In the Pits with Michael Crafton
Fresh off his 2023 Nashville Spring Series Semi-Pro Championship, Michael Crafton tells us how he prepared for the big event. He and his dad picked up racing out of nowhere after watching some local friends. Now he's a front runner in the Semi-Pro Division. He shares his funny pre-race superstitions, how he decided on his new scheme, and his journey to Legend Cars.
Hometown: Franklin, TN
Car Number: 9
Team: Crafton Motorsports
Favorite Vacation Spot: At the race track or Florida
Favorite Color: Blue
Favorite Movie: Talladega Nights
Favorite Food: Mac and Cheese
1. What sparked your interest in racing? What made you want to start driving?
I was nine years old, and I wasn’t interested in football or any of the other regular sports. Some family friends said something about quarter midget racing over in the Hermitage, Tennessee area. I went and checked it out with my dad, it instantly just grabbed my eye. I was all about it. Dad went and bought a quarter midget, and we started rookie training and came through all that. I started my first race, and we honestly didn’t think I was going to last. I was a rookie, we didn’t know anything about racing. It sparked from there. We went a year like that, struggling with racing and figuring it out. My second year, we got a little better. I moved up through the divisions of quarter midgets, I won nationals, championships, and all kinds of races.
Then we moved to Bandoleros, just racing for fun. Then I got a chance to race a USAC Midget for a race or two. Then we started off racing Legends three years ago. We had a pretty good first year, we ran the first Winter Nationals in 2021. Then, we went onto Spring Nationals. I won my first race in Semi-Pro at Nashville. We didn’t know what we were doing, they put us through the ringer. We were still learning, then we went on to finish second the next day. Here I am now, my third year running Legends, nine years strong of racing.
2. How does winning the Nashville Spring Series feel? What did you do to make it happen?
It means a lot to win the Nashville Spring Series! This is what I’ve worked so hard for. Constantly grinding in the shop and never giving up on making sure my cars are in tip-top shape! Then it’s all on me with keeping my head straight and looking at the big picture. I honestly didn't think I’d win four out of six races. My goal was to keep my nose clean and get the best finishes we could to clinch the championship, so we exceeded our goal for sure.
3. What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome in the racing world?
Going to Vegas at the end of last year. I’ve always raced quarter mile short tracks, I’ve never raced a track that big before. The biggest challenge was trying to figure out how to keep my momentum up. Then just trying to figure out what's the best for me, and what's the best for the car. I started figuring stuff out here, on the quarter mile tracks, then we went to the big track and it's a completely different ball game. We’re going to try to work towards it this year, and go out again at the end of the year and try to run better.
4. What is your favorite racing memory?
Probably Spring Nationals 2021. Just jumping into racing at Nashville, never [having] raced a race there. All the national guys come in, we ended up sitting pole and won in the Semi-Pro division.
5. What are your 2023 racing goals? What do you hope to achieve?
My biggest goal is to try to finish top five in the nation or go for the national championship. It's going to be tough, but I think if we can rack up the points we’ll be pretty good. We finished 10th last year in the nation running a lot of local races, some out of town races. We’re going to try to travel some more, too.
6. What is your ultimate racing dream?
I plan on trying to make it to NASCAR, any form of motorsports. I love working on race cars and just being around it. But my biggest goal is to make it high up to NASCAR, or be on a Pro Late Model team or something.
7. Who is your biggest inspiration?
Luke Harrison because he's been there since the start. He's my crew chief, and he's taught me a lot about racing because he's been in it all his life. His brother, Nick Harrison, was a crew chief in NASCAR. He’s crewed for Sterling Marlin. He’s just constantly helping. And my dad, too.
8. Road Course, Oval, or Dirt?
I’ve never run a road course before, but I want to run one, though. I have to talk my dad into that one, he’s not letting me turn right. I’ve never ran dirt either. But a lot of people say dirt is hard, and it makes you a better driver, so I want to try it.
9. If you were pulled into victory lane right now, who would you want to thank?
A big thank you to my dad, because he funds everything. Tenex Fabrication, Solar Solutions, Lazy Hog Barbecue, All Seasons Comfort, and Crafton Towing.
10. Do you have any pre-race “rituals” or things you always have to do on race day?
Well this past year, I started winning a bunch of races in a row. I kind of started to notice what I was wearing; I was wearing the same underwear. That’s my biggest superstition. But I wash them. Green, nobody can wear green to the racetrack, nothing green on the racecar.
11. Outside of racing, what other hobbies or activities are you involved in?
I’m on iRacing most of the time, or I’m working in the shop. Besides race cars, I don’t do much really. I spend a lot of time in the shop just trying to get better. Other than that, just spending time with family and friends.
12. What race or track are you most looking forward to this season? Where do you mostly race?
My local track is Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, and Highland Rim. But Nashville is my home track. I’m looking forward to traveling to Georgia, and running some more Georgia tracks - Atlanta, Lanier, and Cordele. Trying to travel more because all we ever run is the local short tracks.
13. Do you have any advice to younger kids who are looking into getting started in racing?
My best advice is to take your time and learn everything they could get. It's just like life, it'll go by fast. Learn everything you can, and spend time with your parents with it. It's a real family sport. [My family] comes to every race they can. My sister is always there, my dad is always there. My grandparents are always up in the stands, unless we go out of town.
14. If you could describe your racing style in one word, what would you say?
It would be between aggressive and saving. I’m aggressive when the time is right, I’m waiting for everyone to make a mistake then come in and pick up that position.
15. Who is your favorite NASCAR driver, and why?
Kyle Larson, just the way he came back after all the challenges he's been through. I kind of see myself going through that stuff. He's also really good on dirt, I really like him.
16. If you could have a conversation with anyone, who would it be and why?
My stepmom, she passed away a couple years ago. We took about a year off of racing. I’d like to have a conversation with her. She’d been there through a lot of my racing, so I’d like to see what she thought about where I am now.
17. What is something many people don’t know about you?
I do pretty much all the work on my own, besides my dad helping me. We just guessed a lot, constantly changing stuff and learning as we go. We still really don’t know what we’re doing. We go from track to track and write down notes.
18. How did you come up with your paint scheme?
My first Legend car that I have [has] an American flag hood on the front. Recently, we did a candy apple red car. I’ve always loved the candy apple red and always wanted to try it. We’ve always had a blue car, or red, white, and blue car so I wanted something different. We did the red with the gold numbers. I always liked that, it's something I always wanted.
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