Michigan: This Week in Ford Racing

This Week in Ford Racing July 27, 2004 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series At the midpoint of the 25-race NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season, Rick Crawford, driver of the No. 14 F-150, knows there is room for improvement. Currently seventh...

This Week in Ford Racing
July 27, 2004

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series

At the midpoint of the 25-race NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season, Rick Crawford, driver of the No. 14 F-150, knows there is room for improvement. Currently seventh in the points standings, 234 points out of the lead, Crawford has suffered setbacks in the past two races, posting consecutive finishes outside of the top 15 for the first time since midway through the 2001 season. As the series heads to Michigan International Speedway this weekend for the Line-X 200, Crawford rated the first half of his season and commented on some of the recent issues surrounding the series.

RICK CRAWFORD -14-Circle Bar Motel & RV Park Ford F-150

THROUGH THE FIRST 12 RACES OF THE SEASON, YOU HAVE ONE WIN AND ARE CURRENTLY SEVENTH IN THE POINT STANDINGS. HOW WOULD YOU RATE THE FIRST HALF OF YOUR SEASON?

"We're real lucky we're not in as bad of shape as we could have been. Going through the ordeal we went through at Atlanta, I think we recovered from that rather well, winning at Martinsville and trying to get back in the points race. But here lately, I guess two out of the last three races, we've shot ourselves in each foot and it's not necessarily anybody else's fault but our own. The team has to stop making mistakes on the race track, in preparation, get its consistency back and run up front. We've got to lead some laps. We've got to win some races, and we've got to get back in this points picture, and it's not hard to do. If you look at the overall picture, it's not hard to do, but a couple of more bad races and you're done. At that point, you're fighting for an outside chance at a top-10 in the points because the competition is so close. You've got to get competitive and you've got to stay competitive and you can't wait, you've got to do it starting this weekend. I can't dwell on the first half, but I'm sure going to try to fix some of the mistakes we made."

HAS THE WIN AT MARTINSVILLE BEEN A RALLYING POINT FOR THIS TEAM THROUGH THE FIRST HALF OF THE SEASON?

"Any time you win in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series it's important, and that was a special win. That was special for us there and I think we deserved to win. It's not like somebody handed it to us or we knocked somebody out of the race, we beat the rest of the field. Martinsville was special for us and I won't ever forget it, but you're only as good as your last race and you wanted to win the next one. We wanted to go to Mansfield to win. We wanted to go to Charlotte and to Texas to win. We're not as good at some places as we need to be. Ford Motor Co. and Circle Bar Racing have a great new Ford F-150 and we've utilized some testing time here in the last few weeks to try to find out more about it. Right now there are a few modernized technologies that are throwing us for a loop and hopefully this testing time that we've used in the last couple of weeks have helped us figure out the last half of the season. Still, you can have a perfect truck and you can have a decent race and not have a good finish. Your strategy plays in, your pit crew plays in, the equipment plays into effect, and all of that has to be perfect. I've always said that you have to run a perfect race in order to win, and that still stands."

HOW IS THE PARITY RIGHT NOW BETWEEN THE MANUFACTURERS IN THE SERIES?

"The biggest thing is the teams getting the trucks prepared. I think that's the biggest thing and I don't see anything wrong from one make to the other. I'm not the type to point fingers and say that this truck is better than mine or this engine is better than the one I've got. It's my responsibility to make my piece as good as it can get, and until I do that, I can't complain about the other makes or what the other teams are doing. My priority focuses on Circle Bar Racing and the new F-Series pickup, not the other teams. I know where we're getting beat and I think we need to fix ourselves before we complain about someone else."

THREE OF THE FOUR MANUFACTURERS HAVE CAPTURED MULTIPLE WINS SO FAR THIS YEAR. ARE YOU SURPRISED THAT NOT ALL MANUFACTURERS HAVE BEEN REPRESENTED IN THE WIN COLUMN?

"Yes. I know how strong they are. I follow them sometimes and sometimes they follow me, but I know they've got some strong pieces out there, but like I said before about our problem, they haven't had the perfect race yet. When they do put together their perfect race they'll be in Victory Lane, but I'm surprised they haven't been in Victory Lane sooner."

THERE SEEM TO BE MORE LATE-RACE INCIDENTS IN THE SERIES THIS YEAR COMPARED TO PAST SEASONS. IS THAT THE RESULT OF AN INCREASED LEVEL OF COMPETITION?

"It's difficult to win and it's also difficult to pass. The trucks are pretty equal and when you get them out there towards the end of race with the tires wore out and they're slipping and sliding with the setups we have to run nowadays, you've got a handful. If you look at some of the Cup races and some of the Busch races, you don't see cars running side by side, and it's hard for a truck to run side by side. It's due to the setups that are on the pickups and due to the drivers that don't want to back off. The side-by-side racing usually ends up with a tire mark or two or crashing another vehicle, and I think that's what you saw this past weekend in Loudon. If you looked at the Busch and Cup races you saw a lot of crashing going on, but if you looked at it when they running under the green flag you saw a lot of tire marks on the sides of the cars and I think that's due to the difficulty of these things having side bite to them when you are side by side. When you lose that you lose that air and it's already carried back down to the pickups. The pickups aren't efficient right now with the setups under them, but you have to put that setup in there to be fast, and it's up to the drivers to hang on to them and they're a handful to hang on."

THE TRUCK SERIES COMPETITORS ARE AT MICHIGAN INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY THIS WEEKEND, A TRACK KNOWN FOR MULTIPLE GROOVES AND A WIDE RACING SURFACE. DO YOU STILL EXPECT TO SEE THAT KIND OF BUMPING AND BANGING THIS WEEKEND?

"No, I think you will see some of that stuff. It's a multi-groove race track and it's wide open, but you're running door handle to door handle like they did in the old days and these pickups won't do that any more and be stable for some reason. There are a couple of guys that have figured this deal out there and there are a bunch of guys that haven't figured it out, so when somebody steps inside of you or somebody steps around the outside of you, you're going to have to back off a little bit and give that other driver some room or you're going to see a crash."

YOU WERE INVOLVED IN A LATE-RACE CRASH AT GATEWAY, THE RESULT OF MULTIPLE ATTEMPTS AT FINISHING A RACE UNDER GREEN-FLAG CONDITIONS. ARE YOU SATISFIED WITH THE NEW RULE THAT ALLOWS THE COMPETITORS JUST ONE ATTEMPT AT A GREEN-WHITE CHECKERED FINISH, IF NECESSARY?

"I'm for the new rule. I can sit and watch a race from the grandstands with the best of fans, and if I was sitting in the grandstands and saw the race end under caution I would be a little disappointed. I came to see a race and I came to see a finish, but telling the fans that they're only going to get two shots at finishing a race, once under green and then with a green-white-checkered, I think that's enough. A green-white-checkered isn't but two green-flag laps, and just because drivers can't run two laps without tearing up a bunch of equipment, that's a driver's fault. But, I do think that giving the fans the opportunity to see the finish of a race, and it's not but two more laps basically after a caution is thrown, I think that is enough. Not given what happened at St. Louis, but I like racing to the bitter end and it sure was bitter. That race ranks in the top three of the maddest I've ever been in racing and I've been racing for quite a while."

-ford-

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