Craven joins new team for 1999 By Shawn A. Akers HAMPTON, Ga. (Nov. 7, 1998) For Ricky Craven, the 1999 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season will be a revival -- a chance for him to shake off the memories of a tough 1998 and focus on getting his...
Craven joins new team for 1999 By Shawn A. Akers
HAMPTON, Ga. (Nov. 7, 1998) For Ricky Craven, the 1999 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season will be a revival -- a chance for him to shake off the memories of a tough 1998 and focus on getting his racing career on the path he started it down over four years ago.
On Saturday morning, it was announced that Craven has signed a deal with SBIII Motorsports and team owner Scott Barbour to return to the NASCAR Winston Cup Series full-time next year in a Ford. The team has yet to obtain sponsorship and will be assigned the No. 58.
The 1995 Rookie of the Year, Craven has struggled to find his niche in the series. He spent two years with Larry Hedrick in the No. 41 Kodiak Chevrolet and a year-plus in the Budweiser Chevrolet of Hendrick Motorsports. Earlier this year, however, Craven was released by Hendrick, leaving his future in the sport uncertain.
He's been filling in the past few weeks as a substitute driver for the injured Ernie Irvan in the No. 36 Skittles Pontiac.
The deal with SBIII Motorsports has just what Craven has been looking for since his release from Hendrick Motorsports in mid-August.
"I think this is going to be a fresh start for me," the 32-year-old Craven said. "I think I did a bit of good over the last few years with both Larry Hedrick and Hendrick Motorsports, but I never quite really got to the point where I really wanted to be. That was discouraging because both teams had such good programs.
"There were times at both places where I thought we were on the brink of doing something special and getting a win or two, but it just never happened. I think this is going to be a great opportunity for me and a great situation. I can't wait to get everything started."
Craven won't have to wait for long. The new team will field an entry in the NASCAR Thunder Special Motegi -- Coca-Cola 500 exhibition race in Motegi, Japan on Nov. 22. The car the team will race is a Ford that was purchased from Roush Racing.
A Pittsburgh native, Barbour, 34, is a former member of the United States Air Force. In December of 1992, he founded Turbine Solutions, a privately-held aircraft engine parts supply company, and he quickly secured several major accounts based solely on his personal relationships and clients who believed in him.
Turbine Solutions has since established itself as a leader supplier of quality JT8D engine parts and components. Turbine started the 1998 season as an associate sponsor on Cale Yarborough's No. 98 Ford Taurus. Barbour also decided to make Turbine a sponsor for selected NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series events for driver Rich Bickle.
"I've worked a long time to make this dream a reality," Barbour said. "I met Mike Hillman when he was the crew chief at Yarborough's, and then I knew he would be the man to get this team started. It's a combination of things. We're kinda starting from scratch and we've gotten some help from some people in the business. It should be exciting for us, and I think it's not unrealistic to say that we can get a win or two next season for Ricky and this team."
Hillman, who has worked with drivers such as Dick Trickle, Bobby Hillin, Robby Gordon, Greg Sacks, Kyle Petty and Joe Nemechek, will be the crew chief for the No. 58 Ford.
Craven said he believes the team can be competitive in 1999. The team will however, to coin a phrase, have to "learn how to walk before it learns how to run."
"I've yet to get my first win, let alone two," Craven said of Barbour's optimism. "But I don't believe that winning a race next year is out of the question. I've been close in a couple of situations to getting a win, and I feel that I'm really close right now. I think we'll have the resources with this team to win. Every year things get more and more competitive in the series, but hopefully we can make some noise with this team next year and put ourselves in a position to get to Victory Lane."
Craven said sponsorship for the team is "about 85 or 90 percent there," and that he and Barbour hope to announce something along those lines in the near future.
The team will set up shop in Huntersville, N.C.
Source: NASCAR Online