Ricky Craven testing at Martinsville

Craven not resting on Martinsville laurels. MARTINSVILLE, VA (March 28, 2002) -- No one expected to see Ricky Craven back at Martinsville Speedway so soon. The last time Craven visited the demanding half-mile track, he left with a huge grin,...

Craven not resting on Martinsville laurels.

MARTINSVILLE, VA (March 28, 2002) -- No one expected to see Ricky Craven back at Martinsville Speedway so soon.

The last time Craven visited the demanding half-mile track, he left with a huge grin, a pocketful of loot and one of Martinsville's storied grandfather clocks for his win in the Old Dominion 500.

But despite that win last fall, there Craven was bright and early Wednesday morning when Martinsville Speedway's gates opened for the first day of testing for the upcoming Virginia 500.

"I really think it is a good illustration of the respect we have for the Winston Cup Series and the drivers and the teams," Craven said Thursday afternoon, explaining why he and his Tide teammates had opted to make a two-day testing trip to Martinsville.

"We won last fall and we felt like we earned it, but we don't feel like we could rest on our laurels. We feel to come back here and repeat, we needed to improve on a few things. I think it's a great plan. When we won here last year, we led the most laps and won the race, but we wanted to be better. We wanted to be isolated from the rest of the crowd to do our deal and testing is the time to do that."

Craven started sixth and led 94 laps of last fall's Old Dominion 500 for his first NASCAR Winston Cup victory. He was still running strong when he rolled the Tide Ford off pit road Wednesday morning.

"We picked up right where we left off," said Craven, who gave his grandfather clock to crew chief Mike Beam after last October's win. "We're performing better than we were then. I think this test has already paid dividends. We'll come back here in a few weeks with a similar package to what we won with last year, but with the addition of a few things. What we' ve learned so far in this test will make us a better team."

That win last fall provided a boost to Craven's team. He's already captured two poles this year, has finished in the top five twice and is 15th in the points.

"Everything we've done this year is an improvement over last year. Each of the six races so far, we've performed better than last year. That's all you can ask," said Craven. "I don't think any of us expected to come from 21st in the points last year to a championship contender this year. That's not reasonable. We still have things to work on and testing is the time to do that."

Craven and Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year contenders Ryan Newman and Jimmy Johnson closed out two days of testing at Martinsville Thursday afternoon.

Testing resumes Monday when Dale Earnhardt Jr., Bill Elliott, Michael Waltrip, Mike Skinner and Randy Renfrow hit the track for a two-day session. Action kicks off at Martinsville Speedway on Friday, April 12 with MW Windows Pole Day. The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competitors will time trial for the Advance Auto Parts 250 at 1:30 p.m. while qualifying for the Virginia 500 is set for 3 p.m. Tickets for qualifying are $15 for adults and children under 12 get in free.

The Craftsman Truck Series racing action begins at 2 p.m. on April 13 when the green flag waves on the Advance Auto Parts 250. Tickets for the Advance Auto Parts 250 Craftsman Truck race are $30 for adults and $5 for children ages 6-12. All seats are unreserved.

There still are great seats available for the Virginia 500 NASCAR Winston Cup race for $40-$70 each. To purchase tickets call the speedway ticket office toll free at 877-722-3849 or online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Bill Elliott , Mike Skinner , Ryan Newman , Ricky Craven