Darlington: Ricky Craven preview

HICKORY, NC (March 15, 2004) - Ricky Craven, driver of the No. 32 Tide Chevrolet, returns to Darlington Raceway as the defending race winner of one of the most historic finishes in NASCAR history. Craven won the race by the closest margin of ...

HICKORY, NC (March 15, 2004) - Ricky Craven, driver of the No. 32 Tide Chevrolet, returns to Darlington Raceway as the defending race winner of one of the most historic finishes in NASCAR history. Craven won the race by the closest margin of victory in NASCAR history -- .002 seconds over Kurt Busch. Craven has one win, two top-fives and three top-10s at the legendary track.

Ricky Craven, driver of the No. 32 Tide Chevrolet:

On last year's win at Darlington--

"At the end of the race, in my mind, it was all about winning at Darlington. With two laps to go I had made up my mind that I was going to do anything to win. I found my strength was in turns three and four and I couldn't make the mistakes that I made trying to get by Kurt getting into turn one. At that point I knew the only possible way to run side by side on new tires was in turns three and four. I went for it and said to myself, 'This doesn't have to be pretty, all that matters is who makes it back to the start finish line'."

"In some people's minds the Daytona 500 finish where Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough wrecked each other was more exciting because they took one another out. But that also created a controversy -- it made half the world happy and half the world angry. But in our case, Kurt Busch fans will put their hand out to me and say, 'That was awesome!' From a purist standpoint, if you're truly talking about competing and entertainment and the combination of all that, we took each other to the very edge, not just for the finish, but for two or three laps and we didn't knock one another out of the race and that in my mind is what made it so awesome. The reason it was such an awesome finish is we took each other to the edge without taking each other out. I think you could someday see someone win a race by 1/1000 of a second, however I'm not sure you could ever get a better finish."

"I did know who won the race when I crossed the start / finish line. It took me until turn one to get the car under control and there was so much commotion on the radio. Everyone was keying in and talking over each other. When I got to the turn two, I was able to put my window net down, and that's when I saw the 32 at the top of the scoreboard. That was the first confirmation I got that we had won the race. What was also special was my old crew chief, Mike Beam, jumped off his box and was on pit road when I got there, I thought that was kind of cool."

"On a personal note, it was interesting listening to all the stories from people and how everyone had a different aspect of how the race unfolded. In hindsight, everyone knew we were going to win the race, but if you listened to the TV broadcast, even with five laps to go, they said Kurt had another win was in the bag. That's what I enjoyed the most was the fact they had taken us for granted. That's what made it more special."

"When I won my first Cup race at Martinsville, my family wasn't there because the race got rained out and we ran the race on a Monday, so my kids were in school that day. As special as that win was, there was a void not having them in victory lane and I think they felt it also. As the story is told from the Darlington win, my kids were in the motorhome with my bus driver, Dave, while my wife was on pit road. With five laps to go, Dave told the kids, "You guys better get ready because I think your dad might win this race." So they put their shoes and jackets on, and got ready. They got outside and when I got off turn four with one to go and Kurt was ahead of me, my daughter, Riley, turned around and went back inside thinking that I wasn't going to win the race."

"They thought victory lane was pretty cool and my little girl was standing next to me and giving me a hug while I was being interviewed was special. It was very valuable to have them in victory lane at Darlington and it made up a little bit for the void from Martinsville."

"I've actually learned to appreciate it more and enjoy it more from that standpoint that you're a part of NASCAR history because of that finish. Although I'd love to win 10 races this year and get attention for that reason, that day was our time to shine. It has been very rewarding to be a part of such an exciting finish."

"When I was standing in victory lane, all that was going through my mind was winning a Cup race and winning at Darlington. The finish never really settled in until later that evening, at about 3 or 4 in the morning. I couldn't sleep, so I turned the TV on to Headline News and they were showing sports and then showed the NASCAR race recap. When they showed the finish, I was like, 'Wow, what was a hell of a finish.' That was the first time I saw it and it was kind of the same feeling I had when I was in the Birmingham Hospital and I woke up with the television on with no sound and they were showing my wreck at Talladega, and until I saw it on TV, I didn't realize what had happened. But until I saw the Darlington report, I had no perspective of the finish, only this vision that I had of a lap, a lap and a half, or that I needed to make a run, because no way would Kurt Busch allow me to ride side by side going into one without there being no contact -- no one would. I knew I had to set it up to beat him coming off of four and I made up my mind that I'm much better at turn four than he is and so I said 'we'll just make a run at the finish line.' I actually felt that we got such a good run off of four that we were going to win the race, but we hit hard. We got the run off of four, but when we hit, all hell broke loose-- when we hit, that went from thinking we won the race, to we've got some work to do. And looking back at pictures and stuff it's pretty cool, the right front tire was flat from that exchange and to think we used up everything we had, the car looked awful, Kurt's car looked awful."

"We had an opportunity to put the car in the museum at Darlington and I talked to Cal and asked him what he wanted to do and he asked me what I wanted to do since it was my favorite car and we thought for a month and we they had all these great pictures so we though, why not just race the car."

"I'm going to be able to reflect on my career and say, hey whatever happened, we won at Darlington and that was very special to me personally and the fact that it was the closet one in history."

Take me for a lap around Darlington--

"You start by going into turn one, but before you make your entry into turn one you position the car as close as you can to the wall getting into turn one to allow yourself a better exit off of turn one and be able to carry more speed and get back into the gas as early as possible to carry more speed off the exit. And you do the same thing off of two. Two is more challenging because the wall has a really strange shape. The wall actually comes back in towards the infield. There is a lot of turn two you can never use. Turn three you approach much like turn one where you run down the straightaway and position the car as close to the wall as you can and then use all of the racetrack and speed. On new tires, you want to make the corner as small as possible and you actually will use more of turn four than turn two. So you can actually stay higher longer in turn four and again, go reference the frontstretch is how fast you can get off the corner. There is a difference between turns one and two versus three and four. Turns one and two you actually have a point where you can almost straighten the wheel. The objective is to run wide open through turn two on stickers, but as the tires wear, you can't do that. In three and four, it's more of a standard corner where you roll into the corner and you work the throttle to get back to wide open as quickly as possible. The reason you race the track is because you are limited by the wall. That's the only thing that is preventing you from going faster is the lateral movement of the car on the exit. As you lose grip, the wall becomes a more significant part of the equation. Now, with the SAFER barriers, it is going to be even more dramatic because we've lost some of that reference that we've had over the years. The SAFER barriers have moved the wall in, so you won't be able to carry the same speed off the corners because you won't have the room to do it. You'll now be running the groove you used to use to pass a car rather than the groove you used to run by yourself. The biggest thing that prevents you from going faster and faster at Darlington is the wall. The wall not only keeps you in the track, but also is a barrier to going faster because you always challenging yourself on how much speed you can carry off the corners and stay off the wall."

What's your thought on the new SAFER barriers at Darlington?

"There is no question it is going to be different racing there. It will be frustrating to some of us and it may satisfy others. The only issue is that it is different. No one can say it will racy or less exciting, because we don't know. It could encourage better racing. It could really favor someone that has no expectations. My personal opinion of Darlington is it is a pillar of our sport. It is a historically a significant part of our sport. It's a Fenway Park or Wrigley Field. That's my analogy. Although I am really passionate about racing there, it's probably not all things to all people. There are other people who might not enjoy it. So I may go back and be disappointed because it has changed and my references are gone and other people who haven't enjoyed it as much might discover that it suits them. I do think under the circumstances that they should've let us go in a day early because it is going to be quite different. When you consider how narrow this track is, and how difficult it is to run side-by-side at Darlington, and they've narrowed it, perhaps they should have approached this race like we would a new track. "

"I'm not surprised that ISC has been proactive in installing the SAFER barriers after doing the research and really understand the benefits. They' ve taken that information and they've applied it, so I commend them for that. I disappointed that other tracks haven't followed that lead and honestly don't understand why they wouldn't other than the expense. As quickly as Bob Bahre and some of the ISC responded to it, you wonder why maybe some of them haven't. I don't think you can differentiate between tracks that need the technology versus ones that don't because there is risk at every track we go to. It has been proven that this makes thing safer and if it is good for one track, then I think it should be mandatory for all tracks. Until Jerry Nadeau got hurt, who would've thought that Richmond carried that kind of risk? The fact is what we do is dangerous and if we can narrow the percentages, even slightly, then that is a step in the right direction. I applaud everyone that spent the money because it is a total expense and it is going to affect their bottom line and they should be commended. There is no revenue that is going to be created by installing this technology. From my standpoint, I consider it a courtesy after being provided this information, because it was not mandated for them to do. I say thank you to Bob Bahre, Indianapolis and all the tracks that have applied it as quickly as they have and I want to be fair and give the other tracks the time to do it."

Darlington Appearances:

* Friday, March 19th: Craven will appear on Speed Channel's Trackside Live aired from Darlington Raceway at 7 p.m. ET.

* Saturday, March 20th: Craven will sign autographs at his souvenir trailer approximately one hour following final practice. Please check with the souvenir trailer for exact times.

* Sunday, March 21st: Craven will appear on FOX Sports Net's NASCAR This Morning which airs at 11 a.m. ET.

Chassis No. 32: The Tide Racing team is taking Chassis No. 32 to Darlington this weekend. This is Ricky's favorite car and the same car he won with at Darlington last year. In 2003, the car made seven starts and posted one win, two top-five and four top-10 finishes. It has competed once earlier this year at Rockingham.

-ppi-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jerry Nadeau , Kurt Busch , Ricky Craven , Bobby Allison