Photo: Jonathan Moore/NASCAR via Getty Images

ThorSport Rebounds from Shop Fire for Top-10 Finishes at Iowa

By David Morgan, NASCAR Contributor

Last Monday, things looked bleak for ThorSport Racing and their four truck operation after a major fire broke out in their race shop and caused major damage to the building, but on Saturday night at Iowa Speedway, things began to look up for the team.

Though the team had to deal with the fire, they were determined not to let it hold them back when they rolled into Iowa for Saturday night’s Speediatrics 200. Three of the four team trucks were able to qualify inside the top-10, with Cameron Hayley leading the way in second, followed by Matt Crafton in ninth, and Ben Rhodes in 10th. The fourth team truck, piloted by Rico Abreu, started the race in 14th.

Hayley started the race as the top team truck and was able to keep his No. 13 Toyota in the top-five for the majority of the night, only falling back to seventh at one point in the race.  By the time the checkered flag flew, Hayley came across the line in third, scoring his second best finish of the season, one position worse than his runner-up finish at Atlanta.

The third place finish for Hayley leaves him 10th in points heading to the next race at Gateway.

“Our Tundra was really tight all night long and at the end there after that red flag it just came to life. I’m super happy. I can’t thank Cabinets by Hayley enough and the whole community – Sandusky, Perkins, everybody. They got us out of the fire this week and now we’re here in third place, it’s amazing. I wish we could’ve got him (Duke Thorson, team owner) the win. But, to come from where this team was on Monday to where we are now is just amazing and I just want to thank everyone for that,” said Hayley.

“Obviously as everyone knows it’s been a tough week at ThorSport Racing to say the least. I was a part of that first hand. I got the call about 5:30 Monday morning. I was there at 5:30 and we probably spent upwards of 36 hours – both me and the team – cleaning the trucks, getting things ready, working out of a parking lot trying to get to this race and to come out here with a third place finish is not just amazing for me but the organization as a whole. We really came together as a team.”

Scoring the second best finish for the team on the night was the youngest member of the team, Ben Rhodes. From his 10th place starting position, Rhodes moved into the top-five for good around lap 80 and looked to be a threat for the win in the late stages of the race. However, the red flag after the lap 179 caution hindered Rhodes chances for the win and he was forced to settle for a fourth place finish.

The finish was the best finish of the season and best career finish for Rhodes, besting his fifth place finish at Phoenix in the fall of 2014. With the finish, Rhodes now sits 13th in points.

“Man, that was just really tough. We really needed to be on the outside to keep our momentum up. That’s what our truck really struggled with on the bottom. It was just tough. Those long runs we had a lot of speed and I felt like we had the fastest truck tonight. Even on some of the earliest restarts I felt like we were really good, but after we sat on the track for that red flag it just didn’t do good for our tires, air pressures went weird and heat cycle didn’t do good for us. But, I’m really proud of all of our guys on the Alpha Energy Solutions Toyota Tundra tonight. They have worked their butts off all week after the fire at ThorSport (Racing),” said Rhodes.

“We had this date circled on our calendar for a long time but unfortunate the circumstances but man, it was a really fun race tonight and I can’t thank these guys enough for all they’ve done for me.”

Two-time champion Matt Crafton brought his No. 88 Toyota home with an eighth place finish, improving one position from his ninth place start. As for the fourth ThorSport driver, Rico Abreu, he struggled with his truck throughout the night and finished the race with an 18th place finish.

After the team’s rebound at Iowa, all eyes will be on the team and how they will continue to perform throughout the remainder of the season. ThorSport General Manager David Pepper made note that though the fire was a setback, the team has a plan for keeping their performance at expected levels over the remaining races of the regular season and into the Chase.

“We have a plan. We’re scattered across a couple of buildings in the community. The community really rallied behind us. Pegasus Trailer company (Pegasus Race Trailers) is letting us use about 40 percent of their shop. Another gentleman has offered up his race shop that’s down the street from there, so we’re putting some things in there – putting some surface plates in. We’ve got the water out of the building, temporary lighting back up, we’re already starting the rebuilding and renovation process to try to clean up what happened. Painting bodies at another location, so we’re kind of scattered all over Sandusky (Ohio) and a lot of people in the community have helped and the NASCAR community – just bringing us pieces and parts on multiple trailers here to get to this race – but we have a plan and we’re here. No one was hurt and we’re going to be racing,” said Pepper.

“It won’t affect anything whether we’re building them in parking lots, whether we’re staying at race tracks and asking them to let us stay late and build them. We have to build race trucks that keep the points lead, put all our trucks in the Chase and win a championship. The goals haven’t changed. They just can’t. There cannot be a built in excuse for this. This is when we have to show our leadership and lead this team to where it needs to be and that’s out front as one of the premier teams that we feel we are.”

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.

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