Sponsor sync: ThorSport, Menards rebuild after fire – Nascar

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ThorSport Racing’s 2016 campaign will be remembered as a season of recovery, overcoming the trials of a mid-June fire at its Sandusky, Ohio, headquarters. The blaze sparked a gutsy fight through the balance of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule, with the four-team operation scrapping and improvising to fulfill its full-season mandate.


Little more than seven months have passed since the hardship, but ThorSport is on the verge of seeing the rebuilding effort through to completion. Credit the organization’s pluck and perseverance, but also a serendipitous sponsor relationship.


Menards, a Midwestern home improvement chain, was instrumental in helping ThorSport’s reconstruction project, providing the materials and blueprints for rebuilding a significant portion of the team’s 100,000-square-foot home. The Eau Claire, Wisconsin-based business returns for the 13th season of its long-running association with ThorSport’s No. 88 Toyota and driver Matt Crafton, a two-time series champion.


That sponsor and team coalesce in such a mutually beneficial way has helped the Duke and Rhonda Thorson-owned team operate at virtually full strength with the season just weeks away from kicking off at Daytona.


“Menards has always been more than just a decal on the side of my Toyota Tundra,” Crafton said in a release provided by the team. “They have been a true marketing partner, and I’m honored to continue this partnership with them for the 13th consecutive season. For them to provide a hands-on approach, and be so involved in the rebuild of our shop, was truly remarkable.


“From planning, to execution, to building materials, they have been an asset to the entire project. It speaks volumes on their commitment not only to me, and this No. 88 team, but the entire organization.”


Crafton had won two races and one pole position in the first seven events of last season, before the fire forced ThorSport to find alternate locations to prep its trucks. The ensuing scramble took its toll, with Crafton admitting, “I knew it was going to hurt us, but I had no idea it was going to hurt us as bad as it did.”


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The organization used a supermarket parking lot as a makeshift workplace for several days and spent time at a trailer manufacturing facility before receiving a helping hand from Ohio sprint car racer Chris Andrews in the form of shop space.


All the while, ThorSport and Menards specialists collaborated to restore the most heavily damaged sections of the shop — a rear portion that housed the fabrication and machine shop departments. George Sharp — the operations manager for the racing team’s parent company, ThorWorks Industries — said an engineer from Menards was sent to work directly with the team’s building contractor. Furthermore, the materials and plans for the rebuilt section of the shop came from a packaged kit available at Menards.


“With this happening in the middle of the season, the goal was to get the team back in the shop as soon as possible,” Sharp said. “Day by day, the team started moving back into portions of the shop. We expect the rebuild to be completed around the end of January. There is absolutely no way we could have made that happen without the help of Menards.”


The restoration has included upgrades — a more efficient layout and additional windows for improved lighting. Crafton indicated that only final touches remain before ThorSport opens its 22nd season in the Camping World Truck Series, intent on moving forward and ending a winless streak that stretches back to last spring.


“It’s going to be a huge motivator,” Crafton said.


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