Craven looks at his 2000 season

RICKY CRAVEN (No. 50 Midwest Transit Chevrolet Monte Carlo) NOTE: Craven, a 34-year-old driver from Newburgh, Maine, finished 15th Sunday at Rockingham in the Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn 400 NASCAR Winston Cup race. Driving a partial...

RICKY CRAVEN (No. 50 Midwest Transit Chevrolet Monte Carlo) NOTE: Craven, a 34-year-old driver from Newburgh, Maine, finished 15th Sunday at Rockingham in the Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn 400 NASCAR Winston Cup race. Driving a partial schedule this season for car owner Hal Hicks and the No. 50 Midwest Transit Monte Carlo team, Craven competed in only his 14th points race of the season Sunday and scored his best finish. Sidelined after the fourth race of the '98 campaign with post concussion syndrome while driving the No. 50 Budweiser Chevrolet out of the Hendrick Motorsports stables, Craven returned at New Hampshire that year and won the pole but resigned from the team after three more races. The 1995 NASCAR Winston Cup rookie of the year talks about his plans for the future. "It's frustrating not driving every week because the weekends off are painful knowing the circuit is moving on without you. For me to get to the next level, I need to race every week, just for the repetition. Practice, practice, practice. I can name off six or eight races we've run in the top 10 and had a legitimate chance at finishing in the top 10. It slipped out of our hands, but in fairness to the team, it's very difficult to be a part-time Winston Cup team this day and age. "There's always going to be that debate between the multi-car teams versus the single-car teams. I've been a part of both, and you can make a list of assets and liabilities both ways, in my opinion. The key is just having one team with players, team members that all want to be together and everyone focused on the same objective. Of course, you need the financial support so you don't sacrifice the things you have to have just to participate. "There are a lot of big dollar items in this business now. The engines are obviously a big expense, but you need wind tunnel time. You need to have the equipment to have a productive test -- all the computer equipment and data to have a productive test. You can't necessarily capitalize on two days of testing, however, you can take that two days of data and absorb it over a month back at the shop. That's where the sport has come. "I absolutely am ready to be full-time. The last two years, we'll call it a rebuilding mode. I'm fine with that, but I'm ready now. It's time to be full-time, and I feel like I have something to prove. I was 100 percent the day I stepped in the car at New Hampshire, and that was two years ago. That's the only way I can answer that question. I was 100 percent when I got back in that car and on that particular day we won the pole. "That's a frustrating question for me, but it's a question I've been asked a lot. I have no idea what people may or may not think, but what I do spend time thinking about is what people think when we led 65 laps at New Hampshire with Rusty Wallace chasing us. We ran second to Rusty at Richmond and ran in the top 10 in Charlotte and at Talladega in the spring race. We ran in the top 10 at Martinsville in the spring. "I am absolutely as confident as I've ever been, and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to run the full schedule next year. I really enjoy the challenge of the points, points racing and having something to fight for over the course of a season. It's time to go. "I feel like as far as next year, I need to solidify something this week, and it's simple for me. We're either going to expand on what we're doing here with the 50 car or Larry McClure is going to hire me. It's one of those two things. I really appreciate Hal Hicks (owner of 50 car). He's really stuck it out, and I think this team is through the toughest times, but I believe that the Kodak opportunity is a phenomenal opportunity, and if that opportunity presents itself this week, that'd be an exciting offer. "There have been discussions, and only two things interest me. That's to continue to build what we've got with the 50 team or the Kodak ride. I hope there's no consequence for that, but that's how I feel. I absolutely feel like I could win in either car. "There was a time when I lacked confidence. When I got beat up and I was sitting on the outside looking in. When things are taken out of your hands, but that's going down the wrong road. I don't even like to talk about that. I appreciate what Hal Hicks has committed to here, but I'm ready to race full-time and I'm qualified to be a top 10 Winston Cup racer. I want the opportunity. If Hal can commit to the full schedule next year, I'm ready to go. If Larry's in a position to offer me the ride, I'm ready to go. I need to make the decision this week. "We need some more support financially with sponsorships with the 50 team to start preparing for next year in a way that's not an abbreviated schedule. We're not going to be a part-time team. You can't race that way. You need to race with authority, every one of the team members need to know every week that we're going to be at that next race. Here's the bottom line. I don't have a contract for next year. Two teams interest me, and hopefully I'm signed with one of them by the end of the week. "It's getting late in the season and the key to this business is the team. The team is made up of people and everybody needs to know where they're heading next year. I can feel it with the 50 car. I can feel some of the people are uncomfortable. I can't give them an answer, and I want to be fair with those people. They're good people, and I care about them. "I don't think Hal or Charlie Pressley or any team members would feel any different if the 4 team offered me the job. I want to race full time. You nee d to race full-time to win. Otherwise, you're just banking on getting lucky. If in fact Larry or the 4 team make a decision, or if Hal is able to commit to the full schedule, that has my interest. Those are my two best opportunities. "It's very important for me to stay with Chevrolet. I've race with General Motors my whole life. I took a hiatus or leave of absence for a little while, but at this point in my career, it's important to stay with GM. I feel like I've built a lot of equity with GM, and they have invested a lot in me. "I'm at the peak of my career. The next five years will be my best. I'm 34, and the next five or six years will be my best. Everything I've been through will only make me better. Part of what I have to sell here is I have that passion for racing. "It's not motivated by the money or just being a part of the lore of Winston Cup. I've won in everything I've done except Winston Cup, and I've been so damn close that I have that burning desire. I won't be satisfied until I've won in Winston Cup."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Rusty Wallace
Teams Hendrick Motorsports