NASCAR: ThorSport Racing not expecting lineup changes for 2021

No changes in drivers, crew chiefs or numbers are expected for ThorSport Racing for the 2021 NASCAR Truck Series season.

After three of their four drivers made the 2020 NASCAR Truck Series playoffs, ThorSport Racing confirmed that they have no plans to change their lineup for next year, marking six straight seasons with four full-time entries.

As such, Johnny Sauter is again slated to drive the #13 Ford while Matt Crafton is again set to drive the #88 Ford, Grant Enfinger is again set to drive the #98 Ford and Ben Rhodes is again set to drive the #99 Ford, marking three straight seasons with these four drivers.

“As of right now, we have no changes to our numbers, driver, and crew chief lineup for 2021,” the team confirmed to Beyond the Flag.

The news was first reported by FOX Sports reporter Bob Pockrass, who tweeted, “ThorSport tells me the plan is to have the same driver lineup next year.”

The crew chief assignments will also remain the same, which serves the team well after Crafton, Enfinger and Rhodes all won this year.

Crafton has been with ThorSport Racing his whole Truck Series career, save for the 2004 season when he competed for Kevin Harvick Incorporated. He began running full-time in the series in 2001, and the 2020 season marked the beginning of his third decade driving for the team.

Crafton and crew chief Carl Joiner Jr. have been together since the 2012 season. They have won three championships and 13 races together.

Enfinger is set to drive the #98 Ford for the fifth straight year. He previously drove for GMS Racing, notching his first career Truck Series win with the team in 2017. Since joining ThorSport Racing, he has won five races. He has finished inside the top seven in the championship standings in each of the last three years.

Jeff Hensley is set to sit atop Enfinger’s pit box for the fifth straight year. This year, Enfinger won a career-high four races, made the Championship 4 for the first time via his win at Martinsville Speedway and ultimately finished in a career-high fourth place in the championship standings.

He has won five races with Hensley. Interestingly, his win in the regular season finale at Richmond Raceway was Hensley’s second straight win at the track. Hensley won the most recent Truck Series race there in 2005 with Mike Skinner.

The 2021 season is slated to be the third year Rhodes works with crew chief Matt Noyce. Noyce guided Rhodes to career-highs in top five finishes (nine) and top 10 finishes (14) this past season. Moreover, Rhodes won the Truck Series return to Darlington Raceway. He ultimately finished in seventh place in the championship standings, the second best result of his career.

Rhodes has three career wins. In 2020, he finished in second place twice, including in the round of 8 finale at Martinsville Speedway. Had he won that race, he would have advanced to the Championship 4 instead of Enfinger.

Lastly, Sauter endured his worst Truck Series season in 2020. He failed to reach victory lane,  scored career-lows in top five finishes (three) and top 10 finishes (eight) and finished in 13th place in the championship standings, marking his first finish outside of the top nine in 12 seasons as a full-time driver.

Sauter had speed in his #13 Ford but wrecked battling for the lead at both Michigan International Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway.

After he wrecked at Texas Motor Speedway, crew chief Joe Shear Jr. expressed his frustrations with his veteran driver.

Sauter has worked with Shear for 197 Truck Series races. After working with him briefly in 2004 and 2005 and then from 2009 through 2013, Shear took over as Sauter’s crew chief again during the 2016 season en route to Sauter winning his lone championship at GMS Racing.

Shear followed Sauter from GMS Racing to ThorSport Racing in 2019 when Sauter rejoined the team; he previously drove for them from 2009 through 2015. Shear has 24 Truck Series victories, including 21 with Sauter. Sauter’s winless 2020 campaign was his first winless season since 2015.

Crafton is responsible for all three of ThorSport Racing’s Truck Series championships (2013, 2014 and 2019). But Sauter also boasts his 2016 championship, and Enfinger won the 2015 ARCA Menards Series title. The team will look to continue their winning ways in 2021. Can all four drivers make the playoffs next year?