Daytona a big test for Craven By Brett Borden DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 5, 1999) Ricky Craven came to Daytona Sunday with a new race team and perspective. Two days of testing at Daytona International Speedway preparing for the Feb. 14...
Daytona a big test for Craven By Brett Borden
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 5, 1999) Ricky Craven came to Daytona Sunday with a new race team and perspective. Two days of testing at Daytona International Speedway preparing for the Feb. 14 Daytona 500, however, only served to bring back some old feelings. "The 500 is the most significant race," said Craven. "Personally it's my favorite. It's the one that I single out or separate from the rest of the 1999 schedule." The fact that it's the first race on that schedule only makes it tougher to prepare for when bringing a new team into the sport. Such is life in the SBIII Motorsports shop. The team, owned by Florida businessman Scott Barbour, hired Craven and veteran crew chief Mike Hillman to make it happen. Craven posted a top speed of 186.579 mph on Monday at Daytona in the one No. 58 Ford Taurus he tested, only fourth best out of the five drivers who tested in the first session of the month. But Craven and Hillman are looking for speed in mid-February, not early January. "We're trying to establish a reference so that when we come back we can pick up where we've left off here and position ourselves strongly for the Daytona 500," said Craven. "We want to come out of the gate as strongly as possible and I think that's going to be a reflection on how hard we worked between now and when we leave for Daytona. "There's a lot of work to do, but we've seen the potential being here two days and I'm pretty happy with what these guys have given me, and even the performance of the car. It's not as fast as we'd like right now, but we've made progress each of the runs that we've made and that's really encouraging." This isn't exactly the first time the team has worked together. It's just the first NASCAR Winston Cup venue they have tested on American soil. Craven & Co. went to Japan for the '98 NASCAR Thunder Special Motegi - Coca Cola 500 exhibition event and placed 22nd. "That was a big help in terms of the dialogue and working with the team members," said Craven. "And getting up to speed, so to speak." The sites of the first two races should help the SBIII team in that regard. Craven feels that the early schedule is conducive to the type of start a new team needs to develop confidence. "I've run well at Rockingham each time I've been there and I think it's probably one of my stronger tracks," he said. "I could say the same for Daytona. (A strong finish at Daytona) would be big. It's a matter of us establishing ourselves and showing progress each week. We're spending at least two tests here, maybe three. That should tell you something." A good start would help the team's confidence, but also the driver's. After all, this is the man who finished third in the 1997 Daytona 500 as part of the high-profile Hendrick Motorsports team, then was out of a ride a little more than a year later while battling to return from injuries. "It (Hendrick) was a wonderful opportunity and I gained a lot of value from it," said Craven. "This is a different situation. It's a new program. It has its own set of challenges but also its own set of rewards."
Source: NASCAR Online