RICKY CRAVEN --32-- Tide Taurus (Qualified 1st) "I hadn't given much thought to the guys behind me, but after I got off of turn two I knew it was a good lap and we had a shot. Our strengths all day had been turns three and four and I got such a...
RICKY CRAVEN --32-- Tide Taurus (Qualified 1st)
"I hadn't given much thought to the guys behind me, but after I got off of turn two I knew it was a good lap and we had a shot. Our strengths all day had been turns three and four and I got such a great group of team members that we broke down the practice laps and said, 'Hey, here's where you need to improve,' and that's what we did. The guys did some tuning on the Tide Ford and got it right and, as a result, we had a good lap. Then you looked and you say, 'Steve is really on his game coming back and, of course, Jeff has abused me before.' It does even out I guess."
AS FAR AS OVALS, ARE THE TURNS MORE DIFFERENT THAN ANYPLACE ELSE YOU GO? "I think it's arguably the most challenging because it requires a few different things. I can't really speak as a master because I haven't mastered the place, but I do understand it. It's a place you can easily underdrive because even a great lap doesn't feel comfortable, so, as Jeff said earlier, you have to attack it with authority. Then, again, you put a premium on having a great car and that's what I got today. It's a product of what you're driving. I'm not sure my lap was anymore aggressive today than it was last fall, but I know the car was better. The greatest challenge for me when I come here is keeping the corners straight because I continue to call one and two, three and four."
DO YOU HAVE TO LIKE THE TRACK BEFORE YOU RUN WELL OR DO YOU RUN WELL THERE BEFORE YOU LIKE THE TRACK? "I strongly believe there's a strong correlation between having a good attitude coming here and being successful. I remember my introduction to the place several years ago was intimidating and I benefited through Ron Miller -- Jeff's PR director Ron Miller introduced me to David Pearson and David actually took me around the place for an hour in his van studying the race track. I don't know if it was that session or that hour or just that opportunity to be with David Pearson at Darlington that encouraged me. We went out the next day and won the pole for the Busch race and I've always maintained that attitude about this place is everything. If you come here disliking Darlington, it's gonna dislike you back. I really believe that."
ON JEFF GORDON AT DARLINGTON. "I've got to tell you quickly that in my opinion, this is one of the best that's ever raced here and how I support that is when I was racing with Jeff at Hendrick Motorsports. It was a race Jeff won, I think it was one of the Southern 500s, and on Monday I was at the shop and Ray asked me to come on over to the 24 team's shop and look at Jeff's car. I thought walking over that maybe the trophy would be on the roof and he wanted to show me the trophy. Actually, what I saw was a car that looked worse than some of the Bud cars that had been hauled off on the hook, and he had won with it. I said, 'That's okay, where is the car you won with,' and he said, 'No, that's the point, this kid never gives up.' That was inspiring, honestly."
CAN YOU EMPATHIZE WITH STEVE PARK AND HIS SITUATION? "I think all of us can. We do this because we have a passion for it and probably the most difficult time for me was watching somebody else drive my race car. I know Steve's been out for six months watching somebody drive the Pennzoil car, his race car, and he's back -- number one because he's 100 percent and he feels great and he's ready to race, but he's back because he has that passion. I think that if I had one wish it would be that everybody give him a mulligan and give him a break because he proved today that he's every bit the driver he was before his injury, but this is a tough business. There's absolutely no give in this and he may be in victory lane on Sunday or maybe a month from Sunday, but whatever it is I hope everybody gives him a break and lets him come back at his pace."