Craven makes big-time return in Pepsi 400 By Dave Rodman DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 17, 1998) Ricky Craven didn't need to make any statements to prove his worth in a race car, but his eighth-place run in Saturday night's Pepsi 400 at ...
Craven makes big-time return in Pepsi 400 By Dave Rodman
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 17, 1998) Ricky Craven didn't need to make any statements to prove his worth in a race car, but his eighth-place run in Saturday night's Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway in relief of Ernie Irvan made a big one anyway. In the process Craven gained Irvan a spot in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series standings -- from 14th to 13th -- which was the main reason the regular driver of the Wild Berry Skittles Pontiac started the event, while suffering from bumps, bruises and a major headache from an accident in last Sunday's Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Craven replaced Irvan -- who had started from the 43rd slot after dropping to the rear due to making the driver change since Craven had qualified the car -- under the night's first caution, for rain on lap 13. By lap 50 Craven was into the top-10 and he was never out of contention for a spot there, despite suffering a flat tire late in the event. The car was fine, to both Irvan and Craven, and that was hardly the issue after the 400-mile test. The irony came in Craven, earlier this season, giving up his seat in the Budweiser Chevrolet while he recovered from injuries. He returned to the car after missing 12 races and won a Bud Pole, but was fired from his ride four races later. "I hate the circumstances that caused this to come about and I hate what Ernie has to go through," Craven said. "Ernie and I know what this is all about ..." "I had some bitterness about not being able to finish the year at Hendrick Motorsports," Craven said of his firing after the Bud at The Glen in early August -- his last series race before this weekend. He has, however, competed several times in his NASCAR Busch Series car. "I chose to stay away and clear my head rather than come back and force the issue. Sometimes things don't work and you move on, but I still have a good friend in Rick Hendrick. "As far as my racing career, I'm 32 years old and I'm probably the most patient I've ever been in my life waiting for the right opportunity. When we get that opportunity we're going to go. I'm just a racer ... I've done it all my life." While Craven did his post-race media dealings, wife K.K. stood patiently behind the car, chatting with friends and smiling contentedly. "I'm pretty happy, relieved, refreshed -- yeah, all that," she said. "I'm excited for him because this is exactly what he needed ... and I think it'll put any doubts about his ability out of people's minds." Ricky Craven agreed -- though not surprisingly "doubt" has never been in his vocabulary. "This is what I needed in terms of a boost," he said. "I've never doubted my ability. There's times when I've been frustrated, but I've done this all my life. I've had too much success and too many talented people and wonderful crews around me for it not to be real. "The thing at Hendrick kind of took the wind out of my sails. It hurt them too ... but we pick up the pieces and move on. They've got a program for next year and I'll have a program for next year. It's a matter of settling in with the right car and the right people." If he can duplicate his Daytona run there'll be more smiles in the future. "The car ran great," Craven said. "I really love Daytona, it's one of my favorites. I want to settle in with somebody, and hopefully, tonight helped."
Source: NASCAR Online