Ricky Craven, driver of the No. 32 Tide Taurus, visited the New Hampshire International Speedway infield media center and held a question and answer session prior to the New Hampshire 300. RICKY CRAVEN --32-- Tide Taurus "Obviously it's nice...
Ricky Craven, driver of the No. 32 Tide Taurus, visited the New Hampshire International Speedway infield media center and held a question and answer session prior to the New Hampshire 300.
RICKY CRAVEN --32-- Tide Taurus
"Obviously it's nice to be home, particularly under these circumstances having won a month ago and the opportunity to have the holiday with the family, which, ironically, was only 10 miles away. As difficult as it was for everyone to do that, it wasn't really that difficult for me because I was gonna be here anyway."
HOW DID WINNING CHANGE THINGS FOR YOU? "I try hard for it not to change anything personally, but professionally it has because I've joined that exclusive group that makes up Winston Cup winners and that's a group you'd rather be with than without. You think about the effort that goes into that. Everytime somebody wins their first race, you see the same expression and excitement. I've thought about Martinsville a lot and I didn't wake up that morning knowing I was gonna win. In fact, I went home to Charlotte that night because it rained on Sunday. I just wanted to spend the night with the kids and my wife insisted that they were in school the next morning. That's the Craven household. It's just an average American family with the responsibilities you've got. So, normally, I would take my kids to school but I couldn't do it because I had to be in Martinsville by 11 a.m. I rode to Martinsville thinking about everything except racing. I was all by myself and just rode up, and I think that's probably the difference between this year and four or five years ago when every minute, hour, and day I was thinking about racing. I had this urgency surrounding me as it related to success or winning or accomplishment. It's so clear and obvious that you can't win without a strong program and I've hooked up with a fabulous group of people led by Cal Wells, who are very intent on succeeded, who work hard and who have a passion for what they do. As a result, I believe I'm racing for the best team in Winston Cup -- certainly the best sponsor. But to answer the second part of your question, it wouldn't be a stretch for any of you to think about where my mind was in the last few years. I've said several times that I'm floating along Moosehead in the middle of the summer while they're racing Darlington or while they're racing on the west coast or wherever, and I was as far away from a television or radio as I could get. At that point, I thought a lot about how much longer I would race -- not because of anything relating to health, which I think is the most common perception people have, but opportunity. When you reflect on it you say, 'Well, you know those two or three years that I didn't race a lot provided me with a great opportunity to become healthy.' I felt like I was healthy when I got back in the car in '98, but just to not bounce off the wall and not get injured again, and, most of all, gain perspective on where I was and appreciate the things I have. When I got the opportunity this year, I honestly felt like this was gonna be the greatest Winston Cup ride that I had had and it is. Last week was a great illustration. We had a car that could have dominated the race had we not had the mechanical problem. Thirty-five races ago this thing was brand new and it's just amazing at how we've corrected some of our weaknesses and built on our strengths. Here at the end of the 2001 season, our first season together, this team is a contender every week, I feel. It's not perfect and we still have a lot of work to do, but this is the best I've felt about my racing in 20 years."
WILL YOU HAVE A HOMECOURT ADVANTAGE TODAY? "I think I'll have a homecourt advantage up until introduction. Then when I strap into the Tide Ford I'm gonna have to take on 42 of the best racers in the world. I'll try to retain that psychological advantage from introduction, but it really is very dependent on how well the Tide Ford runs. There was a tremendous premium on practice this morning. It was 45 minutes and that process of practice usually begins with this routine of troubleshooting that absorbs 30 minutes of that. So you're left with 15 minutes and how well you practice today is gonna reflect how well you run."
DO YOU THINK THE GUYS HAVE THOUGHT ABOUT WHY WE'RE HERE TODAY? "That's absolutely what we should be thinking about. I also think you give consideration to the sun coming up at 6:45 or whatever it was this morning. I stayed here last night and they had the blowers going at 4:00, which didn't make a lot of sense, but I woke up to the roar of the blowers going early in the morning and I just couldn't believe I saw fans in the grandstands. When I came out of my motorhome with a cup of coffee they were already in the grandstands. That's why we're here. If we could we obviously would erase September 11th and prevent it from ever happening, but it did happen and from NASCAR's perspective this was the only alternative. Really, when you think about it, it was very fair. In some people's minds it wasn't realistic, but it was very fair because the fans had bought the tickets and the speedway had spent a lot of money preparing for the race that day. We owe it to the fans to put this show on and if there was any question as to the legitimacy of having the event the day following Thanksgiving, it'll be solved or answered when we fire up. The place will be full. I really believe that and you can see they're here already, so that's why we're doing it. There's no question that the United States represents the most freedom of any country in the world. We have a lot of privilege and we have to fight to keep that. There are just a lot of things that are in jeopardy by what happened on September 11th, so that's the cause. We don't want to give up any of that and that's why this is such a wonderful place to live because we have the freedom to do anything we like, including flying our own aircraft and wearing whatever clothes we want and attending whatever school or restaurant or whatever. That's part of what we're fighting for, but I absolutely admire and commend anyone in action in the military -- the Air Force, the Marines. My grandfather was a World War II veteran. My grandmother and grandfather are the two people I miss the most in my life right now, but I think back about wishing I had spent more time talking to him about World War II and appreciating what he and thousands of others did for us."
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO SEE THINGS LIKE A 32 BANNER HANGING IN THE GRANDSTAND? "That's an endorsement. That's awesome. That means there are a few less Dupont shirts and a few more Tide hats and t-shirts. Essentially, that's what we do. We try to put on a great product that the fans get excited about and enjoy, which we had a few years ago. In 1995 I was Winston Cup rookie of the year and there were a lot of hats and t-shirts then and a lot of Budweiser hats and t-shirts in '97. The hats and t-shirts have diminished across the country, except here in New England and that's what I'm most proud of. I'm extremely proud of being a New England boy and anyone from New England understands what that represents. They're a model of strength or toughness. This is a tough environment to live in for three, four or five months a year and I really appreciate New England people. I appreciate people around the world, but New England people are special to me and coming home and seeing the Tide hats and t-shirts is a big boost. When we get back here in July of next year, I truly believe there will be more orange hats and shirts."
ON THANKSGIVING HERE. "I'm guessing that Bob and Gary Bahre served Thanksgiving dinner yesterday. Nobody told me that. That wasn't a statement or a question, but I do want to recognize that they're a fine, fine family. Everytime I come here I enjoy the time I spend with Bob and Gary. That's another example of New England and the hospitality. Whether it's a lobster dinner or a turkey dinner, they really deserve a lot of credit. They certainly have made the best of this situation themselves and I think they deserve some credit."