DARLINGTON, S.C. (March 17, 1998) Always looking for adventure behind the wheel of the No. 50 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Ricky Craven won't need to look past Sunday's TranSouth Financial 400 NASCAR Winston Cup race at Darlington ...
DARLINGTON, S.C. (March 17, 1998) Always looking for adventure behind the wheel of the No. 50 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Ricky Craven won't need to look past Sunday's TranSouth Financial 400 NASCAR Winston Cup race at Darlington Raceway.
Racing at NASCAR's oldest superspeedway has intrigued Craven for years. The 31-year-old native of Newburgh, Maine, has finished on the lead lap only once in six starts at the 1.366-mile egg-shaped track, but he matched his career-best finish with a third-place run in the 1996 TranSouth Financial 400. Craven came back last spring to qualify second, missing the Bud Pole by nine hundredths of a second.
"I beat myself up that night wondering where I could have made up those nine hundredths," Craven said. "Darlington is one of my favorite stops on the schedule, and I really wanted that pole. Then we had some problems in the race, and I was really disappointed. Robert Pressley got loose off Turn 2, and I did my best to miss him, but I didn't have anywhere to go.
"We had such a good week at Darlington last spring, but we didn't have anything to show for it, and that's frustrating."
Craven and company have recorded one top-10 finish in four starts this season. With new crew chief Tony Furr calling the shots for the No. 50 Budweiser team in '98, the Maine man is counting on many more top 10s -- beginning with Sunday's race.
"Tony Furr has helped me everywhere we've been so far, and I know we'll find the right setup for Darlington," Craven said. "Tony's a great guy and he's committed to putting this team in Victory Lane. Tony lives with the car. He'd spend the night in the garage if they'd let him. The car is that important to him, and I really admire that dedication.
"It takes that kind of dedication, especially at a place like Darlington because it's such a tricky track. I think we've always gone back to the setup we started with at Darlington. We've run consistent there, but you have to adjust to the conditions. The rules have changed, tires and things like that, so we'll adjust as we go and hope for the best."
Craven's Hendrick Motorsports teammate, defending series champion Jeff Gordon, will be going for his fifth victory in the past six races at Darlington on Sunday. Gordon captured the Winston Million last August at Darlington with his third straight Southern 500 victory.
Despite its reputation as one of NASCAR's most difficult tracks, Craven says taking a positive mental approach to Darlington means a lot.
"Attitude means a lot everywhere, but especially at Darlington," Craven said. "You either like it or you don't. You have to attack the race track. It's not an easy place to get around. It's not the type of track you can finesse your way around, although I believe there's an element of that in qualifying.
"You're going to use up every bit of the track in the race getting in the corners, especially Turns 1 and 3. Jeff Gordon's got that figured out. He's done so well there the past few years, and he uses up every bit of race track. Jeff's really got the handle on Darlington, so it's great to have him as a teammate there."
In his second season behind the wheel of the Budweiser Chevrolet out of the Hendrick Motorsports stables, Craven and company compete each week in a Monte Carlo named after one of the famous Budweiser Clydesdales. The Darlington Chevy is nicknamed Abe in honor of one of the 2,000-pound-plus Clydesdales in the eight-horse hitch.
"Those Budweiser Clydesdales are truly a breed apart from all other horses," Craven said. "There's a lot of horsepower in each one of them, and we've got plenty of horsepower under the hood of the Budweiser Chevy, too. We're going to get everything hooked up and take 'em both to Victory Lane soon."
Source: NASCAR Online