Ford Driver Ricky Craven Looks Toward Twin 125's

FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES TWIN 125 February 9, 1999 Daytona International Speedway Ricky Craven, driver of the No. 58 Hollywood Video Taurus, has been plagued by injuries the past three seasons,...

FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES TWIN 125 February 9, 1999 Daytona International Speedway

Ricky Craven, driver of the No. 58 Hollywood Video Taurus, has been plagued by injuries the past three seasons, but Daytona International Speedway is a place where he has experienced a great deal of success. In 1997 Craven finished third in the Daytona 500 and last season he took over as a relief driver for Ernie Irvan and finished eighth in the Pepsi 400. Craven, the 1995 NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year, spoke about the adversity he has faced in his brief career and the challenge facing his new team in the Gatorade Twin-125s.

RICKY CRAVEN -58- Hollywood Video Taurus -- IT MUST FEEL GOOD TO COME TO A PLACE WHERE YOU'VE HAD SUCCESS? "It does and I think so much of the outcome is relative to your attitude about where you're at and I like Daytona. I love Daytona. The 500 is the premier race and in the three 500s that I've run, I think we've been in the top 15 in each of them and I think attitude has a lot to do with that. But circumstances help to and as rewarding as it can be, it can be equally as aggravating because what we do here to make a car go fast doesn't apply to the other race tracks with the exception of Talladega. So I come here with the right attitude. It's important to run well in every race, but this race is just a little bit more significant."

DO YOU FEEL YOU'VE GOT THE KNACK FOR RESTRICTOR PLATE RACING? "I'm far from the best, but I enjoy it. With the exception of trying to fly at Talladega in '96, it's been pretty good to me. There were a lot of things I have left alone, but I think that comes back to the challenge of doing things and anytime the challenge is greater the reward is greater."

WHEN YOU CAME HERE TO DAYTONA IN OCTOBER LAST YEAR IT WAS YOUR FIRST RACE SINCE RESIGNING FROM HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AFTER WATKINS GLEN. WAS THAT SOMETHING YOU NEEDED TO GET BACK SOME CONFIDENCE? "Yeah it was because the circumstances involved there was that I had been hired to race for Hendrick Motorsports and my version of that was the Chicago Bulls of racing. It was a career opportunity and it started off awfully well. We had some disruption when I got hurt, ultimately I lost my ride. I was very selective after that in what I did because I knew the jury would be out. Good, bad or indifferent, whether it's fair of not, that's the way all sports are and you have to continue to establish yourself. I sat out a long while (9 races) waiting for the right opportunity. Unfortunately, it came at the expense of Ernie being hurt, but I was glad I could help and it provided me a big boost because that particular team is a very good team. In my opinion a top 10 team and it was exactly what I needed at that time."

DID YOU FEEL LIKE THE WEIGHT OF THE WORLD WAS LIFTED OFF YOUR SHOULDERS? "You know, it came down to...at first there was some apprehension because I had never, the majority of my career, 18 years, things were always looking up and positive. Nineteen Ninety Eight was very disruptive and a balance of negative. I didn't know how to handle that. I spent the majority of July, August, September, whatever it was, trying to discover what direction I was heading in and when I got the call (from Irvan's team), I said, 'Hey this is what I've been waiting for.' Then, when I got to Daytona, I was probably as relaxed as I've ever been because the reality was I had very little to lose. I had been sitting on the couch feeling sorry for myself thinking, 'How did I put myself in this position? This is a great opportunity to redeem myself.' And I think, ultimately, after the race that's what we had done."

DO YOU FEEL YOU HAD MORE TO PROVE TO YOURSELF OR OTHER PEOPLE TO SHOW THAT YOU COULD STILL DO IT? "Yeah, maybe. I didn't really consider that. The other people being sponsors, team owners -- yes. But I had a lot to prove to myself when I sat in a chair surrounded by three doctors and had to make the decision, 'Hey, am I gonna take the next three months off or am I gonna disregard their opinion and move on.' I chose to take three months off and, again, that disrupted that whole program and I don't regret it. It was the correct decision and I would evaluate things very carefully before I ever raced again because I think there was a price to pay."

LAST YEAR JIMMY SPENCER TOOK A COUPLE RACES OFF TO RECOVER FROM A CONCUSSION. LOOKING BACK ON IT DO YOU FEEL YOU CAME BACK TOO SOON? "When I came back, I may have come back too soon from Texas. I got hurt pretty bad at Texas (in 1997). But you know what, when I got to Charlotte maybe a month and a half later, I was at the top of my game. We won the Winston Open, we led the Coca-Cola 600 four times with a different car and until we broke the rear-end gear we were challenging for the lead. What got me in trouble was when I bounced off the wall in St. Louis in my Busch car and at Darlington in practice and at Phoenix in the Cup car. That's where I didn't use good judgment. The bottom line is you don't prepare yourself for that kind of a decision and until it happens, you don't know what the outcome or the effects gonna be. In hindsight, absolutely, I should have dealt with it after I got beat up, maybe, but there wasn't a consistency to it either. I think that the whole deal was a valuable lesson. I'm better because of it. I mean, in some people's opinions they look and say, 'Well, he's a lot further behind than perhaps he would have been had he not had the wrecks or the situation.' But I don't feel that way. It was gonna run its course one way or the other. Again, things got awfully disruptive at Hendrick Motorsports, maybe to the point where, if Rick had been there, it wouldn't have been that difficult."

DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'VE GOT A NEW LEASE ON LIFE HERE, LIKE YOU'RE STARTING ALL OVER AGAIN? "We're starting fresh, there's no question, but there's a positive to in all that and what it is, for me, is standing on the things I felt that I did well, but correcting the things that I feel I didn't do so well. That's what experience is all about."

YOU'RE IN A SITUATION THIS WEEK WHERE YOU HAVE TO RACE YOUR WAY INTO THE 500. YOU'RE WITH A NEW TEAM THAT DOES NOT HAVE ANY PROVISIONALS, HOW DO YOU FEEL? "There's a lot of pressure, but when hasn't there been. I think that we have our own set of challenges and goals, which are different from the other teams in this garage. Being a new team we have very little security, so we need to overcome that. It's not just here, it's the three races after this, but I accepted that challenge in November and I'm still comfortable with it now. Although I wish we were faster you need to earn that and we'll earn it because I believe in what we have here and I believe it will work."

IS THIS SITUATION SIMILAR TO WHEN YOU STARTED OUT WITH A SINGLE-CAR TEAM AND YOU HAVE A LOT OF INPUT WITH THE CAR? "It's a similar opportunity where we're in a building mode, the difference being the sport has changed a tremendous amount in the last few years even since I began Winston Cup racing in '95. It becomes more of an issue of time control or time management everyday. It's more of an issue than it's ever been and I believe the day of being directly involved in the mechanical aspect of the race team has changed. Mike (Hillman, crew chief) and I have a great dialogue, and I think that's as valuable as any part of a successful team. I think that's probably as good as it can get. The rest of it comes down to decisions and we obviously need to make more right decisions than wrong decisions."

WHAT WOULD YOU CONSIDER A SUCCESSFUL SPEEDWEEKS FOR RICKY CRAVEN? "Well, it might be a little different than two months ago because I feel like I came close to winning this race two years ago and now we just want to be in the Daytona 500. That's the harsh reality. Am I comfortable with it? No, I don't think anybody on this team is, but we're prepared for the challenge and we in no way underestimate the challenge."

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED THROUGHOUT THIS ENTIRE SITUATION? "Winning and being competitive is as important to me as anybody in the garage area, but is it my priority? My two kids are my priority and being an awesome dad is a lot more important than being an awesome race car driver. I want both, but my priority is to be an awesome dad. That sure helps through the adverse times. I think if I was single again, or didn't have children, it would be more difficult."

CRAVEN'S DAYTONA 500 CAREER RESULTS Year Team Start Finish 1998 Hendrick Motorsports 32 14 1997 Hendrick Motorsports 40 3 1996 Larry Hedrick 36 13 1995 Larry Hedrick 14 16

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Ernie Irvan , Ricky Craven
Teams Hendrick Motorsports