tundra driven by Johnny Sauter and the No. 13 VAMP/VaporBrands International, Inc. Toyota Tundra driven by Jeb Burton in the Truck Series and the No. 13 Toyota Camry in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards.

Johnny Sauter - Martinsville Speedway Pre-Race

Sauter seeks repeat in Smokey Mountain Martinsville debut
 
"Last year (Martinsville) was a pretty awesome win," Sauter said. "Obviously we came off Daytona winning and came to Martinsville, which is one of my favorite -- if not my favorite -- racetracks and to pull off another win was incredible.

"I grew up in the midwest and short-track racing was always my deal. I love it to this day and actually have some short-track cars of my own. Martinsville reminds me a lot of a track I used to race at (Raceway Park), up in Shakopee, Minn. The first time I came to Martinsville I took to it really well because it's a unique racetrack where ultimately you have to be real patient but you have to be aggressive."

After winning last season's Daytona kickoff, Sauter equaled some relatively unique NASCAR history by also winning the season's second race, at Martinsville -- something only five other drivers in NASCAR's national series history have done.

In the process, Sauter scored ThorSport's third career one-two finish, as 2013 NCWTS drivers' champion Matt Crafton was second in his No. 88 Rip It Energy Fuel/Menards Toyota. After hiring Virginia native Jeb Burton to wheel its No. 13 Tundra this season, TSR now has the drivers that finished 1-2-3 at Martinsville in the spring, with Burton also tying his career-best finish at his home track in the fall, when he was third again.

"I think it's cool and it just shows the strength of our organization at ThorSport," Sauter said. "I think Jeb will be running a similar setup to what I ran there last year and we are, as well. That just depends on what the driver wants to feel, but they're not radically different, either.

"We'll have some extra practice time Friday and I'm looking forward to that, but we've got three really good drivers that can feed off one another and share information and I see that being nothing but a benefit."

With the triple-threat lineup his ThorSport Racing organization's bringing to Virginia this weekend, Sauter's also banking on how effective a weapon he and crew chief Gene Wachtel feel their 2014 Tundra -- which has a completely re-worked nose section -- will be at Martinsville, at .526 miles the shortest track the Truck Series races on.

"All the manufacturers had a change in body styles and to me, the Toyota Tundra looks really, really cool -- like the truck you see at the dealership -- so the fans have a lot better identity with the manufacturers," Sauter said. "One of the biggest things that stands out in my mind is the splitter, which is substantially different than anything we've had in the past.

"The splitter's now tucked more under the nose of the truck and I think there's a lot there that's going to change the balance of the trucks, particularly at a place like Martinsville. We've hardly touched the tip of the iceberg with that kind of stuff because Daytona really wasn't a good place to see the effect of that (splitter) position."

Martinsville's spring race is 50 laps longer than the 200-lapper held in the fall and Sauter, obviously, knows what that means to his team's strategy and his own vehicle conservation plan.

"You have to be a little more patient in the spring, I think, to take care of your equipment -- your brakes and your tires and things like that," Sauter said. "I'm not saying I'm good at that, by any means (laughing) but I think I do a pretty good job at it because it's a racetrack where a driver can get into a rhythm where you have to discipline yourself not to overdrive the corners or get back in the gas too hard, too early.

"You kinda have to know when to go and when not to go and when to stick your nose in there and when not to. There are just a lot of things that have to go right to be successful at Martinsville -- but it's just a fun place to race. Obviously not getting caught up in someone else's mess and pit strategy seems to play a pretty big role in the spring race because you know it's going to be a two-stop race."

Martinsville being the debut race for Sauter's six-race 2014 program with Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff, "America's original and best-selling tobacco-free smokeless brand," is the icing on the cake for the Wisconsin veteran, who has nine wins in his 121-race ThorSport career.

"For whatever reason we seem to run well there, especially as of late, so last year was special to get (a second grandfather) clock -- my wife and I say we've got one for our son and one for our daughter, now we need one for ourselves," Sauter said of Martinsville's signature prize. "And with this being the first weekend with new colors on our truck, with Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff, we're really looking forward to that and trying to get our third Martinsville win, which would be really cool."
"Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff was looking for a competitive team and a specific type of driver to fit our brand identity," Dave Savoca, president of Smokey Mountain Chew, Inc. said. "We believe both ThorSport and Johnny Sauter are a great fit for the Smokey Mountain brand and we can't wait to see them in action at Martinsville." 

After opening inspection on Thursday afternoon, Martinsville's Truck weekend's on-track activity opens with extra practice time on Friday. The trucks hit the track from 9 - 11:45 a.m. ET and for final practice from 3 - 4:25 p.m. The latter session will be televised live on FOX Sports 1.

The Truck Series' inaugural -- since Daytona's qualifying session was rained-out -- multi-segment, elimination-style group Keystone Light Pole Qualifying session to set the 36-truck starting lineup is Saturday at 11:10 a.m., again with live coverage on FOX Sports 1 beginning at 11.
 
Saturday's 250-lap, 131.5-mile main event will be telecast live on FOX Sports 1 at 2:30 p.m. ET. The live broadcast on MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio begins with pre-race coverage at 2. Live timing & scoring for the weekend's events will be at www.nascar.com.

ABOUT SMOKEY MOUNTAIN: Smokey Mountain is America's original and best-selling tobacco-free smokeless brand. Appealing to adult smokeless tobacco consumers who are seeking tobacco-free and nicotine-free alternatives, Smokey Mountain is available in long cut and easy-to-use pouches. For more information visit www.SmokeySnuff.com.

ABOUT CURB RECORDS: Curb Records is one of the world's leading independent music companies. Owned and operated by Mike Curb since 1962, Curb Records has achieved 375 Billboard number one records, nearly 1,200 Billboard Top Ten records and charted just under 4,000 Billboard records. Today's roster includes some of the top names in Country, Christian and Pop/Rock music. Curb Records was honored as Billboard Magazine's 2001 Country Music Label of the Year and Radio & Records Magazine's 2005 Overall Gold Label of the Year. For more information visit www.curb.com.   
 
ABOUT THORSPORT RACING: ThorSport Racing, based in a state-of-the-art 100,000-square-foot facility in Sandusky, Ohio, is the longest-tenured NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team. ThorSport, which has run in the Truck Series since 1996, in 2014 will run the No. 88 Menards Toyota Tundra driven by 2013 drivers' champion Matt Crafton, the No. 98 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff/Nextant Aerospace/Carolina Nut Co./Curb Records Toyota Tundra driven by Johnny Sauter and the No. 13 VAMP/VaporBrands International, Inc. Toyota Tundra driven by Jeb Burton in the Truck Series and the No. 13 Toyota Camry in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards.

Sauter - Daytona International Speedway Post-Race Report

Sauter defends Daytona win with 3rd-place run

Johnny Sauter had a record-tying start to the 2013 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship but he wasn't disappointed to kick off 2014 with a third-place finish in his No. 98 Nextant Aerospace / Curb Records Toyota Tundra Friday night in the NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway.

Sauter, who won three Truck Series races a year ago and started last season with victories at Daytona and Martinsville Speedway, had a solid night with his ThorSport Racing team led by new crew chief Gene Wachtel.

Sauter started the race in ninth and hung around the top 10 all night before he elected to stay allied with eventual race winner Kyle Busch -- who made Daytona history by becoming the first driver to win races in four different series at "The World Center of Racing." Sauter finished third on account behind Busch and Red Horse Racing series regular Timothy Peters, who created a one-two-three finish for Toyota.

"Finishing Daytona is a good thing," Sauter said. "Obviously you want to win, but this is one of those racetracks that the momentum of the season can kind of start out good and start out bad. We'll take a third-place finish.

"You know, it's funny because in practice nobody was really drafting so we really didn't know what to expect. When you come to Daytona obviously you want to win and we were fortunate enough to do it here a year ago. More importantly you want to finish the race and I'm just proud of everybody at ThorSport -- great night and I think all three trucks stayed in one piece so that's all you can ask for."

Sauter was good enough in practice that he lined up ninth after the Truck Series' first-ever group qualifying session was cancelled earlier Friday by rain. Sauter was never scored outside the top 10 and he was inside the top five before 30 of 100 laps were run.

"I never would have believed the race was like it was -- track position was everything," Sauter said. "We'd get double file (and) the only truck I saw all night long that could make hay was the 17 (Peters)."

The final restart came with 11 laps to go and, with Sauter in fifth resulted in frantic, side-by-side fender-slamming racing that ended with Busch making a pell-mell dash to the outside, and the win coming out of Turn 4 on the last lap.

"In hindsight, maybe I should have jumped up in front of (Peters), made him push me to the front," Sauter said. "I didn't feel I was in a position to do that. I committed to the 51 (Busch) all night long.

"We had solid pit stops on our truck.The guys did a good job in the pits. We did our best to maintain track position. We were in a position there at the end. I pushed Kyle down the backstretch because I knew that was my only chance to clear the 32 (fourth-place Ryan Truex) and ultimately have a run on Kyle coming up off of (Turn) 4.

"He got too far away from me. I just didn't get away from the 32 quick enough. It bogged my momentum. I was a sitting duck when Kyle latched onto the 17. I just elected to try to stay in a straight line there and make sure I didn't make a mistake, get turned or anything like that."

For a driver who wants to do nothing but win, Sauter took a cogent, big-picture view.

"(Busch) was so far away from me, I don't think it really mattered," Sauter said. "Third, I think, was the best we were going to do (Friday) night. This is eight straight (Daytona) wins for Toyota and they took the top three spots (Friday) night, so this is good. Nowhere I could really go."

Sauter felt he had a good handle on his end-game strategy after watching the race unfold, particularly after watching his ThorSport teammates Matt Crafton and Jeb Burton make attempts to run the high line.

"I told my spotter to tell Kyle that I was committed to him til the end," Sauter said. "I had seen Timothy do what he did there earlier in the night, he pulled the outside line. He was pretty much the only guy that could do that.

"At one point Crafton tried to run like heck out there, wasn't able to make it work. I saw Jeb Burton pull up there, didn't really have any success. I was afraid if I went out there, I'd bog (Busch) down.

"I was committed to Kyle. I felt if we could get separation, not be double-file, I could have lagged back off of Kyle and had a run on him to the finish. You can plan all you want; it just never works out that way."

The weekend, and the race, was just what the doctor ordered for Wachtel, who formerly worked with Sauter at ThorSport as a GM engineer. It was his first race as a crew chief.

"It was a good night," Wachtel said. "We had some speed, but not quite enough to pull out and do what we needed to do, to win. But it was good to get my first race out of the way -- knock some of the nerves out -- and Johnny and our spotter, Tab Boyd did a good job.

"The boys did a good job on pit road and it was a good night, overall, to come out of here in one piece with something to take home and work on, for Talladega (superspeedway race in the fall)."

Because Busch earns points in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Sauter will head to Martinsville (Va.) Speedway next month, in five weeks, just two points behind Peters.

Sauter - Daytona International Speedway Pre-Race Report

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Sauter - Phoenix International Raceway Post-Race Report

Sauter - Phoenix International Raceway Pre-Race Report

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Sauter - Martinsville Speedway Post-Race Report

Nextant Aerospace Soars into NASCAR with ThorSport Racing & Johnny Sauter

Sauter - Talladega Superspeedway Post-Race Report

Sauter - Talladega Superspeedway Pre-Race Report

Sauter - Las Vegas Motor Speedway Post-Race Report

Sauter - Las Vegas Motor Speedway Pre-Race Report

Sauter - Chicagoland Speedway Post-Race Report

Sauter - Chicagoland Speedway Pre-Race Report

Sauter - Iowa Speedway Post-Race Report

Sauter - Iowa Speedway Pre-Race Report

Sauter - Canadian Tire Motorsport Park Post-Race Report

Sauter - Canadian Tire Motorsport Park Pre-Race Report

Sauter - Bristol Motor Speedway Post-Race Report

Sauter - Bristol Motor Speedway Pre-Race Report

Sauter - Michigan International Speedway Post-Race Report

Sauter - Michigan International Speedway Pre-Race Report

Sauter - Pocono Raceway Post-Race Report

Sauter - Pocono Raceway Pre-Race Report

Sauter - Iowa Speedway Post-Race Report

Sauter - Iowa Speedway Pre-Race Report

Sauter - Kentucky Speedway Post-Race Report

Sauter - Kentucky Speedway Pre-Race Report

Sauter - Texas Motor Speedway Post-Race Report

Sauter - Texas Motor Speedway Pre-Race Report

Sauter - Dover International Speedway Post-Race Report

Sauter - Dover International Speedway Pre-Race Report

Sauter - Charlotte Motor Speedway Post-Race Report

Sauter - Charlotte Motor Speedway Pre-Race Report

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Sauter - Rockingham Speedway Post-Race Report

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Sauter - Post-Race - Sauter's Martinsville win pads point lead

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Sauter - Daytona International Speedway Post-Race Report

Sauter - Daytona International Speedway Pre-Race

Texas Motor Speedway Recap

Atlanta Motor Speedway Preview

Iowa Speedway Preview

Kentucky Speedway Recap

Kentucky Speedway Preview

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Texas Motor Speedway Preview

Kansas Speedway Preview

Rockingham Speedway Recap

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Martinsville Speedway Recap

Martinsville Speedway Preview

Daytona International Speedway Recap

Daytona International Speedway Preview

Jeb Burton - Martinsville Speedway Post-Race

Burton fights back at Martinsville; Still in top 10 in points

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (March 30, 2014) -- Jeb Burton had perhaps the most frustrating weekend of his career at his home track, Martinsville Speedway, but both Burton and his ThorSport Racing crew showed great resolve to make up two laps in their No. 13 VAMP / VaporBrands International, Inc. Toyota Tundra, which finished 21st in Sunday's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250.

The race, originally scheduled for Saturday afternoon but postponed by rain until Sunday following the NASCAR Sprint Cup STP 500, took the green flag just after 5:30 p.m. ET and finished almost two hours later at dusk.

Saturday's rainout also resulted in the second consecutive cancellation of the Truck Series' group-style, elimination qualifying.

No one wanted more track time than Burton, who finished third at the short, .526-mile oval twice last season -- including finishing behind a ThorSport one-two in the spring -- but only made his ThorSport debut in the No. 13 VAMP/VaporBrands Tundra at Daytona last month.

"I don't think I've ever struggled so hard at this racetrack in anything I've driven here," Burton said. "But on the positive side, Dennis (Connor, crew chief) and my guys never gave up, never stopped trying and what we made up in the race proved that."

That perseverance enabled Burton to remain in the top-10 in the NCWTS standings, in ninth.

His two ThorSport Racing teammates moved ahead of him. Johnny Sauter's 22 points ahead, tied for the lead after his No. 98 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff / Curb Records Tundra finished fourth and Matt Crafton's third after his No. 88 Ideal Door / Menards Tundra won the race -- giving ThorSport Martinsville wins in three of the last four years.

Burton's up-and-down weekend began in Friday's practice, when his Tundra for the most part was too loose. As a result of that, when qualifying was rained-out Burton lined up 22nd based on his speed in the opening practice.

As the race opened his teammates moved forward but mired back in the pack, Burton struggled to get much inside the top 20 while battling traffic and some "robust" short-track racing. He lost a lap while making his first pit stop but kept his head down and kept himself in position to gain a free pass on one of 10 cautions to get back on the lead lap.

Burton's worst break of the race came when his left-rear tire deflated after contact with another truck, which brought out the event's fifth caution a little more than two-thirds of the way through the race. In the process of limping back to Martinsville's pit road, which covers more than half the racetrack, Burton lost two more laps.

But with the encouragement of Connor and spotter Kevin Hamlin and his crew's work Burton never fell outside the top 25 and twice more raced into position to gain a free pass to get back on the lead lap at the finish. He wasn't able to make up the final lap and finished 21st, the second truck one lap down.

"It's a real disappointment but the team never stopped trying -- never stopped digging," Burton said. "I can't thank them enough for that."

"With everything we were dealing with all weekend and the challenges we faced with the weather I felt like Jeb didn't do a bad job," Connor said. "That's Martinsville, it can be a tough place to get a hold of and I was happy that we never stopped trying."

The sponsorship search to keep Burton racing with ThorSport is ongoing.

The Truck Series' next race is on May 9, when the series races at Kansas Speedway.

ABOUT VAPORBRANDS INTERNATIONAL, INC.: VaporBrands International, Inc. is a marketing and development partner for manufacturers of electronic cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes represent the future of smoking; they produce no smoke, tar, ash or offensive odor while containing about the same amount of nicotine as traditional tobacco cigarettes. Unlike traditional tobacco cigarettes, electronic cigarettes can be used in many public places currently restricted from smoking. VaporBrands intends to focus on creating opportunities for culturally-relevant brands seeking to acquire significant market share in the rapidly-growing "vaping" sector of the global market. For more information on VaporBrands International, Inc. visit: VaporBrands.com.

ABOUT THORSPORT RACING: ThorSport Racing, based in a state-of-the-art 100,000-square-foot facility in Sandusky, Ohio, is the longest-tenured NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team. ThorSport, which has run in the Truck Series since 1996, in 2014 will run the No. 88 Menards Toyota Tundra driven by 2013 drivers' champion Matt Crafton, the No. 98 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff/Nextant Aerospace/Carolina Nut Co./Curb Records Toyota Tundra driven by Johnny Sauter and the No. 13 VAMP/VaporBrands International, Inc. Toyota Tundra driven by Jeb Burton in the Truck Series and the No. 13 Toyota Camry in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards.

Jeb Burton - Martinsville Speedway Pre-Race

Sponsor returns for Burton's ThorSport Martinsville debut

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (March 27, 2014) -- Bolstered by ThorSport Racing teammates that finished one-two a year ago , local favorite Jeb Burton hopes to score a breakthrough win in his No. 13 VAMP/VaporBrands International, Inc. Toyota Tundra Saturday in the Kroger 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway.

In the 2013 Kroger 250 ThorSport scored its third career one-two finish as Johnny Sauter -- who tied NASCAR national series history by winning the first two events last season -- finished first ahead of 2013 drivers' champion Matt Crafton.
 
Burton, who made his ThorSport debut last month at Daytona, won his first career pole last March at Martinsville in his seventh career start and finished a Martinsville career-best third -- a result he matched in October at his home track.

Burton made his Truck Series debut at Martinsville in March 2012 and qualified seventh before finishing 13th. His 28th career start came in his ThorSport debut, at Daytona and he steered his way through some typical Daytona on-track melees to finish seventh.

"Having VaporBrands and its VAMP e-cig colors back on our Tundra at Martinsville is a big deal for me and ThorSport because of the way our organization runs there and the incredible fan support I have at my home track," said Burton, a native of nearby Halifax, Va. "We're looking forward to getting our short-track Tundra out there and showing everyone what we can do with it."

Because two of the drivers that finished in front of him are not registered for points in the NCWTS, Burton heads to Martinsville fifth in the championship. That's three positions behind Sauter, who was third at Daytona and five spots in front of Crafton, who finished 13th.

"I'm coming to Martinsville with a new team and a new crew and we have to get our notebooks on the same page, if you will," Burton said recently. "But ThorSport as an organization has a great track record here, and that counts for a lot, too.

"Johnny and Matt were one-two last year and I finished third, so I think I can lean on their expertise here and with my experience, going back to the Late Model Stock Car days, I hope I can help lift up the whole organization a little bit because this is short-track racing, and that's what I was brought up on."

ThorSport is still trying to locate additional sponsorship for Burton to enable his team to potentially run the full, 22-race schedule. Burton finished fifth in the 2013 championship, the highest-placed rookie contender, but was second in the Truck Series' Rookie of the Year race. 
 
"Mr. and Mrs. Thorson (Duke and Rhonda, team owners) have given me a great opportunity and I appreciate everything they've done for me and my family,:" Burton said. "We're doing everything we can to find additional sponsorhip and the most important thing is for us to keep running good.

"Dennis (Connor, three-time NCWTS champion crew chief) and the guys have been working hard on our Tundras and I have no doubt the piece we unload at Martinsville will be a good one. It's huge for me to come to my home track fifth in points, with a brand-new race team -- that's like a win already."

Burton, who as a rookie won the Truck Series' season-long Keystone Light Pole Award by winning seven poles, also won his first truck race, in his 12th career start, at Texas Motor Speedway last June.

"We feel like we can make this VAMP / VaporBrands Tundra competitive pretty quickly," Burton said. "We're looking forward to this new (group) qualifying format and more than anything, I just can't wait for the green flag." 
 
After opening inspection on Thursday afternoon, Martinsville's Truck weekend's on-track activity opens with extra practice time on Friday. The trucks hit the track from 9 - 11:45 a.m. ET and for final practice from 3 - 4:25 p.m. The latter session will be televised live on FOX Sports 1.

Burton is scheduled to represent ThorSport at a public driver autograph session outside the Martinsville ticket office from 5-6 p.m. Friday.

The Truck Series' inaugural -- since Daytona's qualifying session was rained-out --
multi-segment, elimination-style group Keystone Light Pole Qualifying session to set the 36-truck starting lineup is Saturday at 11:10 a.m., again with live coverage on FOX Sports 1 beginning at 11.
 
Saturday's 250-lap, 131.5-mile main event will be telecast live on FOX Sports 1 at 2:30 p.m. ET. The live broadcast on MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio begins with pre-race coverage at 2. Live timing & scoring for the weekend's events will be at www.nascar.com.

ABOUT VAPORBRANDS INTERNATIONAL, INC.: VaporBrands International, Inc. is a marketing and development partner for manufacturers of electronic cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes represent the future of smoking; they produce no smoke, tar, ash or offensive odor while containing about the same amount of nicotine as traditional tobacco cigarettes. Unlike traditional tobacco cigarettes, electronic cigarettes can be used in many public places currently restricted from smoking. VaporBrands intends to focus on creating opportunities for culturally-relevant brands seeking to acquire significant market share in the rapidly-growing "vaping" sector of the global market. For more information on VaporBrands International, Inc. visit: VaporBrands.com
 
ABOUT THORSPORT RACING: ThorSport Racing, based in a state-of-the-art 100,000-square-foot facility in Sandusky, Ohio, is the longest-tenured NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team. ThorSport, which has run in the Truck Series since 1996, in 2014 will run the No. 88 Menards Toyota Tundra driven by 2013 drivers' champion Matt Crafton, the No. 98 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff/Nextant Aerospace/Carolina Nut Co./Curb Records Toyota Tundra driven by Johnny Sauter and the No. 13 VAMP/VaporBrands International, Inc. Toyota Tundra driven by Jeb Burton in the Truck Series and the No. 13 Toyota Camry in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards.

Jeb Burton - Daytona International Speedway Post-Race

Jeb Burton dodges his way to Daytona 7th

Jeb Burton, with a great assist from spotter Kevin Hamlin, Friday night dodged "the big one" midway through the season-opening NASCAR Camping World Truck Series' NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway, and with an astute seventh-place finish in his Truck Series debut for ThorSport Racing in the No. 13 VAMP / VaporBrands International, Inc. Toyota Tundra was ready to pronounce his career back on track.

"This was a good way to start the season, I feel like," Burton said. "I've just got to thank all my guys, and Mr. and Mrs. (Duke and Rhonda) Thorson (team owners) for putting me in this Tundra. We'll take this top-seven and go to Martinsville."

The Truck Series' second round, in five weeks at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway is Burton's home race. But just three weeks ago even starting this season was in question after his team's sponsor at Turner Scott Motorsports abandoned the team, forcing the owners to shut it down.

But ThorSport put together a deal to sign Burton for the 2014 season and mere days before the trucks were scheduled to leave the team's shop in Sandusky, Ohio, signed a sponsorship with the VAMP e-cigarette brand of VaporBrands International, Inc.

It put Burton in the position of having virtually a daily watch to look out for his new driving gear's delivery, but his No. 13 Tundra's competitiveness was never in question.

Throughout most of the 100-lap race passing was difficult. Burton started 11th after the Truck Series' inaugural elimination-style group qualifying was cancelled by rain. But when the final green flag flew for an 11-lap run to the finish with Burton in 15th, he was able to make things happen to get to seventh at the checkers.

"At the end I got a pretty big push and got some side draft and we were coming," said Burton, who with just three laps to go was running 12th, one spot behind teammate Matt Crafton, the 2013 series champion. "I wish we would've been at Talladega where the finish line would've been a little farther down the track, but I don't know if we would've made it or not...

"But I'm happy to get out of here with a top-seven (Friday) night, that's for sure."

Burton was working with three-time Truck Series champion crew chief Dennis Connor for the first time and Connor, who won those championships at Hendrick Motorsports with Jack Sprague, was well-pleased with Burton's initial run out of the gate.

"For the first time out of the box we had a hot and cold night, but at the same time it was an acceptable job considering it was our first time out as a team," Connor said of the deal that was signed on Feb. 6. "With the package NASCAR has got right here, nobody can pass anybody and we kind of had a lucky break getting through the big wreck -- but really that was an amazing job by the driver and spotter."

That 16-truck wreck occurred three-quarters of the way through the night, after the race was delayed more than an hour by intermittent rain. Burton was running in the middle of the field when two trucks just inside the top 10 tangled on lap 75, creating a swirling, smoky jam-up of vehicles that Burton did a veteran's job of avoiding in just his 28th career Truck Series start.

But after using cautions to get back into the top 15, his adventure wasn't over.

"We had trouble with a gas can hanging-up on the last (pit) stop and if it hadn't been for that I think we could've finished right up front,' Connor said. "But considering this deal didn't exist three weeks ago, it was pretty amazing, really, to wind up seventh."

On his final pit stop, Burton's exit was delayed when the gas can hung up in the filler neck, costing him time in the service alley.. Burton's charge forward in the last few laps left him wondering "what if..."

"I wish the thing with the gas can hadn't happened, but that sometimes happens in racing," said Burton, who with 40 laps to go had fallen back to 26th. "We'll go on to Martinsville and get back after it, there."

The run to the finish did have Burton shaking his head when asked to describe what the externally wooly scene looked like from his seat.

"I really didn't think that last run would've been green until the finish -- that's why I didn't go to the high side sooner," Burton said of his cautious, but dogged move toward the front. "I was thinking they were gonna wreck because it sure looked like it.

"If I had it to do over again I might have gone a little sooner, but we still got out of here in one piece with some good momentum."

Because race winner Kyle Busch and fourth place Ryan Truex aren't registered to earn Truck Series points, Burton will go to Martinsville in five weeks fifth in the championship, six points behind race runner-up Timothy Peters

Jeb Burton - Daytona International Speedway Pre-Race

Jeb Burton - Daytona International Speedway Post-Race Report

Burton victimized in Daytona melee; Finishes 29th

Jeb Burton's ThorSport Racing debut in his No. 13 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Toyota Camry in Saturday's Lucas Oil 200 presented by MAVTV American Real at Daytona International Speedway was a rollercoaster of emotions.

You want irony? Burton's car was as fast -- wrecked -- halfway through the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards season-opening race as it had been in qualifying Friday.

You want the definition of heart? You spell it T-h-o-r-S-p-o-r-t R-a-c-i-n-g and J-e-b B-u-r-t-o-n after crew chief Jeriod Prince and his team rebuilt Burton's ripped-up racecar and returned it to the track in only 19 laps.

Ten laps later Burton, who had started 21st after qualifying with a lap in 50.462 seconds, 178.352 mph; turned a lap that was better than that while simply making time on the track to run out the 200-mile distance.

He was making laps because in the process Burton passed six cars and gained more than 30 points by returning to the racetrack. That might be critical if this team, which is the defending ARCA championship squad, runs the whole schedule to defend that title.

And you want a pro -- his young 21 years aside? That's Burton, who was man enough to go on FOX Sports 1 and calmly tell the viewers his side of the accident when the netwpork couldn't locate several of the other protagonists.

On the 13th lap of the race, while running 22nd Burton's prediction three laps earlier that "I need to get outta this (mess) -- they're gonna wreck" came true when a couple cars near the front of the field lost control.

Burton's spotter, Kevin Hamlin, was attempting to guide him through the smoky mess when Burton's car was speared from behind, spinning it out. Burton made a lap and returned to pit road, and then the garage where Prince and his men leaped on the car and began repairs.

On lap 32 Burton was back on track and Prince engineered a careful, methodical trip to the race's end, pitting when the snarling lead draft approached them, ultimately resulting in a 29th-place finish.

That patient perseverance certainly will serve Burton well next week when he attempts his second race for ThorSport, driving the team's No. 13 Toyota Tundra in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series' opener, the NextEra Energy Resources 250.

"This is pretty disappointing because these guys worked really, really hard," Burton said to FOX's Jim Tretow, even as the sounds of hammers beating on twisted metal reverberated in the background. "It's a shame, man, and some of those guys really don't need to be out there, but (getting wrecked) is just part of it.

"I just have to thank Mr. and Mrs. (owners Duke and Rhonda) Thorson for putting me in the car and truck, and Smokey Mountain Snuff for coming on board with State Water Heaters, Toyota, Puryear Tank Lines, Pacific Equipment and Rocky Ridge Trucks."

The Daytona ARCA race was a one-off outing with new sponsor Smokey Mountain, which plans a six-race Truck Series program with ThorSport teammate Johnny Sauter later this season.

"Hopefully we can get a better run in the truck," Burton said. "This was so disappointing -- though I can't give Jeriod and the guys enough credit for putting a car back together that was actually better than it was early in the race. I'm really looking forward to racing that Tundra (truck)."

Smokey Mountain's ThorSport debut also had its bright spots.

"We were fortunate to partner with Jeb Burton and ThorSport Racing for the ARCA Race at Daytona," said Dan Fennerty, regional sales director, Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff. "I was able to spend some time with Jeb (Saturday) and he seems like a great guy, hungry for success and driven to succeed.

"What happened (in the race) was an unfortunate circumstance, out of Jeb's hands. We couldn't be more proud of his performance (Saturday) -- he got back out, finished the race and never gave up."

Collateral damage in the mishap was the end of ThorSport's 31-race top-10 finishing streak in ARCA, which stretched back to the New Jersey Motorsports Park race in July 2012.

"Championship teams don't quit and that's certainly who we are at ThorSport," team manager David Pepper said. "We're not sure where this ARCA program is headed because we need more sponsorship to continue to race, but this team's heart and determination were never more evident than (Saturday) and I'm proud of all of the guys -- and Jeb for sticking with it until the end."

Burton returns to the track at Daytona next Wednesday for the first Truck Series practice for next Friday's NextEra Energy Resources 250.

Jeb Burton - Daytona International Speedway Pre-Race Report

Jeb Burton - Daytona International Speedway Sponsor

ThorSport Racing Open House

ThorSport Racing, which fields teams in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards, will hold a "2013 season celebration and community thank-you" open house on Monday, Dec. 16, from 4 - 7 p.m. ET.

WHAT: ThorSport Racing Open House
WHEN: Monday, Dec. 16, 4 - 7 p.m. ET
WHERE: 312 Neilsen Ave, Sandusky, OH 44870
WHY: Celebrate multiple-championship 2013 racing season and the support of the Greater Sandusky community, our friends and partners
WHO: Appearances by ThorSport Racing drivers, crew and administrators
WITH: Autographs, Food, Beverages, Shop & Transporter Access, Giveaways

Eldora ace Tracy Hines to race ThorSport Racing on July 24

Riviera Hotel & Casino - the official Las Vegas Hotel of ThorSport Racing

"Charging Towards a Championship" in 2012 with Nos. 13, 88 and 98

"Pursues 2012 Series Championships with Toyota and TRD, U.S.A.

 

 

 

 

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