ThorSport Racing returns to championship form after 2016 shop fire

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SANDUSKY, Ohio (WTVG) - ThorSport Racing is the longest-tenured NASCAR Truck Series team, with four different trucks traveling the series this past season.

ThorSport driver Matt Crafton won the 2019 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship and Grant Enfinger won the 2019 regular season points championship. This is no tiny Perkins Township operation.

"This facility that they're working out of, I mean 100,000-square foot race shop, heated air conditioned, floors you can eat off of each and every week," Crafton said.

Crafton's 2019 championship is his third title.

Not bad for a team located about 500 miles from the center of the NASCAR world in North Carolina ... and also where this building stood early on the morning of June 13, 2016.

"One of my guys here was actually doing wiring that night, he likes to work at night," ThorSport Racing General Manager David Pepper said. "His phone was about dead and he calls me and the only thing I got on the phone was, 'You might need to come here we got a fi..' and then the phone clicked off.

"I live about fifteen minutes from here and by the time I got to a mile away, all there was was smoke in the air. And I'm thinking to myself, 'I hope that's not us.' Sure enough, I turn the corner and we've got a 20-foot high blue flame coming out of the center of the building."

ThorSport is a business which certainly knows how to move quickly -- something it had to do that Monday soon after returning home from a racing weekend.

"We see this part of the shop on fire and then I realize we have three race car haulers with equipment in it," ThorSport Director of Operations Tracy Hines said. "So in each hauler, you had about $2 million dollars worth of equipment. So I'm looking at everything, 'We have to get all of those out, we have to drive them out.'"

Several fire departments responded to the blaze.

"The fire department was here, the first responders were all here," Pepper said. "They were actually here putting the fire out and they're big race fans -- they're here all the time checking out what we do. And they were actually pushing our trucks out of the fire outside to us while we were taking equipment out to make sure we would make it to the next race."

Weeks later, the Ohio Fire Marshall's report determined the fire was accidental causing about $10 million in damages.

"Everybody's got insurance, right?," Hines said. "Well, it's really not that simple. You don't just tell the insurance, 'Hey, build me a new building.' You have to document everything. You have to find invoices that you had from years ago. You have to remember what you had because in a fire, it disappears."

The racing operation never took a pit stop.

"We had the fire but we never missed a race," Pepper said. "We went seven weeks working basically outside in a parking lot."

That parking lot is outside of the former Kroger store across the street from ThorSport Racing.

"These guys were working underneath tents to get these trucks to the race track week in and week out," Crafton said.

After working out of about five different building around Sandusky for the rest of that season, ThorSport was back inside its own building the following January.

"During that time, you expect to lose a handful of employees just because it was more than they could bear," Pepper said. "We didn't lose a single guy during that fire period."

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