This Week in Ford Racing November 5, 2002 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Rick Crawford, driver of the No. 14 Ford F-150, closed the points gap to leader Mike Bliss last weekend in California, and with two races remaining in the 2002 season, the ...
This Week in Ford Racing
November 5, 2002
NASCAR Craftsman Truck
Rick Crawford, driver of the No. 14 Ford F-150, closed the points gap to leader Mike Bliss last weekend in California, and with two races remaining in the 2002 season, the six-year veteran of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, knows that only 68 points separate him from the championship. Crawford spoke about his standing in the points and his outlook for the final two races, which includes the season finale in Homestead, the site of Crawford's last truck series win.
RICK CRAWFORD-14-Circle Bar Motel & RV Park Ford F-150
YOU WERE ABLE TO CUT INTO MIKE BLISS' LEAD LAST WEEK WITH YOUR FIFTH-PLACE FINISH AT CALIFORNIA.
"It just adds to the confidence level that we have and the momentum. We're taking a good piece to Phoenix and we're hoping to run really good there and then end it at Homestead. We're just giving it all that we've got. If you saw some of the moves that I made in the race on Saturday, I took some risks, but they we were calculated. We had to do everything that we could to finish as high as we could and that's all that we can do these last two races.'
YOU'VE SAID THAT YOU'RE BRINGING YOUR BEST TRUCK TO THE TRACK EACH WEEKEND, NOT SAVING ANYTHING FOR HOMESTEAD. DO YOU BELIEVE THAT THERE ARE TEAMS SAVING THEIR BEST EQUIPMENT FOR THE FINAL TWO RACES?
"Surely people are taking specialized trucks to designated race tracks that they need to run on, but ours is built for a certain type of race track. The piece that we are taking to Phoenix is the one that led the most laps at Richmond, and it ran fourth there. Ernie Elliott is supplying the best motors that he can supply for the last few races and trying to step it up as much as we can without hurting the longevity of them, and then it's up to me and the crew."
WITH THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS RACE THE PAST FEW WEEKS, HAVE YOU DONE ANYTHING EXTRA TO BETTER PREPARE FOR THE END OF THE SEASON?
"A lot of paperwork. Things you think you figure out on paper. They've added us a little extra wind tunnel time. We went to Lockheed in Atlanta and tested two days there with some Ford engineers and that helped aero-wise, but the biggest thing is working some things out with Ray Stonkus on paper and getting the balance right on these Fords."
THERE IS NO TESTING ALLOWED AT THE RACE VENUES IN THE CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES, SO YOU ARE FORCED TO RELY ON PERVIOUS YEARS' NOTES WHEN YOU GO BACK TO TRACKS LIKE PHOENIX AND HOMESTEAD. YOUR TEAM HAS COMPETED SINCE 1997 IN THE SERIES, SO ARE YOU BETTER PREPARED THESE LAST TWO RACES THAN SOME OF THE NEWER RACE TEAMS?
"I think the biggest thing is the Winston Cup knowledge that has been handed down to some of these teams such as the Ultra team and the Roush teams. The knowledge that is being handed down is helping them because the evolution of the chassis has changed. It's changed over the last year, and we're just grasping a hold of it. We had to do some things in Las Vegas that we weren't confident with and we had to be on the conservative side. When we got to California we couldn't be on the conservative side, we had to be on the offensive, and it worked for us, so you have to take that same confidence to Phoenix and to Homestead."
YOUR TEAM HAS ADEQUATE FINDING, BUT DO YOU FEEL THAT WITH THE ADDITION OF A PRIMARY SPONSOR THAT IT COULD BE EVEN BETTER?
"It's taken us a long time to get where we're at. It's been a long time building an independent team with Tom Mitchell, but we wouldn't have done it any other way. We're not going to rely on anybody but ourselves to make this a successful operation. I asked some people this weekend, older friends that we have in the business, and I asked them if they would have changed their careers in any other way, and they asked me if I would have changed mine. I do things Tom Mitchell's way and his way seems to be working each and every time that we go to the race track. I'm happy to be driving for the Circle Bar race team and Tom Mitchell and his family. We've built, not necessarily a fixture in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, but a factor and we're a contender. I wish that next year that we have that corporate image. We're looking for a sponsor to boost our program even more, maybe even a two-truck effort next year, Luckily I'm able to give to give my truck a good ride this year so a corporate image has something to sell."
THERE HAVEN'T BEEN A LOT OF CHANGES TO YOUR TEAM FROM LAST SEASON TO THE CURRENT YEAR. WHAT HAS ALLOWED YOU TO MAKE THE JUMP FROM A TOP-10 TEAM TO A CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDER?
"If you pay attention, you learn things and that's what we've done from last year to this year. We studied on changes we needed to make in the off-season, we made them and it took a quarter of the season this year to get them all in place. Once we got them all in place, you can make a championship team out of what we've had and that's what we've done."
YOU HAVE MANAGED TO STAY IN THE POINTS RACE, YET YOU HAVEN'T BEEN TO VICTORY LANE SO FAR THIS SEASON. ARE YOU SURPRISED THAT YOU'VE BEEN ABLE TO STAY IN THE HUNT EVEN THOUGH YOU HAVEN'T WON?
"It doesn't surprise me because I really don't look at that. I go to each race, no matter where it is, to win. If it's not meant to be won, then we bring it home with as good of a day as we can have. That's what I look at. I'm going to the races and I'm trying to win. I wouldn't even put on the helmet if I weren't going to try to win, but for some unforeseen circumstance or just the way the races played out, we haven't gotten a win this year. That's why they call it racing. These races are hard to get. The Craftsman Truck Series is a tough series to be in, but that doesn't mean you can't accumulate points and that doesn't mean you can't capitalize on someone else having a bad day. They've capitalized on me having a bad day. We're in the hunt, but we're also trying to win races."
YOUR LAST WIN IN THE TRUCK SERIES CAME AT HOMESTEAD IN 1998. IF THE CHAMPIONSHIP COMES DOWN TO THE FINALE IN MIAMI, HOW CONFIDENT ARE YOU RACING AT THE 1.5-MILE TRACK?
"It's been four or five years since I've won that race and last year at the beginning of the season, it almost looked like that surfboard that we were riding that wave with had washed ashore. But, a breath of fresh air has come with the total package that we have and I think that we've caught that wave again. It's just a matter of having that perfect race to win. These tracks coming up, California, we ran second there, and at Phoenix we ran third last year, and Homestead where we've won before suits me just fine. Hopefully, Ray Stonkus has a great setup under the truck and we can mash it and bring home a win."