Craven Faces Pocono

Pocono is Craven's next hurdle LONG POND, Pa. (July 21, 1998) Ricky Craven and the Budweiser Chevrolet team hope to beat the heat and competition in Sunday's Pennsylvania 500 NASCAR Winston Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway. With a...

Pocono is Craven's next hurdle

LONG POND, Pa. (July 21, 1998) Ricky Craven and the Budweiser Chevrolet team hope to beat the heat and competition in Sunday's Pennsylvania 500 NASCAR Winston Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway.

With a record heat wave penetrating most of the country, Craven kept cool vacationing back home in Maine for a few days this week, but the 32-year-old Newburgh native is ready to climb back behind the wheel of the Budweiser Chevrolet on Sunday for 200 laps on Pocono's 2.5-mile triangular track.

"I've been chopping wood to stay in shape while I'm on vacation," Craven said. "It's not like working out with my trainer, but you've got to do something. I know it's been hot all over the place, but I've been wearing a sweatshirt up here at night. We haven't needed an air conditioner at all. The weather has really been perfect, between 70-80 degrees during the day."

But Craven realizes the temperatures will rise when he heads to Pocono for Sunday's Pennsylvania 500. It's always been a challenging track for Craven, and he'll be out to improve on a career-best 16th-place finish at the 2.5-mile triangle.

"You need a lot of horsepower for that long frontstretch, and you need the ultimate downforce to get through the tunnel turn," Craven said. "Turn 3 is anybody's guess."

Veteran crew chief Tony Furr says he can set up the Budweiser Chevy to go wide open through all three corners.

"I don't doubt that,* Craven said. "Tony's a Magic Man when it comes to setting up a car."

The Maine Man and Magic Man will be competing in only their sixth race together on Sunday. Both were magic for a moment in their last start.

"We had a great weekend a couple of weeks ago at New Hampshire," Craven said. "Winning the pole and leading some laps at my home track was a great way to return. I wish we could have run stronger in the race, but I know we're not back complete yet.

"I'm a little rusty. My timing is off, and I haven't raced much in the past four months. I feel as good as I have in a long, long time, and I'm going to continue to do the things I've been doing. I'm going to work hard to continue to make progress."

Craven had been recuperating from post-concussion syndrome since March 9. Randy LaJoie and Wally Dallenbach subbed in the Budweiser Chevrolet while Craven underwent therapy to recover from an inner-ear problem.

Dallenbach qualified the Budweiser Chevrolet 14th and finished seventh a few weeks ago at Pocono. Furr has decided to run that Monte Carlo in the Brickyard 400 on Aug. 1 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, so Craven will make his 99th career start in a Chevy that Dallenbach drove in the Winston Open at Charlotte in May.

"It looked like the only Chevys that could keep up with the Fords were Jeff Gordon's and ours last time at Pocono," Furr said. "Ricky tested the car we ran at Pocono at Indy, and we had a real good test. We decided to make the Pocono car our Indy car.

"The car we're taking to Pocono is almost identical, and we think we'll be in pretty good shape with it. It really doesn't matter what car you take to Pocono if you can't get it hooked up through all three corners. You used to be able to give up on one corner and get your car good through two, but you can't afford to do that now.

"I think we can get it working through all three. We did that last time and had a pretty good run. Our pit stops hurt us a little bit in that race, but I think we've corrected that problem."

Three new crew members are going over the wall for the Budweiser team. Furr admits this season has been quite a challenge because he's also worked with three different drivers in '98.

"It's much easier when you know who's going to drive the car and when they're going to drive it," Furr said. "We know Ricky is going to drive it now, so we don't have to worry about that learning period.

"We're working harder now, and we know what to expect. Our communication is better, and I think our cars are much better aerodynamically than they were at the beginning of the season. We've come a long way with our cars, and I think our entire package is better."

Craven says he continues to improve and won't be satisfied until he parks the Budweiser Chevy in victory lane.

"We got an education at New Hampshire," Craven said. "We'll be better because of it. There's a lot of highs and lows in this business, and we had both of them at New Hampshire.

"The good thing about it is there's always another race. I wasn't sure that would be the case for me for a few months, but I know now there will be and that means so much to me I can't put it in words." Source: NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Wally Dallenbach Sr. , Jeff Gordon , Ricky Craven