RICK CRAWFORD-14-Circle Bar Motel & RV Park Ford F-150 (Finished 1st) TALK ABOUT THE FINISH. "It was. I enjoy being a part of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. When they said the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event was going to be run at ...
RICK CRAWFORD-14-Circle Bar Motel & RV Park Ford F-150 (Finished 1st)
TALK ABOUT THE FINISH. "It was. I enjoy being a part of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. When they said the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event was going to be run at Daytona for the first time, you feel like Elvis when you come through the tunnel - your hands are shaking and your knees are weak. Now I get to race at Daytona where all my heroes raced at. I'm from Alabama. The Alabama Gang did really well here with Donnie and Bobby Allison, Red Farmer and Neil Bonnet. They paved the road for me to be able to race and here we are. This weekend, Ford didn't get what they were looking for after qualifying, and I really don't care. Being in Victory Lane at Daytona is a really special feeling. I don't like the word awesome, it's special. I think when I get through and can change clothes, I think I'm going back to Victory Lane to sit there for a moment and let it soak in. The race, starting 19th, got the green flag, the first caution we were 11th or 12th, had a good truck. Ray Stonkus, Allan Vigil Ford engines, the pit crew, Phil Horton has been teaching these guys pit stops since last June, that's how come we were second in the points. We bring him here to Daytona with no changes over the winter and a great job in the pits. So we get back to going green again and I find myself running third with Mike Wallace and Bobby Hamilton and I'm content with that. We had another caution, come in and we're back out and I happen to be leading. Every time somebody would go to the outside to make a move on you, they couldn't do it. My spotter Milt Bishop told me to keep it on the yellow line. I did. I had a great handling truck and ran around the bottom of this two-and-a-half-mile race track and never let it get off the yellow line. I said green-white-checkered, my old buddy always told me that when you're coming in for a green-white-checkered and you're leading the race, he said, 'Don't bring them in there the same way you've been doing it.' I got a good restart and led to the white flag and going down the back straightaway I noticed Robert Pressley getting a run on the outside, which he could and he did by himself, and Terry Cook followed me and got to racing back there with Mike Wallace and I got a little pull off of Robert Pressley. He completed the pass. I got a little pull off of Robert Pressley going into 3 and coming off of 4 I had a head of steam. He put a block on me; he thought I was going high. I was going for a win anyway. He put a block on me to go high and I went low and had some room and went back to that yellow line again and beat him to the line."
WHAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE IN THE FINISHES FOR THE TRUCK? IS IT AERODYNAMICS? "I don't know. NASCAR has put two-inch hoses on our trucks for this weekend's race. We qualified at 182. They draft really well. If you looked at our practice times yesterday morning, we practiced at 190 miles an hour. The truck I have is what we called 'Old Hound Dog.' When it gets a sniff of air it just picks up a head of steam and that's what it did. I'm proud to be driving it. Ray Stonkus is the crew chief. Tom Mitchell is the owner; we have a winning team."
DID YOU HAVE ANY WORRIES ABOUT RUNNING OUT OF GAS? "NO, when we pitted under the green on our last pit stop, we took on two tires and completely filled it up. I think that was at lap 73 and we had gone 33 laps the time before we fueled, so I had time to spare."
YOU SAID THE FORDS DIDN'T HAVE A CHANCE EARLIER IN THE WEEK, BUT YOU POSTED THE FASTEST TIME IN PRACTICE YESTERDAY. DID THAT CHANGE YOUR OUTLOOK? "Not necessarily. I knew we could draft well and I did that following one of those barbed wire trucks. It was a little misbelieving as far as I was concerned. Yeah, you saw a Ford on the top of the speed chart, but I was doing it following another truck. Coming into the race, I noticed the way the wind was and the way the turbulence was that the outside line wasn't doing what it was supposed to do. On the last lap, yeah, Robert got a run on me and completed the pass, but nobody was able to do that all race long. When we had three trucks, Mike Wallace, Brendan Gaughan and myself and Terry Cook on that yellow line, nobody could pass us on the outside. Knowing that all day, I think that helped the last lap."
"Me and Lisa were looking at the press guide that Owen Kearns and I noticed that thing reached out and bit me that I hadn't won a race in 120-something starts. I knew that had to be over. When last year ended, I told Tom Mitchell, I made a suggestion to him, I don't tell him anything. I made the suggestion to him that if we were going to win the championship that we had to win races. That was important for us. Last year we almost won the championship but we didn't win any races. This year we started off pretty quick in Victory Lane and ended that drought. If we would have won the championship last year it would have been different for us, but we didn't. If we would have won six races or 10 races last year, it wouldn't have made the difference of winning here at Daytona. You all don't understand how special that is to me."
"I was hanging on to the yellow line and I saw this red truck pass me on the outside and went on by. Until I came off of 4, I realized that I sniffed some wind and caught a little draft and went up the banking with him and had a head of steam. All the spotter said was, 'Clear.' And when he said clear, I noticed Robert pulled up the hill in front coming off of 4 when we got on the flat and tried to put the block on and left me the bottom lane. The steam I had was a little more than his to get to the stripe."
TALK ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH RAY STONKUS. "I might get a little emotional here. Before we came to Daytona, we had a celebration at our shop. Ray thought he had cancer and he was cleared. They're going to clear it up with some medication. That was our first victory. For me to come to Victory Lane at Daytona with Ray, when he retires I'll retire because we're that close. My boss just told me that I can't retire after I won Daytona, so we're going to race a little while longer."
"I didn't see a third truck out there. When Robert went by me and completed the pass, I got the tow back off of him and then I was doing my job of trying to beat that one truck. I felt like we were second then. I looked in my mirror again and I realized that I didn't think anybody was behind me. Now I know we got a really tow off of Robert, so I thought it was a two-truck race. I might have to watch the film, I guess, and see how drastic it was. I didn't notice anybody else."
"I did a little small burnout out there. I knew Mr. France would get made if I went across his grass. It probably would have been well worth it. I might have done that coming for the checkered flag, too, go across the grass. He let me have it down to the yellow line and I don't think I went below it and had enough to beat him."
TALK ABOUT YOU OUTLOOK ON THE CHAMPIONSHIP. "Really good. We're going to Darlington next. We finished fourth there two years in a row. I know the Cup guys invade up there too, plus we have three, four, five Cup guys racing full-time in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series anyway to make this exciting, so the Cup guys will invade us at Darlington. Last year, a 24th-pllace finish here at Daytona was my worst throughout the whole year. In fact, the first six races we were insurance racing. We couldn't put ourselves in position to win because we had to have good finishes in order to get back in the points. Now I feel like we can run hard all year long and just do it. We won at Daytona. The Circle Bar Team won at Daytona. How proud could that be? No matter what happens the rest of the year, we're going for a championship, but no matter what happens Rick Crawford has won Daytona."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT REVVING THE ALABAMA GANG AND YOU BEING THE LEADER? "I'll never be the leader of the Alabama Gang. Bobby Allison, Donnie Allison, Red Farmer, Neil Bonnet, they are the Alabama Gang. I'm just racing along from South Alabama on roads that they paved for me to race on. In fact, Donnie Allison was in my trailer a coupe of days ago. It made me feel honored that he came by and gave me some advice about running at Daytona. I kept that in mind all day, but I guess looking at Ken Squier, who called the Daytona 500 for many, many years, how David Pearson, Cale Yarborough and those guys used to do it sorta gave me insight on what to do coming off of 4 on the last lap. That was in the back of my mind, but seeing the checkered flag was the main thing."
IF ROBERT HAD NOT MOVED UP, DO YOU THINK YOU STILL COULD HAVE GOT AROUND HIM? "No, Robert would have probably put me in the wall. Robert Pressley is a tough race car driver. He deserves to still be in Winston Cup like Ted Musgrave and Bobby Hamilton and Jason Leffler. We have a great bunch of race car drivers running in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. I hope one day Rick Crawford gets to climb the fence and race Winston Cup, but right now the Circle Bar race team is focused on the 2003 championship. I was expecting Robert Pressley to do what he did coming off of 4. I would have done the same thing. I just appreciate him leaving me enough room to pass him coming down to the line."