Rockingham: Ricky Craven pole-sitter press conference

Ricky Craven Pole-Winning Press Conference YOU PICKED UP A LOT FROM PRACTICE. "We had a lot left, obviously, but I was really loose off the trailer and I couldn't power down off the corner. Before qualifying I told Mike Beam and Roy McCauley,...

Ricky Craven Pole-Winning Press Conference

YOU PICKED UP A LOT FROM PRACTICE. "We had a lot left, obviously, but I was really loose off the trailer and I couldn't power down off the corner. Before qualifying I told Mike Beam and Roy McCauley, 'If you can tie the back of the car down so I can get aggressive, this car is a rocket.' The key here is to have a car that will turn down to the bottom. My car was on the white line, but that only gets you halfway through the job. The other half of the equation is from the middle off and Mike and Roy made some great decisions. I mean, they were just perfect because it allowed me to really accelerate from the middle off. I didn't give up a thing getting in, but I was able to power off. When we ran that lap I said, 'Guys, thank you. If they beat it, we'll go shake their hand because it's just an awesome race car.'"

DID THE CAR STICK? "It stuck. The key, though, is the car has to get down to the bottom of the race track. It's interesting. This can be a very difficult business. When the car is driving good like that, it's not nearly as difficult. It's got nothing to do with just winning the pole or whatever, but your difficult days are when you're qualifying 30th and really stretching it out. I'm really proud of the Tide team. I feel like from the second half of 2001 to today, we had turned the corner. The pole was nice today because it allowed us to pick up where we left off last year in terms of momentum, but we all know we still have to finish the job."

WHAT DID YOU DO TO PICK UP SO MUCH TIME FROM PRACTICE? "I know they taped it up solid. There are some challenges with the new engine rule. You don't want to get the engine hot. You have to evaluate what you're gonna take in qualifying versus what you might give up for the race. But, the guys worked hard over the winter evaluating all that knowing as long as we didn't get the engine hot or over-rev the engine we'd be fine. We got it a little bit warm, but Robert and Doug Yates help me sleep at night. They do an awesome job, obviously, so I don't give any consideration to the motor. That helped. Mike and Roy, we've worked together for a year now and I think that's one of the fascinating things about this team is we didn't lose anybody from last year. Being able to keep everyone, it was like the season really didn't end. We just picked up where we left off."

THIS IS YOUR FIFTH CAREER POLE. HOW WILL THIS TRANSLATE TO SUNDAY? "It's critical for us to finish the job. Statistically, it's been a good track for us, but we haven't won. This team is determined to finish the job. Obviously, everybody has that same objective, but winning the pole is nice. I'm proud of the team and they deserve the credit, but I'm immediately thinking about Sunday."

HOW WILL IT BE STARTING FIRST INSTEAD OF LAST LIKE LAST WEEK? "It's gonna be a lot different. Maybe this is the car I should have taken to Daytona. Starting last at Daytona was better than not starting the Daytona 500. It was a tough week on the team and I think coming here and winning the pole is great redemption for the team. They worked as hard as anybody there, but I don't feel like we got the results that equalled the effort. It's nice that we could come here and have a good day."

CAN YOU BACK THIS UP? "It's just a whole lot to do with getting older and learning. The critical part of the whole equation is being around the right people. I crossed paths with Cal Wells, a guy that has the same degree of passion for this sport that I have. Mike Beam, who has a wealth of experience and is a good friend of mine. Roy McCauley, an engineer who is full of enthusiasm and very determined and aggressive. I think the big difference is a group of people that really believe in their driver, which is a great feeling, and a driver that wouldn't trade this team for anyone. We still have a lot of work to do. We won the pole and I'm really, really excited about that. I'm happy, but we still have a lot of work to do. I think the greatest aspect of this whole thing for me is that I'm with a group of people that I expect to be with for a long time. Because of that, I feel like our opportunities are gonna be several. We're gonna be very productive."

HOW DO YOU APPROACH PRACTICE TOMORROW? "We tested here a month ago and with only seven tests a year, you've got to be very selective where you go. This is one that obviously paid off. We came in and had two fantastic days of testing. As a result, I think the pressure is off of us. I really believe in my people. I've got a great, great group of people and a very talented group of people. We are committed to what we learned in the test, so don't be surprised if the Tide team doesn't run a lot of laps tomorrow. I'm not worried about the engine because it's a Robert Yates engine and they're the best in the business, but we might have that attitude of 'why run a bunch of laps?' I think we ran close to 500 laps when we were testing here. That might be a stretch, but we ran a lot. We made a 70-lap run on the second day. You won't make a 70-lap run tomorrow. It would be very unusual. There might be teams that might get a long run in, but we made a 70-lap run testing and we liked what we saw, so I don't expect that we're gonna run a lot of laps tomorrow. So, the test has already paid off. We've gotten dividends off of that test."

IS IT THE NEW AND IMPROVED RICKY CRAVEN? "Perhaps in small letters it should say 'new and improved attitude and focus and opportunity.' I think this team has done a lot for my attitude and my focus. I've always had a passion for this business. It's very, very dangerous when it becomes fun. I challenge you to find anybody in the garage area that's had more fun than I've had the last 13 months. Interview after interview I've expressed myself about how much fun I'm having and I think there's a correlation between really enjoying what you're doing and finding success. We haven't gotten there yet, but I have a three-year contract which is the first time I've ever had that in my life. Cal's got a three-year contract (with Tide). These are the greatest people I've ever raced for, so there's a lot to be happy about. I'm really fortunate in that I've built a great relationship with these people. I've always admired the relationships in this sport. Richard Childress and Dale Earnhardt; Rick Hendrick and Jeff Gordon; Jack Roush and Mark Martin -- those are guys that I could only hope to do a percentage of what they've done. I feel great about things."

HOW DID FINISHING 17TH AT DAYTONA MAKE YOU FEEL AS FAR AS MOMENTUM? "I definitely have a better perspective today than I had five years ago. Five years ago I might have left Daytona 17th and said, 'That's really too bad.' As opposed to last week saying, 'You know, 17th was higher than we finished in points last year, so we're off to a good start.' It's all about being realistic. It's about the people you're around. Cal Wells was happy. He was proud of his team to come from 43rd to 17th and that's the type of attitude you want to be around. That's nice to have that type of support. It felt like this was gonna be a good weekend and its gotten off to a good start, so, if we can finish the job here, then I'll really believe we've picked up where we left off in terms of the growth of the team. Again, the key is all about people. We've got the same group of people working on the Tide Ford that were with us at New Hampshire. That staying power is a reflection on how good things are there. It's obviously a good place to work. It's a great group of people, a very intense group of people, but it's a group of people that appreciate one another. We'll race as hard as anyone out here, but at the end of the day we'll go grab dinner together and I think that's why it so much fun."

IS THERE A TRANSITION FROM DAYTONA TO ROCKINGHAM? "This race track is about preservation. You need to have a fast race car like I have, but you have to preserve the tires. You certainly need to preserve the equipment and running fast for 300 laps will do nothing for you. There is a balance here between running fast enough the first 20 laps, so that if you get a caution late you can still win the race, you can be defensive, but the flip side of that balance is having a car that will run really fast from lap 40 to lap 70. The difference between today and the top fives we've had here in the past are that I discovered during the test that this car has some speed. This is a very fast car for 20 laps and over two days of working with it, we got it so that it will really hold on for 70. We've got a great opportunity. I am convinced that we've got a great shot at Sunday's race. I have a good idea of the guys we're gonna have to race, but we had a very productive test. Again, you only have seven of them and you've got to capitalize on them."

WHY COME HERE TO TEST IF YOU ALWAYS RUN WELL? "The attitude of the team -- Cal and Mike and Roy -- we discussed this during the winter. We wanted to test at two of our best race tracks and a couple of race tracks we didn't feel so good about -- where we didn't have the performance. As a result, we chose to come here and we're gonna test Martinsville. Even though we won, we want to back it up, and we want to go to New Hampshire. There are a few other race tracks that we'll focus on that we didn't run so well at, that we feel we should have, and attempt to correct that. I think it's a great strategy. When you look back to last year statistically, you had Jeff Gordon with six wins and Tony Stewart, I think, had three but everybody else was at two or less. You really put a premium on a couple of wins. I mean, a couple of wins in this business is very productive. I'm not sitting here today making any predictions, but our attitude is, 'we're gonna go after Rockingham and Martinsville' and then we're gonna focus on correcting some of our weaknesses. We'll see how it plays out."

WHAT ABOUT THE COMPOSITE SEAT? "It's nice. I've made the transition and it wasn't that difficult. When we tested, my first lap on the track with the seat I felt like I was 85 percent there. The team was comfortable with that, but the last 15 percent was a challenge. The great thing was, we had two weeks in Daytona to focus on that last 15 percent. I'm not gonna tell you that the seat is 100 percent, but I feel like I'm 95 percent in terms of comfort. I'm 100 percent in terms of its ability."

YOU FEEL SAFE? "I have no reservations. I'm 100 percent confident that it's the best seat on the race track, the safest seat."

WILL WE SEE OTHER GUYS IN IT? "I don't know that, but I know every Tide Ford is gonna have one in it. It's something Cal spent a lot of his own money in developing. I've studied the data and the sled testing and, in my opinion, it's conclusive. It's a better seat."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Ricky Craven , Jack Roush , Robert Yates , Mark Martin