Atlanta: This Week in Ford Racing

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Ricky Craven, driver of the No. 99 Roush Racing Ford F-150, has gotten off to a fast start in his first full season of NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competition. Teamed with his former NEXTEL Cup crew chief ...

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series

Ricky Craven, driver of the No. 99 Roush Racing Ford F-150, has gotten off to a fast start in his first full season of NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competition. Teamed with his former NEXTEL Cup crew chief Mike Beam, Craven has posted a pair of top-five finishes in the season's first two races, and currently sits second in the point standings, 25 points of out first. Craven, whose wife, Cathleen, gave birth to the family's third child (Lydia) in February, shared his first impressions of the truck series and his desire to one day return to Cup Series competition.

RICKY CRAVEN-No.99-Superchips Ford F-150

THIS WEEKEND'S TRUCK RACE MARKS ONLY THE THIRD EVENT OF THE SEASON. HOW MUCH OF AN ADJUSTMENT IS THERE WHEN YOU'RE NOT RACING EVERY WEEKEND? "The schedule is accommodating for a guy that has just had his third child, and has some of the personal things going on in my life. But the fact is that I would like to be racing a little more than we are. We've gotten off to a good start and I have two thoughts on that. First, we would like to be racing a little more because we could try to continue that momentum that we're building; however, I'm thankful for the start that we've had and we've used the extra time to help prepare for some of the challenges that we have going forward. It's a new schedule for me. There are some tracks that I haven't seen that we're going to be racing at, and there are some aspects of racing the trucks that we're still trying to catch up to and become familiar with, so we've done some testing and we've taken advantage of the time and we'll continue to do that. By the time we get to the month of June we're going to need to be performing at our best because that stretch in June, July and August is going to be critical."

SO, THE LAYOUT OF THE SCHEDULE IS BENEFICIAL TO A DRIVER WHO HAS NOT COMPETED IN THE SERIES FULL-TIME? "I would agree with that. It's allowed us an opportunity to try and catch up both on a personal level and even from a team standpoint because Mike has a wealth of talent, but he is new to the series. The 99 team is an exciting group, an exciting team, but it is made up of some young members that are doing a fantastic job, but they're 23 or 24 years old and this extra time has helped Mike and I and all of them get closer and become more familiar with one another and work through some of the things we need to work through."

THE TRUCK SERIES USED TO BE A PROVING GROUND FOR YOUNG DRIVERS, BUT NOW THERE SEEMS TO BE A GREATER NUMBER OF VETERANS. WHAT MAKES THE TRUCK SERIES MORE APPEALING TO A VETERAN DRIVER THAN THE BUSCH SERIES? "The truck series is very attractive. It certainly was more attractive to me than the Busch Series from the standpoint that the series has great momentum right now. The manufacturers are clearly behind it. Toyota's participation has raised the bar and the opportunity to race with Ford again in this series was something that I got excited about, and I'm very glad I'm doing it. The trucks are fun to drive, the schedule is interesting, and in some ways it's accommodating, and that's been good for me personally. To answer the question, the truck series is a mixed bag of veterans, who have chosen this series as an alternative to the hectic schedule of Cup, and youth with the idea of it being an entry into a NASCAR Touring Series with the ambition of one day making it to the Cup level. History has shown that it works pretty well. There has been some talent that has come out of the truck series with the most obvious being Kurt Busch and Greg Biffle."

IS IT A COMFORT TO KNOW THAT THERE ARE 16 COMPANION RACES THIS SEASON WITH THE CUP SERIES? "I think that weighs heavy for any of the drivers with experience. I think that's certainly an asset, something that I want to capitalize on, and I'm sure Jimmy Spencer, Johnny Benson and Todd Bodine - some of the drivers that just made the transition into the series - are thinking the same thing. I think you have seen that with Ted Musgrave and Bobby Hamilton. The series does reward experience, so that's favorable. Probably my biggest concern is what we don't know and what we haven't seen, and that's places like Mansfield and Memphis, tracks we haven't had any exposure to."

DO YOU VIEW THIS OPPORTUNITY WITH ROUSH AS A STEPPING STONE TO RETURN TO THE CUP LEVEL ONE DAY? "To be clear, my objective is to capitalize on this opportunity. This is a fantastic opportunity and I had very little hesitation when it was presented to me. I was excited about the idea of racing with Jack Roush, but to be clear, I'm 38 years old, and I believe I've got another chance at the plate; there's plenty of racing left for me. I truly believe that if we're able to capitalize on this opportunity, which is a good one, we'll be rewarded with another Cup opportunity. However, that right now is not as important as succeeding in 2005."

WITH MARK MARTIN'S PLANNED RETIREMENT AT THE END OF THE SEASON, HAVE THERE BEEN TALKS ABOUT YOU TAKING OVER HIS CUP RIDE ON 2006? "That's premature. Whoever drives the 6 car in 2006 will have to have earned it, and I have no idea who that will be. To be clear, I would like to race at the Cup level for Roush Racing. I don't know if I've ever said that, but I'm saying it. The only part of that I can control is to succeed in 2005, and that's got my full attention."

-ford

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Jimmy Spencer , Greg Biffle , Kurt Busch , Johnny Benson , Ted Musgrave , Ricky Craven , Jack Roush