Loudon: Ford Racing - Ricky Craven interview

Ricky Craven, driver of the No. 32 Tide Taurus, is always a popular figure when he returns to his native New England. The Newburgh, Maine, native stopped by the New Hampshire International Speedway infield media center Saturday morning to talk ...

Ricky Craven, driver of the No. 32 Tide Taurus, is always a popular figure when he returns to his native New England. The Newburgh, Maine, native stopped by the New Hampshire International Speedway infield media center Saturday morning to talk about a variety of topics.

RICKY CRAVEN --32-- Tide Taurus

IT'S ALWAYS BUSY WHEN YOU COME HERE. "Yeah, it's a good busy. It's been a great return home again. I got to spend a little bit of time here Thursday with family. We skipped into Moosehead Lake and spent the night, and then we visited Barbara Bush Hospital in Portland on Thursday as well as an appearance we had later that evening. It's hard for me to recognize this as work. First of all, I love what I do and I'm driving for a great team, but you combine all that with a trip back to New Hampshire International Speedway, a track that has been so rewarding for us, that it's hard to recognize it as anything other than pleasure."

CAN YOU COMMENT ON THE SITUATION WITH YOUR TEAM AND THE PONTIAC/FORD ISSUE? "Did I tell you that I got poison ivy this week? My wife and I bought a farm from Benny Parsons and we hired this guy to mow the field. When I got there just to check and see how he was doing, I said to my, 'Kay, is he moving?' It had a turtle and it's got a rabbit and he had it in turtle plus first gear. I said, 'Is he moving?' And she looked really, really hard and she said, 'I think he is.' So I drove down and said, "Hey, it looks great, but let me try this thing.' So I put it in high gear and I ran the tractor as fast as it would go. It wasn't a qualifying lap, but it was close. I must have run through some poison ivy and I've got poison ivy on my arms. So that's my biggest problem this week, it's not the Pontiac-Ford debate, it's this poison ivy."

DO YOU KNOW WHERE IT STANDS? "Cal's responsibility is to fund the program. His responsibility is to run the race team and that's a decision he'll make. I'm completely removed from it. I've been doing this for several years. I've built equity with the people from General Motors, the people from Ford. I've built friendships. I'll tell you, I've got a personal services contract with Ford this year and have really enjoyed working with them. Beyond that, I haven't got any idea."

CAN YOU COMMENT ON BEING 13TH IN POINTS AND CAN WE STOP TALKING ABOUT HOW SUCCESSFUL YOU'VE BECOME? "I just as soon not talk about it (laughing). No, you can talk about anything, anytime, anywhere. I think the painful period for me was two or three years ago when I didn't have a lot of options and then it was very difficult to talk about where I was at and where I was heading.

"But this is a business where you're judged on performance and you're rewarded for consistency. From the beginning of my days with the Tide Racing team, we have established speed. We have always been fast. Out of the gate at Daytona last year, we qualified in the top 10. We've always been fast with this team, which is a very difficult aspect of the business. Probably the most difficult is to find the speed, but where we were challenged was to finish the job. We would run fast and run in the top 10 during the races, but we didn't always finish in the top 10 and we didn't always finish the job for whatever reason. That's the remarkable thing about the first half of 2002. Mechanically, it's been nearly perfect.

The engines have been outstanding. The cars have gotten better and better, and the team has become an extension of my family. They're so much fun to race with. We're gonna consume 75 lobsters here in a few hours and we're gonna have lunch with Vanessa and that's the type of atmosphere that Cal has built with this Tide Racing team. We're judged on performance and right now the team is getting it done. Last year at this point, we were 32nd in points and today we're 13th. All of us know that if we have a better second half than we do first half, then we'll have something to celebrate in December when Karen brings the corporate jet down to pick us up."

WHAT ABOUT THIS 20 WEEK PERIOD? "First of all, there's a lot made of the schedule and I've had people ask me for the last 18 months, 'Are you affected by the schedule? What's your opinion of the schedule? Are you challenged by this schedule?' I say, 'Listen, I love this schedule.' I had a problem with my schedule two years ago, but you're not gonna find me complaining about the schedule. If they add three more races next year, bring it on. You'll never hear me complain about the schedule. This stretch, however, is gonna be critical for everyone because it's the type of stretch that if you lose some momentum, you don't have a week to regroup. Every seven days we're gonna be racing and that can work for you or against you. It's gonna be very important for everybody to balance their lives because you couldn't spend the next 20 weeks racing every single day, every hour, every minute. I think the greatest sacrifice among all the team are the crew members because they're away from their families, they're away from their children, and they just put in tremendous hours. For me, we'll do whatever we have to do to try to make up for that and make up to them the time they lost to their families. Like today, we're spending time together this afternoon. That's a great, great environment as opposed to them being back at the hotel room or being alone. The fact that we're a really tight team will play to our advantage."

AL UNSER, JR. IS GOING INTO REHAB. ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH NASCAR'S SUBSTANCE ABUSE POLICY? "I think the straight up approach is appropriate. I didn't know that, but if Al's doing that, I commend him. I think that's wonderful and I admire him for it, but it's the real world and every one of us has our own problems. If NASCAR is challenged by that, then I think they'll steer to it. It's somewhat of a hypothetical because I can't think of an example, but I've got a lot of confidence in NASCAR."

YOU SIGN A WAIVER THAT SAYS YOU CAN RANDOMLY BE DRUG TESTED. HAVE YOU EVER BEEN DRUG TESTED? "No, but I may be after this interview (laughing). I don't have any concerns. My personal opinion is, if you did, then that's why we have the policy. That's just my opinion."

SHOULD EVERY DRIVER SUBJECT THEMSELVES TO TESTING? "Personally, I've got no problem with any of that. I'm not a baseball player, but I find issue with anybody challenging the system as it relates to their privacy when you're part of an organization and you're trying to preserve the quality of the game, the brand. So, no issues."

HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF DRIVERS GANGING UP FOR A PROTEST AGAINST ANOTHER DRIVER LIKE DEBORAH RENSHAW LAST WEEK? "I don't know enough about it. I only know that there was some type of a protest, but as it relates to whatever happened, then it's the letter of the law. Whatever the rules and regulations are for that particular series -- if they weren't along the lines of the rules, then shame on whoever."

ISN'T IT NORMAL FOR COMPETITORS TO DO THINGS LIKE THAT IF SOMEONE STARTS WINNING TOO MUCH? "I have no idea. You had mentioned to me that they had protested her engine and it was barely illegal. Well, I struggle with that. Legal is legal and illegal is illegal. Right is right and almost right is still wrong in my opinion. That's a little frustrating for me. It seems clear to me that if they challenged her engine and it was illegal, then it was a pretty good decision. As it relates to being personal, I don't know enough about the story. I would be disappointed if it were."

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE FACT BOB BAHRE WANTED TO PUT THE SAFER BARRIER HERE AND WAS NOT ALLOWED TO? "Well, we were educated as it relates to the walls that exist in Indianapolis during the test a couple of weeks ago. Based on the knowledge that I have now, as opposed to before that meeting, it makes sense that the walls aren't here. The only thing worse than not having the walls here would be having walls here that didn't work or having walls that weren't beyond the testing stage. I think that makes a whole lot more sense to me now than it did then because I speculated why they weren't here. NASCAR wants to make the right decision and I think whatever system we embrace will be the right one."

REYNARD IS ON YOUR SEAT AND IN RECEIVERSHIP. WILL THAT AFFECT YOU AND YOUR SEATS? "The seat is just evolved from Cal's concept of bringing support from the driver from your shoulders to your feet. It's a great, great concept. If you imagine the seat itself being a cocoon and being extremely strong and having structural integrity that it could take combined hits. The key to that is that you could have an impact on the outer wall, slide across the track and have another impact, the seat wouldn't lose its form. The second aspect of it is that the bead insert supports you from the length of your body and by doing that, it will spread the load. A lot of injuries are the result of having a spike in one particular part of your body. I'm glad I haven't tested the seat. I'm extremely comfortable in it, but at some point it will be tested and I've got 100 percent confidence in what he's done. He's very safety conscious. He's done some wonderful things and he's not letting off the accelerator. I don't have any idea about the receivership."

WHAT ARE THE CHANCES OF SEEING YOU WITH A TEAMMATE NEXT YEAR? "As it relates to the team and the business side of things, I think that's very, very reasonable and realistic. The whole program at PPI was built around the concept of two cars or perhaps three, but Cal's done a wonderful job this year scaling down and re-budgeting. We've become much more efficient and I think the results support that. In the long run, we certainly need to part of a multi-car team."

WOULD YOU HAVE SOME SAY IN A TEAMMATE? "Cal says I am. There are certain people I identify with on the race track that would be very, very good to race with and there are others that are qualified, but maybe they wouldn't be our first choice. Cal says I'm part of that decision. I think, first of all, the priority is to secure the funds and the sponsorship and that weighs heavily on who the driver is, but if it didn't, then there are some good race car drivers that aren't secured for next year."

VETERAN OR ROOKIE? "I think the perfect race car driver for Winston Cup racing right now is 36, red hair (laughing), something in that area. You could make a pretty strong argument that the rookies have done an incredible job with some very good circumstances and good race teams. But then on the other side of the spectrum you've got the veterans, the mid-40 group, that's there every week consistently. They may hang out for the middle part of the race, but toward the end of the event, here they come. So I'm not sure it really matters."

WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO WIN HERE? "I would certainly hope I could win this weekend. This team is capable of winning every week now. We're not the favorite every week, but we're a team that people identify with as a contender for the win. Mike and Roy and Nick and all the guys understand how important it is for me to win at home. I'm lucky to have them. They're great people and fun to race with. Like I said earlier, they're part of my family. The cool think about this group is we've been together for 18 months now and nobody is interested in leaving. I think this is a group that's gonna be together for a long time. They're very content with where they're at as far as they're positions.

"They've very hungry to improve and do better, but they know how badly I would like to win here at home. This is the best we've qualified in the Tide Ford in the three races we've run here and I think it's our best shot. It's a pretty good looking race car too."

HOW DO YOU LIKE THE CHANGES HERE? "I think they're gonna be good. I certainly won't know until tomorrow afternoon, but it's all about options and by giving up that low groove, they've created an option. I think you'll see drivers use that option on entry and on exit. I don't think you'll see drivers spending a lot of time there as a particular groove, but you'll see it more of an option."

-ford-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Ricky Craven , Benny Parsons