Matt Crafton is best known for his success in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, becoming the first driver to win back-to-back championships in 2013 and 2014.
But he dabbles in other forms of racing as well, and will do so again this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway’s dirt track. Crafton is the biggest name in the field for the season-opening TORC: The Off-Road Championship races being held Friday and Saturday.
What can fans expect?
“It’s very wild,” Crafton said. “There’s definitely a lot of door-to-door slamming off each other, jumping … you can’t get much more exciting to be totally honest. They put on a show.”
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The trucks are a spectacle in themselves, costing almost $500,000 each. They deliver more than 900 horsepower and are designed to withstand just about anything.
“They can jump 200 feet in the air going 100 mph. They can turn over and get going again. It’s really something to see,” TORC president BJ Birtwell said. “They’re jumping, flying, banging around all race.”
As far as similarities between TORC trucks and NASCAR trucks, Crafton said there aren’t many.
“It’s like oil and water,” Crafton said. “Four tires and a steering wheel, that’s about it.”
Outside of the unpredictable racing, Crafton is just as excited to drive a truck supporting the Chris Kyle Memorial Benefit that will take place May 1-2 at the Fort Worth Stockyards.
Kyle was the Navy SEAL whose life was depicted in the Hollywood blockbuster American Sniper. Kyle served four tours in Iraq, becoming the military’s most deadly sniper and earning the nickname “The Legend” from his colleagues, but lost his life at a Texas shooting range in 2013 while trying to help rehabilitate a troubled veteran.
“It’s a total honor to be put in this truck,” Crafton said. “If you watched the movie and have seen the story, it’s unbelievable. To say I’m a part of doing something for that is really awesome.”
Kyle’s father, Wayne Kyle, is just as pleased to have a driver of Crafton’s stature drive the truck. Wayne Kyle is serving as the grand marshal, and is hopeful that this continues to raise awareness for veterans in need.
“Chris was nicknamed ‘The Legend,’ which he didn’t like, but he was nicknamed that for what he had accomplished over there,” Wayne Kyle said. “Matt is kind of the same thing. He’s a legend in the racing world, so it’s amazing to have somebody like Matt behind the wheel driving that truck. It’s an honor for us.”
There will be a booth at the track that will give fans the opportunity to donate to the Chris Kyle Memorial Benefit. Proceeds will go directly to the Guardian for Heroes Foundation.
Asked how the success of American Sniper has helped their cause, Wayne Kyle said: “We didn’t pay any attention to the movie. The thing that we appreciated about the movie is that it has brought more awareness to this country with what our veterans and our military personnel go through.
“Our lives have been turned upside down, but we — my wife [Deby] and I, and our youngest son, Jeff, and his wife, Amy — are just going to continue carrying on in the best way we can to give back to the veterans because we know how important it is. … Chris’ passion was to give back to the veterans.”
And, Wayne Kyle said, smiling, this is exactly the kind of event that Chris would have approved of.
Drew Davison, 817-390-7760
TORC: The Off-Road Championship
Friday and Saturday, Texas Motor Speedway’s dirt track
Gates open 6 p.m., opening ceremonies 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $20 at gate, $15 if purchased in advance online (every ticket also serves as a pit pass). Active and retired military personnel can get in for $5.