Nazareth Two Returns for Craven

Craven makes two returns in one LOUDON, N.H. (July 8, 1998) Ricky Craven will climb back behind the wheel of the Budweiser Chevrolet on Sunday at New Hampshire International Speedway after a four-month absence from the NASCAR Winston Cup ...

Craven makes two returns in one

LOUDON, N.H. (July 8, 1998) Ricky Craven will climb back behind the wheel of the Budweiser Chevrolet on Sunday at New Hampshire International Speedway after a four-month absence from the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.

The 1.058-mile oval has been kind to Craven in the past, and the 32-year-old Newburgh, Maine, native says New Hampshire should give him a little homecourt advantage.

"I've got to admit that it's the only time each year that I get greater applause than Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon," Craven said. "There's quite a contrast between my introduction at New Hampshire and my introduction at Martinsville. If there's such a thing as homecourt advantage, maybe it's there by the support I get."

Craven last competed in the Budweiser Chevrolet on March 9 at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the PRIMESTAR 500. Since then he has been recuperating from post-concussion syndrome, an inner ear condition that came about as a result of "too many bangs up beside the head."

After competing in a NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division race at Watkins Glen on July 5 and finishing ninth, Craven convinced himself that he was ready for NASCAR Winston Cup Series competition in the Budweiser Chevrolet. And Craven couldn't ask for a better track to make his return appearance than the 12-degree turns at New Hampshire.

Crew chief Tony Furr and the rest of the Bud Brigade will welcome back Craven for the second half of the 1998 campaign after Randy LaJoie and Wally Dallenbach filled in for the 1995 NASCAR Winston Cup rookie of the year the past four months. Craven tested at Greenville-Pickens (S.C.) Speedway on Tuesday and said seat time in race conditions will be his best medicine in the upcoming weeks.

"The competition has been racing for half the season, and they're into the middle of the summer, into the heat of the summer," Craven said. "I really need to get in that car and get some laps. It's going to be a challenge.

"I felt great at Watkins Glen. I felt like everything was a success with the exception of being a bit fatigued. I do all the things that are asked of me from the standpoint of diet and rest, but nothing compares to getting in that car and absorbing the heat of the race car and the conditions in that environment. Nothing can prepare you for that other than being in the car and the repetition of it."

If everything goes according to plan, Craven will get 300 laps of repetition Sunday. The 317.4-mile chase will begin a stretch of 17 races in the final 18 weeks of the 33-event season. With last week's postponement of the Pepsi 400 at Daytona, the season will end with 15 straight races beginning on Aug. 1 at Indianapolis.

Although Craven realizes he won't be in mid-season form from the start, he's still optimistic that the Budweiser Chevrolet will end up in victory lane before the end of the year.

"This Bud team is a better team now than it's ever been," Craven said. "Hopefully, we can pick up and run like a rabbit. In a perfect world, we win a race here real soon and things go on."

In an ideal world for Craven, he would take the checkered flag in Sunday's Jiffy Lube 300 at his home track in front of family and friends that saw him grow up and dominate races in New England. In 1991, Craven ruled on the Busch Grand National North circuit with 10 victories, six poles, 13 top-five and 16 top-10 finishes. He captured the series championship and was named the most popular driver for the second straight season.

Craven will make his 98th career start on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit on Sunday. He qualified third for last year's Jiffy Lube 300 and finished 16th. Craven started sixth and finished fifth in the 1997 fall race at NHIS.

"There may be some additional pressure (racing at home track), but I really believe it's the same everywhere you go," Craven said. "The pressure comes from within, and it's been there every race I've ever driven.

"I know what I'm capable of doing in the Bud car. It's just I need to be healthy to do it. I'm wanting to run well and run among the leaders and win races. It is disappointing that the Bud team hasn't won in awhile, but I think it's mostly the chemistry. I think Tony Furr and all these guys on the Bud team are making their presence felt."

And for the first time in more than four months, Craven will get a chance to play a key role in the progress of the Budweiser team on Sunday at New Hampshire.

Source: NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Wally Dallenbach , Jeff Gordon , Ricky Craven