2009 NASCAR Preseason Thunder Daytona Fan Fest: Saturday news conference transcripts
An Interview With:
RAMSEY POSTON: We're joined now NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver of the No. 14 Circle Bar Power Stroke Diesel Ford, Rick Crawford. Tell us about your off season and what you're looking forward to here in 2009.
RICK CRAWFORD: It's pretty much been business as usual. I ain't going to say things have been quiet.
Brendan Gaughan wouldn't let things be quiet. I spent some time with his dad at the South Point Casino in Las Vegas and had a good time, went hunting in southwest Texas with the boss. I have the shiniest bullet in Texas because I didn't shoot it.
What else? Did y'all want to hear I have over 20 phone calls? 20 drivers. I have more phone calls than that, but 20 drivers trying to get in the seat of the No. 10 International Max Force Diesel entry after Brendan's departure, and he did that very professional. He's always been a friend of mine for the last 13 years, and a great family, and I think Brendan is probably back on the road where he needs to be to get back in the Cup Series.
Q: At last count there was only about six trucks with full sponsorship for 2009. As a veteran of the series, are you at all concerned about that level, and how do you think the season will play out?
RICK CRAWFORD: Good question. I appreciate that. Yeah, I think all the owners in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series are concerned. I think all owners in all series of racing or motorsports are concerned. It's a fragile situation, and if we don't handle it right, we're probably asking for our own answers. It needs to be handled right. We need to go back to the fans. We need to go back to the grandstands and keep them as full as we can and put great shows on on the racetrack without a lot of hassle and without a lot of change.
That's just how I feel. I mean, how else can you put it? I mean, I'm looking for answers, too. We have one more year left on our International contract on the 14 truck. We're using an International brand, and there are probably more brands than one throughout the season, but it'll be full. Our race team is fortunate to have International as a sponsor of both trucks. There's a lot of trucks out there on the fence, that they don't receive sponsorship, they'll be not coming here or to California or Atlanta or Martinsville. Some might back away from the sport.
Not only do we have to I'll say we, but you guys in this room, make up something. Make up something good, you know? Talk about me if you want to. Make it exciting. I mean, I'd love to make a movie, okay? But make something exciting, get the fans back in the stands. I will do my part on the racetrack, and maybe we can entice some owners into this sport because that's what we need, because the drivers are plentiful. I've had calls from just about everyone that doesn't have a solid deal. And y'all know what to make up. Y'all do a good job of that (laughing).
Q: Kind of following that same theme, I mean, this series has always been one where you all kind of accept yo, ur niche for what it is, you all enjoy doing what you do. How do you kind of redefine that? If you were running this, how would you kind of redefine it? Would you try to sell it as best bang for the buck, kind of like maybe how I don't want to say this is the minor league, but maybe how minor league baseball portrays itself as a good time and a good value?
RICK CRAWFORD: Well, I think it's a great value, and I think it still is the minor league of the big three that we have here in NASCAR. I wish it was still used as a steppingstone for a lot of drivers to come through this series. I think there's enough Cup drivers out there to fill the cars. I think there's a lot of Cup drivers out there that don't have the experience that maybe they need, and they should have run the steps. But they excited somebody at one point in time and missed a couple of series and some good experience. I'm just trying to say that as a veteran, just to see their results on the racetrack.
But I don't know what the fix is. I think there's a lot of problems across this United States that you're not going to know how to fix. But there's a lot of things you need to leave alone and let it fix itself. I'm not trying to be a politician or anything, but if you believe in each other and you support, don't pull your support back from what you've been doing, things will come back around. It's going to prove this year that you're going to have owners as racers again. The owners in this sport that was having a good time in the luxury of it, not going to be around. Very few of those left. The real racer is going to be the owner, and they're the ones out there going to be dominating races because they know how to run race teams.
Q: You seem very passionate about this, and not just about the Truck Series but about the whole sport in general. Is the sport facing a challenge right now to reestablish the fact that it's important and the fact its relevance, its place in the pecking order in all the entertainment dollars?
RICK CRAWFORD: This sport does not need resurrecting; it needs to be carried on with excitement. There's a lot of people out there that's not going to come to a race because they haven't been asked. If they see an entertainment value there's a lot of people out there feeling bad today that don't mind buying a $40 or $50 ticket to see some entertainment. I'm looking for a good time, okay, and there's a lot of fans out there, if they knew about us and they knew we were putting on a great show would come see it. So you might have to go a different avenue in your promotions to promote our races, but it's an open avenue.
As far as our sport is concerned, we're all feeling a crunch. But is there something wrong with our sport? No. No, there's not. But we all need to stick together and work through it. It's not going to be easy. It's not going to be a fix by Martinsville, but I think by Daytona in July, I mean, I'm the one that predicted that gas prices would be back below $3 a gallon, and look where they are. I'm not saying by Martinsville they're going to be fixed, but by July and here in Daytona, I think you're still going to have people on vacations. Hopefully they're bringing their campers to the racetrack with Ford Power Stroke diesels by International, and we can all use every aspect of this sport to promote companies and make an avenue for more companies to join our sport.
Q: There's a lot of talk about the size of the field coming up this year in the Truck Series. Is there any way you can think of instead of having field fillers to maybe use that as an opportunity to give young up and coming drivers a shot to run those races?
RICK CRAWFORD: I'd like to see that, I really would. I feel like there's field fillers in the Nationwide series and the Truck Series and there was even those guys last year. It's an opportunity for some teams to fill up our fields, to maybe enhance our program, to carry on to another race or something like that, especially that their primary trucks, let's put it that way, are very competitive. I'm not against I wish we didn't have field fillers but I'm not against it because every money that I think comes out of the prize money is put back in these teams and tried to make it to the next racer down the road.
Yeah, I've heard the rumors about not having a full field. I wish we had a full field here at Daytona. I think the one that's going to suffer will be California because the guys can't afford to go there. I wish there was some way to have a full field of 36 trucks, competitive trucks, but let me tell you one thing: If we had 28 trucks in a race or 25 trucks in a race, you'd see one hell of a damn race, and I guarantee you between Mike Skinner, Ron Hornaday and Dennis Setzer and those guys that we've always been putting on good shows, we'll have a race.
I asked Mike Helton the other day, how many trucks does it take to have a race? Two. You can't race with just one, but we can have a race with two. There you go.
Q: I assume by your comments that you've gotten calls from truck drivers, Nationwide drivers, Cup drivers for your openings. If that's the case, and putting yourself in the shoes of an unemployed driver with the quality seats shrinking, what would you do as a driver? Would you cut your salary, offer to race at a percentage? Is it an owner's market and what would you do if you were an employed driver?
RICK CRAWFORD: It's probably about time to hang the helmet up if I was unemployed and enjoy some of the things in life that you've sacrificed because of racing. But I've enjoyed everything I've done, but I'm not finished. I thought about writing a book the other day, "I'm Not Finished Yet," and then I'm going to write one behind it that says, "I'm Done." How do y'all like that? Was that a pretty good idea?
But anyway, yeah, there's been a lot of drivers call to fill that seat, and I'm proud of that fact on one hand. On the other hand I've realized the crunch that our owners are in, and I happen to be representing an owner. It also shows me the quality equipment that I'm putting on the racetrack, that we've got good crew chiefs in line, we have engines by Roush Yates, and we've got some good equipment there.
Every driver that I've had call is worthy of being Rick Crawford's teammate. We're all friends, but we're in a little different situation. It ain't a situation where you've got to buy a ride. It's a situation where Ford Motor Company pulled out of that particular team, and the driver that you're trying to put in that particular team has to bring an associate sponsor to make up the difference. And I think it's not a bad price. It's pretty fair. Hopefully we're close to signing that deal next week. And maybe a surprise being giving a guy an opportunity to run a full truck schedule. It might not be a veteran. But if it is, it'll be a good one, and I'll make sure that I try to see him in Victory Lane.
Q: You mentioned your experience. You've got a lot of it. What along the way did you learn that seems to work the best for you on the track today?
RICK CRAWFORD: Being out front, getting the rest of them out of my way. No, every lap you learn something in racing. It don't matter what level you're in. And you put that in the bank. I ain't going to say my bank is full by no means, but it has had a lot of experience there that you can see sometime when other drivers don't have the experience that you have. That might be the direction you see Circle Ball Racing going this year where if I can lend a younger driver some experience in being a teammate, might give him an opportunity to run good and run for Rookie of the Year.
Q: If and when this clears, what kind of how do you think the sport will emerge? What kind of fiscal sanity do you think will result from this in terms of maybe how teams are run or even how the sport is run?
RICK CRAWFORD: I would think that things would be back like they was. I mean, you're looking at something that might be five years down the road. But it's just like car companies; if they don't falter, they'll be back. There's a lot of things our economy and the American people are not going to quit, and I just don't feel like NASCAR is going to quit. They offer some great opportunities for people to race in all aspects of NASCAR racing, and just because I can't afford to run a truck team or a Nationwide team or a Cup team, it might mean that I could go to another organization and be a competitive and I've seen that. I mean, I've seen some truck owners be Camping World series owners today and have sponsors. It might be that you need to lower your budget a little bit and move to another series or something.
But everybody in this room knows that we're in a crunch. We're in a delicate, fragile situation, and if you came right out and said, hey, we're having excitement, we're going to have fireworks at Daytona International Speedway, you're probably saying the right thing. Is everybody going to hear it? No, because there are a lot of American people are deaf ears because they're afraid to drive to Daytona and buy whatever it costs, $40 or $50 ticket to see a truck race. They're afraid. They're afraid to put any more money in the bank. They're afraid to go spend $100 at the grocery store when they used to spend $200. I mean, it's not a fact of wanting to do it, I like to do it. I'm afraid to do it.
I wish everybody looked at it like I did. When gas prices was at $4 a gallon and they went to $1.75 a gallon I got a $50 a week raise, and let's put that back into our economy. But they're afraid to do it. If we keep hammering I'm not using that as a bad word, but if we keep saying that we have excitement and a great show, there's a lot of people that might not have enjoyed this particular sport just yet and say, you know, rather than going to an NBA game, why don't we go over there and go to Daytona, go to California, go to a race, because they've still got a lot of hype in that sport, and they're not talking about the problems that we have, they're being positive. Let's go enjoy that. Put a singing group out there on stage that people like to hear, bring Mario Andretti back to sign autographs, let him be grand marshal at one of our events. Do something different. It's got to be different. It's different times, folks. It don't hurt to be different.
I said different, I didn't say change.
RAMSEY POSTON: Thank you, sir. Appreciate it.
RICK CRAWFORD: Thank you for listening. I hope I didn't bore you, and thanks for all you do for our series. Thanks a lot.