NASCAR Media Conference Breakout Session
November 14, 2013
Q. Why is Duke so low‑key?
MATT CRAFTON: It's interesting to see what the guy does. The races he comes to, he comes to the transporter 10 to 15 minutes before the race, walks in, says hi to everybody for a couple minutes, grabs his radio. Nine times out of ten, gets a ticket for the grandstands, watches the race from the grandstands. He says he can see everything that way.
Like I said, he has the radios on. Brings his wife, daughter Allison, goes to the grandstands and watches the race.
I got to do that with him at Kansas for the ARCA race. Grabbed the radios, C'mon, we're going up here to watch the race. I helped and talked to Frank a little bit during that race, but just sitting in the grandstands.
Sitting in the grandstands, everybody around you, they don't know who he is, he's the owner.
Q. Does that reflect his management style?
MATT CRAFTON: Without a doubt. He's so low‑key. It's always worked so well between us because we are actually so much alike. I don't usually like all the media attention but it comes with the territory.
But once you get to know Duke, he is one of the most outgoing, coolest guys you'll ever meet. We're so much alike it's scary, in our personalities, the way we act behind the scenes.
Q. They announced the extension for you today. Do you have any plans or hopes to do anything out of the Truck Series, any more Nationwide starts?
MATT CRAFTON: I don't have anything written in stone yet. Hope to get some more Nationwide races next year, but I haven't been told anything about what races I'd get or anything like that.
That was a lot of fun, getting to go race for RCR, Menards. Menards is the one that put it all together and made it happen for me.
Q. Are you a guy that hopes to end up in a different series or are you content in the trucks?
MATT CRAFTON: My biggest deal is whatever I do, I want to be competitive. I'm not going to lie, there's people that have called me, You're going to run a Cup car, you're going to run 25th or 43rd at best. I don't want to do that, I don't care. I'm probably going to make more money, but I'm going to be a miserable SOB on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday just riding around like that.
I know they're racing their butts off. If you're not Hendricks, RCR, Penske, you're not going to contend to win. All these guys are about the same age as me, I don't think they're going anywhere anytime soon.
I'm getting the opportunity to do what I love to do: race, be competitive, being able to win races and win a championship.
I'm happy doing what I'm doing. I would love to run some Cup races, Nationwide races in some competitive stuff, no doubt. Do I want to go up there and move? Not the end of the world if I don't.
Q. Are you going to stay on the property or go to a hotel?
MATT CRAFTON: Yes, I'm going to a hotel.
Q. (No microphone.)
MATT CRAFTON: Hell, no, he's not going to drive me anywhere. Like I say, I love the guy to death, but yes, exactly.
We're going to put him in the trunk and we're going to drive to the hotel so he can't grab the steering wheel and mess anything up.
We have practice early enough, if I get lost on the way to the track... I feel fairly confident doing it, I have been doing it long enough. I'm not staying that far away. I'll walk if I have to. Will you pick me up if I'm hitchhiking?
Q. Talk about how much validation you're getting now.
MATT CRAFTON: I mean, it's awesome, like I said, just to be able to get this opportunity of being able to race for a championship. 2009, we raced for a championship. Led part of the season. Then Hornaday, he went on domination at one point in the season, won four or five races in a row, jumped a huge lead on us. He beat us that year.
We've been just short each and every year after that. We finished third, fourth, fifth, been around it. We had a little luck this year.
I got one of the best crew chiefs in the business, I truly believe it, and to be honest my best friend. Everything he tells me he's doing to that truck, there's not a doubt in my mind it's the right thing to do.
It's like Jimmie Johnson knowing that Chad Knaus is going to make the right call. He believes in me like I believe in him. If I tell him, This is what it's doing, we need to do this, he's going to do it.
Q. (No microphone.)
MATT CRAFTON: I have something to prove every week to be honest. That's the way it is. We have a point to prove, go out there, be competitive, have a chance to win the race.
Q. How was your experience on the dirt?
MATT CRAFTON: I'm not going to lie, I was one of the biggest hypocrites about the dirt racetrack. Like I said, didn't want to say it, but I just said it to guys in the shop: This is going to be the worst race in NASCAR history. It probably was one of the top‑five coolest races that we've had.
I just didn't know how they were going to handle. We went and tested. I'm not going to lie, I mean, we sucked. I spun out. I was dizzy at the end of the day I spun out so much.
We learned a lot. Eldora was just a different animal.
Q. Watching it on TV, it seemed like some of the drivers were being conservative because of what you just said. Is that the way you think it played out or do you think it played out as hard as you're on pavement?
MATT CRAFTON: It's as hard as you're on pavement. You had to be methodical about every move you made. We'll say it was like a Darlington because everybody was running around at the top. If you're at the bottom, you're screwed.
I made some pretty good moves in the heat race, there was some moisture on the bottom, the place went dry slick, everybody was running up top.
The position I was in at that point, I had, I don't remember, a 20‑, 30‑point lead. That was one of our Talladegas, Martinsvilles, you had to survive that race.
I finished eighth, but I know we had a better truck than an eighth‑place truck. The 31, the 3, they were way back there in the rearview mirror. I have to put some distance on them, be a little bit more aggressive.
A lot of people were getting aggravated, dumping each other, moving each other. I was like, I'm going to sit where I'm at. I was eighth. If we have another restart, I'm on the topside, where you needed to be at the restarts.
Q. Today you feel different than the week before the race?
MATT CRAFTON: Absolutely. The week before the race, I thought it was going to be the worst race we were ever going to have. I have egg all over my face.
It was fun to drive. I know the fans, from everybody I talked to, loved it.
Q. Could you see the other series going on there? When something is new, everybody jumps on it. Is it just a truck thing?
MATT CRAFTON: I think it would be cool to see the Nationwide cars and Cup cars do it without a doubt. I honestly don't know. I have no idea.
Each and every week, have you not seen the truck races not be the best races? That's just my personal opinion. I go back and TiVo all of them and watch them. I watch all the Nationwide races and the truck races. To me, it is the best racing. From the green flag to the checkered flag, we race our butts off. I'm not saying they don't, but it's a different mindset.
Q. Even here at this track?
MATT CRAFTON: Yes.
Q. After Friday night, how anxious have you been for this Friday to get here?
MATT CRAFTON: I've been very, very anxious to get here Friday. I mean, for one, we had a damn good shot at winning this race last year. 15 to go, me and Kyle had drove away from everybody, battling side‑by‑side. He kept pinning me down. I had a better truck than him. Then we had a yellow. The second‑place guy was at such a disadvantage on restarts. If you're on the bottom on a restart here, you're getting freight‑trained.
He got the big run down the back straightaway. I had a group coming from behind. We went five‑wide going into turn three. A bunch of them wrecked under me. I had to go right. Killed our day.
I think we have a point to prove. I said to everybody, Only won one race this year, but at the same time we've had trucks that have been capable of winning more races. At the same time, like I was talking to Austin and Jimmie, having that big points lead, you have to try to protect it and not have a 30th‑place finish.
Like I said, I think tomorrow we got a point to prove.
Q. Do you think Jimmie is going to sort of have a different psychology going into the Cup race with a 28‑point lead?
MATT CRAFTON: Absolutely. Is he going to do anything crazy? Is he going to be three‑ or four‑wide? I don't see it happening. He's too smart of a race driver. He's going to do everything he can do with five to go, but at the same time can't take a chance. He has to finish 23rd. I don't think you're going to see any big, risky moves from him.
Q. From your point of view, only needing to take the green to take the championship, have you avoided doing anything dangerous this week?
MATT CRAFTON: I went skydiving, a few cool things (laughter).
No, I haven't done anything out of the ordinary. Packed, got ready. Been on the road for two weeks. I flew home, packed, got everything ready for here. That's about it.
Q. Are you superstitious?
MATT CRAFTON: Yeah, very. Like I said, at this point, if I don't get here tomorrow...
Kind of joking, talking to Richard Childress after the race on Saturday. He thought I had wrapped it up. I said, Actually, I need to show up and start. He jokingly said, Do you want to go hunting?
Q. (No microphone.)
MATT CRAFTON: I hope so. As long as I can get to the racetrack and take that green tomorrow. It's an awesome accomplishment to be able to say we're going to be able to do this.
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