Rockingham: Ricky Craven preview

Ricky Craven No. 32 Tide Chevrolet Monte Carlo Round 2 of 36 - Subway 400 North Carolina Speedway HICKORY, NC (February 17, 2004) - Ricky Craven, driver of the No. 32 Tide Chevrolet, returns the track where he made his very first NASCAR Cup ...

Ricky Craven
No. 32 Tide Chevrolet Monte Carlo
Round 2 of 36 - Subway 400
North Carolina Speedway

HICKORY, NC (February 17, 2004) - Ricky Craven, driver of the No. 32 Tide Chevrolet, returns the track where he made his very first NASCAR Cup start on October 20, 1991 -- North Carolina Speedway. Craven has scored one pole, six top-fives and nine top-10s in 18 starts at the 1-mile track.

Ricky Craven, driver of the No. 32 Tide Chevrolet:

What do you attribute to Rockingham being one of your best tracks?

"I've always enjoyed one-mile tracks. I've always felt one-mile tracks were perfect: not too big, not too small. The only thing that I can say I really enjoy it. Sometimes it's mental --- I've been able to run well there in the past, which works to my advantage and the team's advantage each time we return. I like any track that offers options, so when you go to a place that provides options of running high or low --- that's fun. Every driver has a preferred line, but if your car isn't working, you can move around and make it two or three-tenths faster. The order of the day at Rockingham is you have to be versatile and you have to be willing to move around. If you are not able to do that and the race has a long green flag stretch --- you' re in trouble. I also made my first Cup start at Rockingham, so maybe that' s why it has been so special to me."

How do you feel about racing at Rockingham only one time on the schedule this season?

"There is no question, I'm disappointed that we are only racing one time a year now at Rockingham. From an entertainment standpoint, the racing doesn' t get much better than Rockingham --- it just doesn't. I understand there is a bottom line in business and this was a business decision, but I really wish we could still race there twice a year."

Will the new tire compound be a factor this weekend?

"I don't think the new tires are going to be a big issue as first made out to be. I think Rockingham has always been a track where tire wear is a factor and I know we are prepared for this weekend. Statistically, it has been one of our best. I think the three spring races I've run since I've been with the Tide team, we've posted three top-five finishes. I expect that this event will be no different. We are taking chassis No. 32 there which is the car that I won the pole with in 2002."

NASCAR has implemented new testing rules for 2004 utilizing one-day and two-day tests. The Tide team used a one-day test at Rockingham. How you do like the new format?

"I like the fact that we tested Rockingham. It's a place we can win at early in the season. I don't think there is a track on the schedule that we don't believe we can win at. But I have to say that Rockingham has been good to us. Our strategy was to use some of our tests to play to our strengths and use the remaining tests to focus on places we haven't run as well as we expected. We'll use the two-day tests at places where we need a little bit of help, for instance, New Hampshire. We hadn't met our expectations there and obviously, being home for me, it is pretty high on my list."

Are you glad to be getting back to racing where the driver is a bigger factor, rather than it being all about aerodynamics like it is at Daytona?

"From my seat, it's all about team and everyone executing and being perfect. The smallest things can affect that, like at Daytona where we pitted and the caution came out right after. You spend so much time working towards a goal, and you're affected by one situation. I do think there is some equipment and tire management at Rockingham, which has direct effect on how your day goes. I can't imagine it would be much different because the track itself is so abrasive and it is has always been an issue there. You won't see anyone take two-tire stops at Rockingham, that's for sure."

Dave Charpentier, crew chief of the No. 32 Tide Chevrolet

What are the biggest concerns for a crew chief at Rockingham?

"Managing tires and pit strategy. When deciding to pit you have to weigh staying out on tires and using your full fuel capacity versus taking on new tires and gaining time on the track. Really, the leader can dictate the flow of a race. You have to watch your lap times and watch what everyone else does to put you in the best situation for when the checkered flag falls."

What are your expectations for this weekend?

"I have very high expectations for this weekend. I have some great runs there in my past dating back to winning a pole with Ricky Rudd in 1995, to 2001 when I was at DEI and we won with Steve Park. Most recently, I worked with Martin Truex, Jr. in a Busch car last year and he qualified sixth and finished second. With Ricky's record there, the Tide team's record there and my experience there, I believe we will be very strong."

How did the test go for the Tide team at Rockingham?

"The test was typical Rockingham. We ran really well there. We didn't see a lot of difference in the tires, as Goodyear did not change the compound of the tire for Rockingham, only the construction. Ricky could not tell a difference from this year's tire to last year's."

Notes of Interest:

* Craven and the Tide Racing team sat on the pole for this event two years ago.

* Craven and the Tide Racing team have produced three top-five finishes in the spring race in the last three years: fourth in 2003, fifth in 2002 and fifth in 2001.

* Craven's best finish in this event was third in 1996.

* Craven has five top-five and six top-10 finishes in the spring race at Rockingham.

* Craven and the Tide Racing team tested at North Carolina Speedway on January 23, 2004.

Chassis No. 32: The Tide Racing team is taking Chassis No. 32 to Rockingham this weekend. This is Ricky's favorite car. In 2003, the car made seven starts and posted one win, two top-five and four top-10 finishes.

Appearance: Craven will sign autographs at his Tide Racing souvenir rig run by Action Performance on Saturday, February 21st from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Check with the souvenir trailer in advance for ticket handouts.

-ppir-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Ricky Craven , Martin Truex Jr. , Steve Park.