This Week in Ford Racing October 15, 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup It's been one year since Ricky Craven, driver of the No. 32 Tide Taurus, recorded his first NASCAR Winston Cup victory when he edged Dale Jarrett in a dramatic side-by-side battle...
This Week in Ford Racing
October 15, 2002
NASCAR Winston Cup
It's been one year since Ricky Craven, driver of the No. 32 Tide Taurus, recorded his first NASCAR Winston Cup victory when he edged Dale Jarrett in a dramatic side-by-side battle to win the Old Dominion 500. Craven re-lived that memorable day and spoke about the circumstances and adversity drivers face when going to the half-mile short track in southern Virginia.
RICKY CRAVEN --32-- Tide Taurus
DOES IT SEEM LIKE A YEAR SINCE YOU GOT THAT FIRST WIN? "It does not seem like a year. I'm really excited and I know the team is excited about going back to Martinsville and defending. For me, it's the first time we've defended a race. I would have expected to have at least a couple more wins at this point, but that's exactly why I love what I'm doing because you can't ever take anything for granted. This is the most competitive form of racing in the world and, like Martinsville, you need to have a nearly perfect day to win. We've had some very good days in 2002, we just haven't had that perfect day, but I believe that could happen at anytime."
HOW DOES RICKY CRAVEN, DEFENDING CHAMPION, SOUND? "It's great, and there's some responsibility that goes along with that because when the race is over you want to be able to defend it again. I have a great deal of respect for the competition. My gosh, there's a lot of talent in this garage and every week we're reminded of it, but I feel going into Martinsville that we have a little bit of extra confidence just because of how well we've run there. I feel that same confidence at Charlotte and Dover and Rockingham, and maybe a psychological advantage or confidence at New Hampshire even though, statistically, we haven't supported that. It's great going to Martinsville, especially with the Tide team because we've led every race since I've been with them at that track and that can work to your advantage."
THAT FINISH WAS ONE OF THE MORE MEMORABLE OF LAST YEAR WITH YOU AND DALE JARRETT GOING SIDE BY SIDE. "That made it special and it's also been very rewarding for me personally because I believe it was a reflection of what we all represent. We didn't want anything given to us, we wanted to earn it and we earned that win. We won that race because several people on the Tide team did an exceptional job that day. Specifically, you have to look at how difficult Martinsville is mechanically on the engine, the brakes, the transmission, the gears, and none of that failed. All of that stuff was top notch. Mike (Beam) decided to go with two tires as opposed to four at the end and that got us the track position we needed. From that point on we had to race as hard as we've ever raced the last 15 laps. That's very important to me. Personally, I would not have wanted to win my first race on fuel mileage. I would have taken it. I wouldn't have complained, but I sure appreciate how we won that race."
IS IT KIND OF LIKE A KID WHO PLAYS BASKETBALL IN THE BACKYARD DREAMING OF HITTING THE WINNING SHOT AT THE BUZZER? "That's a great analogy because every one of us did that as a kid, whether it was basketball, football, baseball or racing go-karts. Growing up you just want to be in that duel at the end and come out on top. The great thing about this business is that if you do it long enough, you're gonna experience everything. We've lost a few that way, so it's nice to feel the flip side of that."
WAS IT MORE COMFORTING HAVING JARRETT ON YOUR OUTSIDE AS OPPOSED TO MAYBE SOMEBODY ELSE? "There's no doubt. Absolutely. There are other guys that I perhaps would have had as much comfort with, knowing I could race side by side and I would not get roughed up. I knew we could pull every rabbit out of the hat or play every trick there was to play, but one thing is for sure -- I wasn't gonna spin Dale out and he wasn't gonna spin me out. That was fun. That allowed us to create one of the best finishes of the year because of the way he races people and, I hope, because of the way that I race people. There are other guys that are just as cool to race with, but there are a handful that I wouldn't have wanted in that position. Some of that is just because of circumstances. Maybe because some are too young and don't have the maturity, or perhaps it would be a situation where they hadn't won in a long time. I felt like I had roughed Dale up coming off turn two, but I didn't feel sorry for it. However, had I knocked him in the wall or he got a flat tire because of it, then I would have felt bad. That wouldn't have been the way I wanted to win, but the last couple of laps my responsibility went from being offensive to being defensive because he was coming on. I think those last couple of laps was a little bit of Unity Raceway, a little bit of Oxford Plains Speedway, a little bit of Thunder Road, Vermont -- all those things bottled up. When you get in that situation, you reference places like that and, if you don't, then you'll never make it in this business. Experience is a wonderful thing if you use it. If you can't retain it or you don't understand it, then you're just another racer. The satisfaction for me was not just winning the race and how we won it, but the fact that the first driver to get to me was Dale Jarrett. That secured in my mind that I raced him the way he would have raced me and that's exactly what happened. We raced each other the way we should have. He's a champion and I look up to him. That was a great way to finish the race."
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO NOT ONLY WIN BUT TO SURVIVE 500 LAPS AT MARTINSVILLE WITHOUT GETTING YOURSELF INTO TROUBLE? "I think that you can create that. Sometimes you can be a victim of it, but you can create your own problems at Martinsville. There's a fine line between being aggressive and over-aggressive. I felt we had a great chance to win the spring race of this year. We were leading with 100-150 laps to go, but between me and a handful of other drivers, we didn't handle that aggression very well and it caught up with us. There are so many things that exist at Martinsville that don't exist at other places and that compounds the problem. I would say that we face very unusual cockpit temperatures, a lot of brake dust, a lot of fumes. Martinsville is physically demanding. It's probably the most physical race with perhaps the exception of Bristol, but, in my mind, probably the most physical race because you use the legs a lot more. By the 300th and 400th lap of the race, you're challenged by all these elements and that's normally when things come unglued. Even the race that we won, you look at what happened in the last 50 laps and some of the circumstances where drivers got together or got black-flagged and retaliated -- whatever the circumstances were -- it was just a result of Martinsville. It was just a result of 500 laps on one of the toughest short tracks in America and as difficult or frustrating or miserable as that might sound, that's exactly why every one of us wants to take home the Grandfather clock because at the end of the day you know you've accomplished something."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON SPOTTERS BEING MANDATORY FOR ALL PRACTICES AND THE RACE? "I had assumed that we had to have spotters for practice because I think the Tide team has always operated under those conditions. I think part of that is just Cal Wells. Cal is the most safety-conscious car owner I've ever raced for. He's introduced me to a lot of things that have made me feel better about the race car and being inside that Tide Ford, the least of which is the seat we began the 2002 season with and have raced through the entire year with comfort and a great deal of confidence knowing that we're in a superior product. But as it relates to the spotters, I assumed that we had to have them and I can say with confidence that we've never gone on the race track without a spotter -- it's just part of our program and our procedure. I think it's wonderful and I commend NASCAR for making it mandatory, but we had already assumed that. Everything that we're doing, I believe, is working towards making the sport safer, but, sometimes it's easy to be impatient. Anytime you lose a member of your family like we did last week, it's painful. Nobody knows how to respond or react to it because nothing prepares you for it. It seems like it's happened too often, but we need to continue to focus on the safety and the improvements and NASCAR mandating things like they have the last few years certainly brings some confidence to all of us."