Loudon: Ricky Craven preview

HICKORY, NC (July 20, 2004) - Ricky Craven, driver of the No. 32 Tide Chevrolet, returns to his "home" track this weekend, New Hampshire International Speedway (NHIS). Craven, who hails from Newburgh, Maine, has won at NHIS in both the Busch...

HICKORY, NC (July 20, 2004) - Ricky Craven, driver of the No. 32 Tide Chevrolet, returns to his "home" track this weekend, New Hampshire International Speedway (NHIS). Craven, who hails from Newburgh, Maine, has won at NHIS in both the Busch Series and Busch North Series, but has yet to claim the checkered flag in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. A win there would rank higher with Craven than at any other track on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup circuit.

Ricky Craven, driver of the No. 32 Tide Chevrolet:

Your thoughts on NASCAR's new green/white/checkered flag finish rule for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series?

"I think it is a compromise in that the fans certainly deserve to see the race finish under green. They have voiced their displeasure and they are the bottom line. There is a bottom line in every business and the fans are the bottom line to this business. From a competitor's standpoint, there is a certain amount of strategy that goes into a 400-mile or 500-mile race, and that will be altered some by this decision. But the fact that they are only going to have one green/white/checkered makes it much clearer for all of us. I think it is a good compromise. I was actually able to watch the finish of Talladega on TV this year, when they finished under caution, and from a viewer's standpoint, it just didn't work. Although I'm not campaigning for a green/white/checkered finish at Talladega, the fans don't feel like they've gotten their money's worth when the race ends under caution."

New England fans are passionate about racing and their favorite New England driver, Ricky Craven. What is it like to be the hometown favorite?

"Unbelievable. It is really cool. I get preferential treatment anytime I go back to New Hampshire and that has never changed. It was there in 1990 and 1991 when I lived 10 miles from the track and was successful in Busch North and was winning races there. It was there when we won our first Cup pole in New Hampshire, but it was also there when I was in the No. 50 car part-time. It is more about being a New England boy than about performance. It's about being part of the family."

What is the best thing about coming home to NHIS?

"A lot of things that I took for granted. The cool nights, the smell in the air...whether it is the fir, spruce or pine trees...it is just a certain smell I grew up with. I love the seafood up in that area. There is a place about one an hour from the racetrack called Newick's located in Dover, New Hampshire that I love to eat at. Also getting to see all my family and friends is very special."

What would it mean to you to win at NHIS?

"That would be big. I have not met expectations as of yet and that is definitely a disappointment. In 1997, we were leading the race, then the race went green forever and we ended up in fifth for the day. In the 50 car, we led the first 75 laps and since we were a part-time team, we didn't have the most solid pit crew. I remember coming in with the lead and exiting like in 20th."

"I have put a little additional pressure on myself to win there. I have won in everything else there...Busch North and Busch Series. I've won poles in Busch North, Busch Series and Cup. The only thing we haven't done is won in a Cup car and that would be an exclamation point for me, if we could do that. The victory lane celebration would probably take three days!"

Talk about the evolution at NHIS over the past few years. Have the changes made it better?

"I love the track because I was there the day they opened.  I actually
preferred the track before they made the changes.  I was never in favor of
making the changes because I'm sort-of a purist.  Fenway Park is Fenway
Park.  Leave it alone.  Preserve the green monster...don't mess with it.
That track is home...it is the Boston Garden for me.  It is Fenway Park for
me.  The changes weren't important to me. "

Is there one place you have to visit or one thing you have to do when you come to Loudon?

"The biggest challenge I have is balancing the distraction between the things that I want to do and the things that I have to do. That has gotten better over the years, but I actually got to a point a while ago where I had to say 'no' as I was doing everything that was requested of me. I woke up Sunday morning, was utterly exhausted, and I was like, 'Wow, I've got to race today!' I've backed off some and now it is about seeing as many friends and family as I can, but there is such a premium on performing there. The expectations are so high. There is the whole schedule for me, and then there are the two New Hampshire races. The expectations are quite different. Not that I don't want to win every race on the schedule, but it is just for the people in the grandstands at New Hampshire and mine are all about winning or nothing."

Appearances: Craven will make the following appearances during the NHIS race weekend.

* Craven will serve as the honorary chairperson for the Northeast Delta Dental Race Fever festival held in downtown Concord, New Hampshire on Thursday, July 22nd. He will sign autographs from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

* On Friday, July 23rd, Craven will appear at the VIP Parts, Tires and Service Store in Tilton, New Hampshire located at 117 Laconia Road. He will sign autographs from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. The store phone number is 603-286-7557.

* Craven will sign autographs on Saturday, July 24th, from approximately 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Tide Souvenir Rig. Please check with the souvenir rig in advance for ticket distribution.

Team Notes: Craven and the Tide Racing team tested at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Monday, July 19th and Tuesday, July 20th.

Chassis No. 52: The Tide Racing team is taking Chassis No. 52 to NHIS this weekend. The car is a short track chassis and ran at Martinsville and Richmond earlier in the 2004 season.

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Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Ricky Craven