Craven Ready for Road to Recovery

Craven ready for road to recovery By Shawn A. Akers HARRISBURG, N.C. (March 25, 1998) Ricky Craven's race team will be on the road to Bristol, Tenn., this weekend for the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Craven ...

Craven ready for road to recovery By Shawn A. Akers HARRISBURG, N.C. (March 25, 1998)

Ricky Craven's race team will be on the road to Bristol, Tenn., this weekend for the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Craven himself, however, will be on a different road for the next couple of months -- the road to recovery. Craven today will begin therapy today in Chapel Hill, N.C., which he hopes will get back into the No. 50 Budwieser Chevrolet as soon as possible.

Craven is suffering from what doctors term as "post-concussion syndrome," stemming from injuries suffered in a crash last April at Texas Motor Speedway and subsequent accidents at Phoenix last November and Daytona in February. His condition forced him to miss last Sunday's TranSouth Financial 400 at Darlington Raceway. Therapy is scheduled to begin today at the University of North Carolina Medical Center.

"I think being optimistic, our goal is three months to be back in the condition we need to be in to drive a race car and participate in Winston Cup again," Craven said. "It's really sensitive in that I can do anything that anybody else does in day-to-day type things.

"I feel pretty good. I don't feel bad, just a little disappointed or depressed about the reality of not being in the race car for at least 10 or 12 or 15 races. My goal -- and it's my goal -- it's not consistent with the doctors or anyone else because they won't set any goals, but my goal is to be back in the car by July 1. As a competitor, obviously I'm determined to be 100 percent in three months."

The first indication Craven received that something might be awry came at Atlanta earlier this month during the PRIMESTAR 500.

"I recognized that some things that happened inside the race car affected my balance," said Craven, in his second season with the Budweiser team and Hendrick Motorsports. "I struggled to understand why or what the situation was, but after having some exams and tests last week, actually on Thursday last week, discovered I have a balance problem that they need to narrow down and determine exactly what it is and go to work on how to fix it.

"There's no way, based on how I did on the test, that I can perform 100 percent. It's some of the instincts you need to do this. The things I've dealt with in the last couple of weeks are so sensitive that I've wanted to ignore it. Until I had the test, I didn't realize how bad a situation I was in."

Craven said he's "had a number of problems" over the past couple of weeks, with the most specific being that vibrations have affected his vision. He said that severe vibration makes it difficult for his eyes to focus.

"They're clear with what's wrong, in that I've had multiple concussions, but they want to detect if it's more inner ear," Craven said. "Some of the other problems I've had, I thought were vertigo and flying in airplanes and flying in clouds. The reason I felt that is because I've had vertigo before, but I had a second test (last) Thursday afternoon. It was very elaborate in which they tested my inner ears, and I failed that also."

Two-time defending NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division champion Randy LaJoie substituted for Craven in the No. 50 Budweiser Chevrolet at Darlington last Sunday, and had a rough ride despite a respective qualifying effort. LaJoie hit the wall twice during the TranSouth 400 and wound up finishing 38th.

"I think being optimistic, our goal is three months to be back in the condition we need to be in ..." LaJoie tested Tuesday with the Budweiser team at Texas Motor Speedway and is scheduled to drive the car at both Bristol for the Food City 500 this weekend and at Texas in the Texas 500 on April 5.

"I appreciate Randy stepping up to help the cause," Craven said. "He's a great friend and a great race car driver. I'm glad they made that choice, and I think he's the logical choice to continue in the car because of his ability."

LaJoie's first priority, however, is to the No. 74 FINA Chevrolet team in the NASCAR Busch Series and his commitment to win a third straight NASCAR Busch Series title.

"It's tough to say what my status is with this deal," LaJoie said. "I'm busier than I need to be right now, and my No. 1 goal is to become the first three-time repeat champion on the Busch circuit. Running the Cup car will help my Busch effort as far as the feel for the car. But it's going to take over the life I've had because I'm going wide open. When my two boys (Cory, 6, and Casey, 3) tell me they miss me, I might have to start taking Sundays off again."

In the meantime, Craven said he won't come back until he absolutely sure he's ready to return to the seat of the No. 50 Budweiser Chevrolet.

"The doctors are quite up front. They don't hold anything back," Craven said. "They've made it clear to me that three months is the minimum. It could be six. They're going to take an evaluation-type approach. The types of rehabilitation and training they apply to my process, if it doesn't get better in three months I'll encourage them to accelerate it or whatever it takes or we'll just continue to do it until I am 100 percent. That's when I'll come back.

"We'll run like we're capable of running and enjoy it. I will not get back in the car until I can give 100 percent and know I won't be holding back the Bud team. My only interest is winning races. That's very, very important to me. I want to win a Winston Cup race an I can't do that under the conditions I've been in the last couple of weeks." Source: NASCAR Online

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Ricky Craven
Teams Hendrick Motorsports