Back to the future for ThorSport Racing at Iowa after major fire
It didn't take long for the general manager of ThorSport Racing, David Pepper, to figure out how to handle the mangled logistics of this Camping World Truck Series race weekend at Iowa Speedway.
Facing an unusual and difficult set of circumstances just four days after a major fire totally destroyed nearly 40 percent of the ThorSport fabrication shop in Sandusky, Ohio, Pepper knew just what to do.
Pepper turned the clock back to the old days for the four teams ThorSport fields in the Truck Series.
"We kind of went back to the late '90s of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series when we used to work in parking lots at Sears stores," Pepper told the media at Iowa Speedway, where the CWTS Speediatrics 200 will be held Saturday night (9 p.m. ET, FS1). "So for the old guard there at the race shop it was kind of a throwback and in some ways not that bad."
And for the new guard? Maybe not so much, but they eventually adjusted to it, too.
"Some of the young guys were pretty amazed that we used to build these things out in parking lots in between races out on the West Coast," Pepper admitted.
ThorSport, owned by Duke and Rhonda Thorsen, fields entires in the Truck Series for drivers two-time series champion Matt Crafton, Cameron Hayley, Ben Rhodes and Rico Abreu.
Despite the fact that nearly 40 percent of the fab shop had to be demolished in order for firefighters to reach other hot spots in the ceiling of the structure, the organization was able to scramble and get trucks to the track and ready for Friday's opening two practices at Iowa. Pepper said the plan is for all four teams to continue to compete on a full-time basis in the series.
While Pepper credited his own ThorSport employees for their dedication and determination in making full participation in this race weekend possible, he also made it a point to say there were many others not affiliated with ThorSport who pitched in to make it happen. Pepper said other race teams and local businesses in the Sandusky community deserve some of the credit.
"We always say we have some of the best fans, the best competitors, this is the best sport in the world -- and when you have an event like this it really shines through," Pepper said. "The first 24 hours I got over 400 text messages and emails from competitors. Red Horse Racing, KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports), GMS (Racing), just in the Truck Series. We had some Cup teams offer up haulers and pit boxes."
But Pepper said the bulk of the credit for minimizing the damage and helping ThorSport stay on track for this weekend belongs to the firefighters and other first responders who were quick to get to the scene after the fire broke out early last Monday morning. The cause of the blaze still has not been determined and is under investigation, according to Pepper.
"We would not be here racing without the first responders," Pepper said. "We had fire departments from four different locations in the county there."
They were able to help remove from the scene transporters for each of the four race teams, with one truck and at-track pit boxes in each, without damage to any of them. A total of "seven or eight" other trucks were salvaged from the fire with what appeared to be minimal damage to them, according to Pepper.
"They were literally pushing race trucks out," Pepper added. "They're big race fans. They know us. They're putting a fire out and they're in full fire gear, asking us what trucks do they need to push out to us so we can be here at Iowa this week. They were in there pushing them to the door and then we'd take them the rest of the way. We would not be here racing without those guys."