Ricky Craven, driver of the No. 32 Tide Chevrolet Monte Carlo, was the Nextel Wake-Up Call guest this morning. The following are highlights of Q&A's with the media: CONGRATULATIONS ON QUALIFYING 10TH FOR SUNDAY'S RACE - YOUR...
Ricky Craven, driver of the No. 32 Tide Chevrolet Monte Carlo, was the Nextel Wake-Up Call guest this morning. The following are highlights of Q&A's with the media:
CONGRATULATIONS ON QUALIFYING 10TH FOR SUNDAY'S RACE - YOUR HIGHEST QUALIFYING EFFORT AT NHIS. TAKE US THROUGH YOUR EFFORT AND TELL US HOW MUCH THIS ENCOURAGES YOU FOR THE RACE
"It was nice to come home again. We had an announcement Thursday evening (that he and Cal Wells will be parting company at the end of the 2004 season), and it was nice yesterday going into the second half of the season knowing where we were with the one another and the race team. The guys put in a great effort yesterday like they always have. I've raced with these guys and for Procter and Gamble for three and a half years and yesterday was just a nice start to the second half of the season."
HOW DOES ONE GO ABOUT PREPARING FOR A RACE AT THIS PARTICULAR TRACK?
"Practice this morning is critical. There are some teams that came up here and tested, and that gives them a bit of an advantage. It's up to the rest of the teams that didn't test here to capitalize on the two practices this morning and manage any problems they might have or anything that would prevent us from being on the track, because I think our objective will be to make as many 20-lap runs as we can. This is as tough as any place on the circuit, but when you get it right it is a great feeling. To see a car that unloads and runs really well - like Jimmie Johnson did and Ryan Newman did - and they establish themselves as the guys to beat. There's no question that the guys starting on the front row will be two of the cars to beat."
WHICH AREAS OF THE TRACK DO YOU HAVE TO REALLY CONCENTRATE ON AS FAR AS CAR SET-UP, AND HOW DO YOU MENTALLY PREPARE FOR THIS TRACK?
"It's not that difficult for me mentally because I was living 10 miles away when they were building the race track. I would drive out here daily to see the progress and give them my advice, which didn't work, but enjoyed every aspect of this thing being built and then eventually racing in the very race here. It was such an important part of my career. So coming here is home turf. It's home court. Whether that works for me or against me, I don't know.
"It certainly works for me psychologically. It probably works against me in terms of expectations because anything short of a win would be a disappointment. And so far, it's been a disappointment. We've won in everything but Cup. I think the attitude of the guys and the fans and my family is to swing for the fence. We're coming here just to have a big celebration."
WHAT'S YOUR OPINION OF THE GREEN-WHITE-CHECKERED FINISH RULING?
"It's like this. The decision is the right decision relative to the business, relative to the brand, relative to the entertainment business. I've said this over and over and over. It's a great time to be in NEXTEL Cup racing. It's never been more popular or more exciting. The responsibility that goes with that is that it needs to continue to get even more exciting and more entertaining. And I guess the green-white-checkered solves one of those issues that was very apparent. I say it's apparent because who is ultimately the judge? The people who are buying the brand, the people who are sitting in the seats or buying the suites or the people who are spending their money to make this machine run. To finish the race under the green is probably like the All-Star race a few years ago where they made a decision to end that game and it ended in a tie. The displeasure was so overwhelming that they said okay, we'll correct this. I think that's all NASCAR has done is just correct what obviously isn't working.
"Now from a driver's standpoint, I don't think anybody really likes that green-white-checkered. That's my opinion. I don't like the green-white-checkered thing because it's a compromise. But when you look at the big picture, if you can do that, it's absolutely better for the sport."
ON QUALIFYING 10TH AND ON BEING ABLE TO PASS AT THIS TRACK
"This isn't an easy place to pass. I'd love to be in the top five with 50 laps to go and try to put together 50 of the best laps I've ever run here at New Hampshire and show a little bit of aggression but not go over the line and never ever at the expense of taking somebody out. But I'd love to mix it up here and have the type of finish that the fans deserve and ultimately win a race here. Every year I separate these two races from the rest of the schedule. I feel good about our chances.
"We're not there yet, but I really feel like we're 10th. After practice today, we'll evaluate and hopefully we'll be closer to Ryan (Newman) and we'll be in the hunt."
ON THE NEW TIRES
"This is a new tire that we haven't run here. Again, practice today will be critical - assuming that we practice. If it were to rain today, it would be like going to Vegas."
ON THE LEVEL OF PATIENCE AND AGGRESSION FOR DRIVERS WITH THE NEW CHASE FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS SYSTEM
"I really believe that what appears to be a lack of patience or more aggression is probably a product of closer competition. Anytime the margins get narrower, then there's a higher likelihood of contact. There are 43 guys who will start the race tomorrow with the idea of going forward. If the cars are really, really close and you run that hard and close together for 300 miles, you're going to make contact. There are some places that you make contact where it's forgiving. This is one of those places where it's less forgiving. There is always intensity surrounding the end of this event - whether it's first and second of fourth and fifth or 12th and 13th. There's always contact made here and it usually ends ugly for someone."
WITH SO MANY MULTIPLE CAR TEAMS, DO YOU THINK SINGLE CAR TEAMS ARE BECOMING A THING OF THE PAST?
"Well if you believe in trends, there is no question that single car teams are definitely at a disadvantage. It's a tall order for any single car team to measure up against a multi-car team operating three, four, or five teams and the ability for those teams to communicate and translate two hours of practice on Friday into 10 hours of practice. And being able to have five separate agendas of focus on shocks, on front springs, or on downforce, and then all getting together half-way through practice to see what works and what doesn't work. There are definitely so many aspects of being a multi-car team that translate to speed. There are some advantages to being a single car team, but I think those are outnumbered by the advantages of being a bigger company.
"In that regard, I think the Tide team does deserve some credit for what they've done the last three years. We'll continue to put all our effort into the second half of this year."
WITH YOUR SUCCESS AT CHICAGOLAND, ARE THERE ANY OPTIONS FOR MOVING TO THE BUSCH SERIES?
"It was a great opportunity. I enjoyed that, and in a large part did that because it was a link to the armed services and the association that Richard Childress had built with ESGR (Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve) and the timing of all that. It was a fun program. But no, my focus on the second half of this year is on the Tide team and finishing this thing the right way and improving the performance and working with the team members and spending whatever extra time I have with them and enjoying them."
ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT POTENTIAL RIDES FOR 2005?
"Part of the strategy of announcing this weekend and going into the second half of the season is that this is the beginning of the end of our association (with Cal Wells). We still have a lot of racing left. But I absolutely intend on racing next year and for a few more years. But if I'm not, I'll capitalize on the time off to teach my boy to go bird hunting or chase a moose in northern Maine or do something that has been completely opposite of what I've done for 25 years."
ARE YOU GOING TO START TALKING TO PROSPECTS NOW EVEN THOUGH YOU OBVIOUSLY HAVE THE ARRANGEMENT TO COMPLETE THE YEAR WITH THE NO. 32 TEAM?
"Honestly, I had two messages yesterday to meet with people today. And that's just not that important to me. It's honestly not. There's a lot of racing left and I want to focus on the Tide racing team and do my job and finish this thing the right way. I absolutely want to be in top quality opportunity next year. But there is plenty of time for that. I think there is an evaluation period here where I'm going to challenge myself. I think part of that strategy is to eliminate distraction. I really don't want to be distracted every week with option A, B, or C, and think, 'Oh yeah, I still have to drive this Tide Monte Carlo'.
"I think that prioritizing my weekends as qualifying, practicing, and racing this car to my top ability is critical. And how well I do that and how well the team and I execute will go a long way in determining whether I'm part of this schedule next year."
ON HIS ANNUAL SNOWMOBILE RIDE FOR CHARITY
"It's been going on for seven years. It's the last Saturday in January. It's a great event. If you bring a helmet, I'll get you a snowmobile and we'll have a great time. It kicks off the season. It's been an incredible event. It started in 1998. We raised $42,000 and as wonderful as that was, we wondered how we would exceed it. Six years later we raised $253,000 in January of 2003 and thought this thing as grown a life of its own. A lot of people deserve a lot of credit. At the top of that list are my mom and my sister and family and friends."