RICKY CRAVEN PRESS CONFERENCE (finished 1st) WHAT WERE YOU THINKING THE LAST 10 LAPS? "I worked hard to just focus on running as hard as I could. I'd come up off of turn four and I'd look to see if he made any progress and he had. I just kept...
RICKY CRAVEN PRESS CONFERENCE (finished 1st)
WHAT WERE YOU THINKING THE LAST 10 LAPS?
"I worked hard to just focus on running as hard as I could. I'd come up off of turn four and I'd look to see if he made any progress and he had. I just kept digging deeper and deeper. With three laps to go, I wheel-hopped into one. I drove in just too deep and wheel-hopped and I said, 'You can lose this to Dale Jarrett, but don't you lose it.' I'll be honest with you, I sort of choked up again and it was just really hard to concentrate. But, I feel like that's the hardest 10 laps I've ever run in my life in terms of just qualifying. That was deep as I could run, as hard as I could brake and as hard as I could turn and he was still coming. I did find comfort in seeing Dale Jarrett in my mirror as opposed to someone else. He's a gentleman and he did everything he could to win, but he didn't rough me up."
WHAT WAS YOUR VIEW OF THE INCIDENT THAT BROUGHT OUT THE LAST CAUTION?
"I recognized it as an opportunity to get the lead. I didn't take the time or have the time to evaluate or analyze what happened -- who was at fault -- but I knew both cars were crossed up and it gave me the chance to get beside the 55. The spotter was saying, 'You're three wide,' and we went down into turn three and I survived. I don't even know what happened to them. When you reflect on the race and the way I reflect on it in regards to my first win, it's exactly what I've said for the last five years. You need to have a nearly perfect day to win. We had a perfect day in the pits. We had a great car. Mike (Beam) did a great job calling the race. We took two tires at the end, which was critical. My gosh, at the end of the day it came down to just one round left, toe to toe, and it's just an awesome way to win."
WHEN DID YOU WIN YOUR POLE HERE?
"I won my first Busch pole and Winston Cup pole, so this place has been very rewarding. My first Busch pole was my rookie year in '92 and then Winston Cup pole was '96."
WERE THERE TIMES LAST YEAR WHEN YOU THOUGHT YOU WOULDN'T GET IN A INNING WSITUATION?
"I've been asked that several times because anyone realistically would understand, 'Hey, he spends half of his time floating around Moosehead Lake and the other half driving the 50 car.' It was miserable. It wasn't my idea of racing, but it allowed me to be visible. I remember being in Maine with my family and my wife said one day. I've never shared this. I've been asked this question a lot, but my wife said, 'Hey, tough times don't last. Tough people do and you're tough, so just carry on.' And that stuck with me. When I got this opportunity I just reminded myself of what she said. Martinsville is one of the toughest places we race, but you've just got to get tough right back."
WHEN DO YOU THINK THIS WILL SINK IN?
"Right after qualifying at Talladega because you're back to work. Between now and then, I'm on top of the world. When we crossed the start-finish line and Mike said, 'You won the race,' time stopped. I'm not kidding you. That's never happened in my life, but time stopped. It was like, 'That's what I've worked 20 years for.' I began racing when I was 15 years old in 1982 and I always had the vision of being a Winston Cup racer and winning a Winston Cup race and I was really upset the last few years thinking, 'Hey, I may not win that Winston Cup race and I'm gonna be miserable the rest of my life.' But, I mean, professionally this is exactly what I've worked for my whole life. I've got to tell you, I'm so lucky to have the people I have around me. From day one, Mike and I have hit it off. It's more than just racing. We're friends. We enjoy each other's company. We're both a little ornery and we're very intent on succeeding. Everything that's happened for me has made me a better person and today it's all paid off."
CAN YOU PUT IN WORDS HOW LOW YOU WERE AND HOW HIGH YOU ARE RIGHT NOW?
"I tell you what, I'm not ashamed to tell you that I think I ran two laps with my visor down because I couldn't talk. If you want to speak in terms of extremes, there was a percentage of time spent feeling sorry for myself and then you look at this side of things and it's like I'm on top of the world. I mean, this is the greatest day in my life professionally. This is exactly what I've worked all my life for and what makes it so awesome is that you question yourself. You say, 'Am I gonna get that chance? Am I gonna win that race?' Today, I can sit here and say that the NASCAR Winston Cup record book from here on out is gonna have my name listed with some of the greatest. Some of them have three digits, but I'm still there. That's what I've wanted all my life."
WHAT WERE YOU THINKING IN THE CAR AFTER THE RACE?
"My kids, to be honest. The last two years I have had the absolute greatest time of my life with my kids. I've saved money because I've been racing a long time and we have a log home up in the mountains of Maine and, I'll be honest, I was on vacation. I went up and said, 'Hey, if I'm gonna be miserable I'm gonna be miserable up here where nobody has to see me and I'm gonna be with my kids.' I've done great things. I did things with my kids that I'm not gonna be able to do for 10 more years until I retire. So I thought about my kids. A priority in life for me is to lead by example and when we're riding home, I've got two of the greatest kids, but we're riding home and my little girl says, 'Hey dad, why does Jeff Gordon win all the time?' And I struggled to answer that. And she says, 'Have you won?' And I say, 'Yeah, in 1991 I won 10 Busch North races.' I called my little girl at school today and told her I won. I just thought about my family."
WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO TALK TO THEM?
"It's a credit to my wife. They left because she won't let them miss a day of school. My little girl was kicking and screaming. She wanted to stay here, but they went back to go to school. I'm thankful. Cal Wells lets my family travel on the team plane and they're with me every week. My family is the joy of my life. Every one of us does something for a living and, by God, I get to do something I love to do and I won. Life doesn't get any better than this right here. Then on Friday, we're gonna be qualifying at Talladega and we've got to start all over. So between now and Friday it's gonna be great."
HOW FAR BEHIND ARE YOU ON YOUR TIMETABLE FOR SUCCESS AND HOW GOOD IS IT TO WIN CONVINCINGLY?
"I'm not sure that it's late. I don't think reflecting on the last five years, although I ran well at times, I don't think I was ready to win or mature enough to win. I really believe that everything I've gone through has helped me be a better person and a better race car driver. I feel like we've won at one of the toughest race tracks on the circuit today and I'm not sure I could have done that two or three years ago. But the way we won, it's a great point, because we earned it. Nobody gave us our first win. We fought tooth and nail and we earned it."
WHAT ABOUT TURN FOUR, WAS IT SLICK?
"I noticed it with 15 to go because I was spinning my tires and I thought, 'Cut that out.' But after five or six laps, the Tide Ford had great bite and we actually distanced ourselves a little bit. Then Dale Jarrett was chasing us down, but in reality I think it was a relatively clean Martinsville race. I've seen worse, so let's not complain about the tunnel."
WHAT DID YOU WORK ON DURING YOUR TEST?
"It was priceless. We ran 450 laps and never made one qualifying run. We put in a lot of effort into what we got today."
MIKE BEAM, Crew Chief --32-- Tide Taurus
WHAT ABOUT YOUR TEST HERE? "We came up here and tested and it was a great test. We really worked on brakes and worked on the things we needed to work on for here. We made some 50 lap runs and we knew it was gonna be pretty good. On Saturday we wandered a little bit, but I'm glad Cal let us come up here and test. Luckily, it worked out for us."
HOW BAD DID IT GET FOR YOU?
"It's just an element of our business. You're gonna get knocked around and I'm thankful that I didn't get beat up bad. I think in some respects perhaps it tempered me and settled me down some. I was quite anxious the first few years I was in Winston Cup and, knock on wood, we haven't really torn up a lot of cars this year. They've given me good cars and they've been underneath me. There's just no future in bouncing off the wall and it took me learning that the hard way."
TALK ABOUT THE LAST LAP.
"I ran the last 10 laps as hard as I could possibly run. I went into turn one with a lap to go and I said, 'I've got this thing' because he was actually behind me. He hadn't pulled up. I ran into the corner as hard as I could, but I wasn't gonna slide up. He got a run on the outside of me coming up off turn two, almost even, and I wasn't that generous. I used up every bit of race track and we made contact. Then in turn three I was even less generous. He had to be thinking Michigan, when he won his first race. If it had been another lap, I don't think I could have held him off, but I was not gonna lose that race that way, and I'm just lucky I had Dale Jarrett on the outside."
WHAT ABOUT YOUR TEAM?
"I think one thing is that all of us had the same goals, so that makes a big difference. Like Ricky said earlier, we have really become great friends. Cal is such a good racer. He gives us all the tools to work with and this is basically a two-year team. We do have a bunch of different people on our team, but one thing this whole team has is a bunch of heart. I'm not the easiest guy to work with sometimes and Ricky isn't and Cal isn't, so I think that makes all the difference in the world. We do support each other and I guess that's the best way to put it. We still respect every one and that's one thing Ricky has really helped me with. Even though we don't agree sometimes, we still respect each other and in the end we're still gonna do what's best for the race car."
WHEN WAS YOUR LAST WIN?
"The Southern 500 in '94 with Bill (Elliott)."
WHAT'S DIFFERENT ABOUT THIS TEAM?
"Cal is different from the other owners I've raced with because he's there every day and he's up to his neck in his race team. He's very technical and he has really put it all on the line. He lives to race and at the end of the day, what better guy to line yourself up with. You know that if you take a beating when you lose, that it's not because we didn't try. I want to recognize that Larry Hedrick is a good friend and a great guy. He gave me my chance in Winston Cup. There are a lot of great racers in the world that may never get a chance, but Larry Hedrick gave me my chance and I'm really thankful for that."
WHAT ABOUT THE TWO TIRE CALL?
"Hamilton had changed two before and I knew he was okay. Track position means everything here and I was monitoring Todd (Parrott). When he said four, I was gonna go the other way because I wasn't gonna get behind the 88. It's just a gamble. I told Ricky what I wanted to do and he said that was fine with him. He said, 'I'm a gambling man' so we need to go to Vegas here pretty quick."
WHAT'S GOING THROUGH YOUR MIND NOW?
"I spent '95 and '96 thinking, 'I've got to win right now, this week, today.' I spent '98, '99 and 2000 thinking, 'Am I gonna get a chance to win.' I don't know what to think. I'm really just thinking, 'Wow, we just won.' It's why I've got Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to enjoy it and I'm going to. We're gonna to some fun stuff and it might even be at the expense of Talladega a little bit. I know these guys. They're always two weeks ahead anyway, but I'm gonna have an extraordinary phone bill. I'm gonna talk to a lot of people and, hopefully, have a celebration. This is a big, big moment for us."
HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU RUN A RACE LIKE THIS IN YOUR MIND?
"That's such a great question because I rode up here for two hours by myself. I don't know how many races I've run in my career and every one of those races I think, 'How am I gonna win today?' You put so much emphasis on just winning. You never ever think about, 'How am I gonna finish second today or how can we finish third today but how are you gonna win?' In 174 times I've come up empty and then today we won. It took me 174 tries and I can assure you that I've got it figured out now."