NASCAR HOPEFUL ERIN CROCKER RETURNS TO GRASS ROOTS RACING WITH O'REILLY USCS THIS SATURDAY AT CHEROKEE SPEEDWAY FAYETTEVILLE, GA - NASCAR hopeful Erin Crocker of Huntersville, NC will compete with the O'Reilly United Sprint Car Series this ...
NASCAR HOPEFUL ERIN CROCKER RETURNS TO GRASS ROOTS RACING WITH O'REILLY USCS THIS SATURDAY AT CHEROKEE SPEEDWAY
FAYETTEVILLE, GA - NASCAR hopeful Erin Crocker of Huntersville, NC will compete with the O'Reilly United Sprint Car Series this Saturday night at Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, SC. Crocker is a woman race car driver that has impressive credentials in winged outlaw sprint car racing, and is currently involved with the Evernham Motorsports NASCAR team as a developmental driver.
Those wanting to see this lady drive a 1,300 pound, 700-horsepower winged outlaw sprint car around a dirt track better take an opportunity pretty quick. This lady is being groomed for bigger and better things in motorsports.
Crocker has been racing open-wheel, open-cockpit cars since the age of seven, staring in quarter midgets, then advancing to mini sprints before making the move to winged outlaw sprint cars, which are pound-for-pound the powerful short track racing cars in the world. Along the way, Crocker also took the time to earn her bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering.
Her resume in sprint cars shows her as the only woman to win a national 410 event, and in 2004, Crocker was the national 410 sprint car rookie of the year. All of this success caught the eye of NASCAR Nextel Cup team owner Ray Evernham, who signed the fast 24-year-old female driver to a developmental contract.
While being primed to race stock cars, Crocker is still able to race the winged outlaw sprint cars. In fact, she says, Evernham encourages it.
"Ray has encouraged me to race the sprint cars at every opportunity I can," Crocker said. "Ray is a sprint car fan, and he says racing the sprint car, especially on dirt, teaches the car control that I can bring to stock car racing."
Evernham is no stranger to the talents sprint car drivers bring to stock car racing. As a crew chief on a NASCAR Busch Grand National team in the early 90s, Evernham was impressed with a teenaged sprint car driver. He brought this young driver to his team, and then they both moved on to the Hendricks Motorsports cup team.
Evernham and this young sprint car driver, named Jeff Gordon, went on to win many cup races and championships. When Evernham started his own team, he hired another young sprint car driver in Kasey Kahne, and Crocker is his latest find.
The O'Reilly USCS is a Southeastern 360 winged outlaw sprint car series that fits Crocker's need for sprint car racing. Crocker, a Massachusetts native, now resides Huntersville, NC to be close to the Evernham Motorsports shop. She also welcomes the tough competition the O'Reilly USCS has to offer.
"With the O'Reilly USCS running in the Southeast, it is convenient for me to run with them, and I really have a lot of fun there," Crocker said. "There is no pressure, and I like the grass-roots nature of sprint car racing. I've known USCS drivers Terry Gray and Kenny Adams for awhile now, and I consider them the top two 360 sprint car drivers in the country. When you can run with them, you're doing very well."
Crocker has already competed once this season with the O'Reilly USCS, and she must be doing well because she was as fast as the four-time and defending series champion Gray of Bartlett, TN, and the 2000 O'Reilly USCS National Champion Adams at Oglethorpe Speedway Park in Savannah, GA on April 23.
After starting eighth, Crocker raced wheel-to-wheel with Adams while advancing to the front of the pack in the first ten laps of the race. Crocker passed Adams, and was racing for second spot with Gray leading the race. Crocker made a bold move in turn two, but couldn't make the car stick, and spun out. Crocker restarted at the tail of the field, but still rallied back for a seventh-place finish.
For this Saturday night at Cherokee Speedway, as she did in Savannah, Crocker will be driving for Ed Woodring, who himself is an accomplished and successful sprint car driver, with several Empire Super Sprint championships on his resume.
Crocker is running an "ABC" schedule for Evernham Motorsports. That involves starting out running some ARCA races, which are cars similar to cup cars, then running some Busch races before making the big step to the cup tour. According to Crocker, Evernham has not set a timetable for her advancement to Nextel Cup.
"Ray wants to take things slow," Crocker said. "He wants me to be successful in every race we run because having a failure could set the program back."
If that's the case, Crocker is right on track. In her ARCA debut at Nashville (TN) Superspeedway on March 26, Crocker was the fast qualifier and ran the entire race for a 12th-place finish.
In addition to her driving skills, Crocker's engineering degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has helped her both on and off the track.
"I learned a lot about physics and geometry in engineering school at RPI, and that has helped me in racing by giving me a better understanding of what a race car is doing and knowing what to do to the car to make it better," Crocker said. "I also had to give oral presentations in college, which has helped me off the track when I have to speak to sponsors. I'm a people person anyway, and I really enjoy talking to the fans."
This Saturday night, Crocker and the rest of the O'Reilly USCS stars will compete in the Air Flow Research Power Dash, the Koolbeans Trophy Dash, heat races, a consolation race, and a 30-lap feature race on the ½-mile clay oval. The gates open at 5 p.m., with hot laps set for 7 p.m., and racing scheduled for 8 p.m.
For more information call Cherokee Super Speedway at (864) 489-1969 or visit the track web site at www.cherokeesuperspeedway.com. Cherokee Super Speedway is located on State Road 18 just east of I-85 at exit 96. For more information about USCS visit the series web site at www.uscsracing.com.