New team qualifies as relief for Craven

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 7, 2000) - Sometimes, changes are for the better. Ricky Craven will begin the 2000 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season with a new car, new team members ... and a new outlook. Craven joined the MidWest Transit team...

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 7, 2000) - Sometimes, changes are for the better. Ricky Craven will begin the 2000 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season with a new car, new team members ... and a new outlook.

Craven joined the MidWest Transit team beginning with the 1999 Pepsi 400 in Daytona and proceeded to qualify for 12 consecutive races entered without the benefit of a provisional starting position. Although they failed to qualify for the season-ending event in Atlanta, Craven believes the nucleus is there to turn heads in 2000.

"We've got a strong organization," Craven said. "We made changes during the off-season but our nucleus is still together with John Monsam as crew chief and Charley Pressley as team manager. I'm excited about beginning this year with new personnel and the new Chevrolet Monte Carlo.

"While we're optimistic, we must not get complacent. We're at a disadvantage with our provisional status and know we must have a strong qualifying run and strong finish in each of the first four races."

While the front row will be the only positions locked in for the Daytona 500 during Saturday's qualifying session, a strong qualifying run will ease the pressure of the Twin 125 qualifying races. The Twin 125s determine positions three through 30 and provide great racing with high anxiety for teams on the "bubble."

"Last year, with the No. 58 team, we raced our way into the Daytona 500," Craven said. "While I'm sure it's fun to watch, there were many anxious moments on the race track. We didn't have a strong qualifying run so we knew the Twin 125s would determine if we raced in the Daytona 500 or watched the race on TV.

"I don't want to be in that position this year. I hope we post a strong enough qualifying run that if something happens during the 125s -- blown engine, flat tire -- we will make the 500 on speed.

"Then the fun begins. We'll draft in practice with different setups in preparation for our Super Bowl."

This "Super Bowl" provided a high point in Craven's racing career in 1997. He charged from a 40th-place start to finish third and completed a 1-2-3 sweep for Hendrick Motorsports.

"To have a finish like I had in 1997, you must think ahead during the race," Craven said. "You must determine who drafts well with you, who will be your friend when you step out of line to make a pass and what adjustments are needed for your car and driving style."

Craven used this knowledge when he was a relief driver for the injured Ernie Irvan during the 1998 Pepsi 400. He replaced Irvan during the first caution and drove from deep in the field to an eighth-place finish.

"I've had strong runs here in the past," Craven said. "What better way to give the team confidence than to run strong during Speedweeks. I'm excited about this season because we have the potential for a good year."

This outlook, along with new personnel and the 2000 Monte Carlo, may prove changes are for the better.

nascar.com

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