This Week in Ford Racing August 19, 2003 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Rick Crawford, driver of the No. 14 Ford F-150, emerged from the eight-week summer stretch of racing to rejoin the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series point race. Crawford, who won the...
This Week in Ford Racing
August 19, 2003
NASCAR Craftsman Truck
Rick Crawford, driver of the No. 14 Ford F-150, emerged from the eight-week summer stretch of racing to rejoin the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series point race. Crawford, who won the season-opening event at Daytona, is currently sixth in the point standings, 139 points of out the lead as the series heads to Bristol Motor Speedway for the first time since 1999. Crawford, a seven-year truck series veteran, has three previous starts at Bristol with a career-best sixth-place finish in 1997. Crawford also recorded a win at the .533-mile track in 1996 while competing in the NASCAR All Pro Series. Crawford spoke about the importance of the series returning to Bristol and his outlook for the remainder of the season.
RICK CRAWFORD -14-Circle Bar Motel & RV Park Ford F-150:
THE TRUCK SERIES IS MAKING ITS FIRST APPEARANCE AT BRISTOL SINCE 1999. HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT TO GET THAT TRACK BACK ON THE SCHEDULE?
"Going to Bristol is like to going to Daytona, going to Darlington or going to Dover. Those are some of the hardest tracks that you hear the NASCAR stars call off. Traditionally, when you talk about short-track racing, the first name you call is Bristol. When we were running the All Pro Series, when you had the opportunity to go to Bristol, you went if you were trying to further your career. Just like going to Daytona, Darlington or Dover, at Bristol you have to have a great run in order to have a good finish. So many things can happen to you. The track is so treacherous, and a lot of times you get into trouble and it's not even your fault. It's the fact that the speeds you carry there are so unbelievable. It's almost like NHRA drag racing. Television can't do that sport justice, and television can't do Bristol justice. It's one of the greatest shows ever and until you witness it in person, television can't do it justice."
HOW'S BRISTOL DIFFERENT FROM THE OTHER SHORT TRACKS ON THE SCHEDULE?
"You've got a couple of modes that you deal with at Bristol. Qualifying is the same, practice is the same, but your race mode is totally different. I've seen cars and trucks run good at Bristol that don't have all of its body parts on them, so you can just about throw aerodynamics out of the equation. You need a good, solid handling piece with a good motor in it with a guy that can be on top of the wheel all night long. I think that's what you saw in the old days with Darrell Waltrip, Bobby Allison and Rusty Wallace. To see those guys running good at Bristol, they are up on that wheel and mashed the gas for 500 laps. It's the same thing in a truck race or All Pro race - there are no making laps. You can make laps, but at 15 second a lap, that's pretty doggone fast. If you go into the race with the mindset that you're just going to ride for a little while, that doesn't happen at Bristol. It's the same at Darlington. You seldom see a truck just ride at Darlington because anything can happen. Usually the guy that wins at Darlington is the guy that pushes himself to the limit. It's the guy who stays in that timing groove and keeps his momentum going the whole day and has a prefect race that comes up the winner. And that's the same thing that has to take place at Bristol."
THE TRUCKS HAVE GONE THROUGH A LOT OF CHANGES SINCE THE SERIES LAST COMPETED AT BRISTOL. HOW LONG TO YOU EXPECT IT TO TAKE TO ADAPT TO THE TRACK?
"I'm looking forward to Bristol because you take a lot of things out of the equation. Let the driver get back and drive again. That's what I'm looking forward to. Going somewhere like California or Las Vegas, those types of tracks where you're looking at arero package and downforce, the driver doesn't have a whole lot to do with that. When you go to Bristol, that's a race track where you can race at and the driver has the input on how to set up the truck and the feel he's looking for, and the crew chief is looking at the attitude of the truck on the race track. You throw all of the bodies into one mold, and the driver that can drive that day without getting in trouble is going to win the race and that's why I'm looking forward to it and I'm excited about going to Bristol. At Bristol you can attack and drive and a lot of times you can't do that at a track like Daytona because a lot of times you're waiting on someone else to make a move for you or you're waiting for a partner to help you. It's one-on-one at Bristol. You're not looking for a partner. It's you versus 35 others. It's really exciting to go to Bristol as a driver. I've watched a lot of races at Bristol where it's not necessarily the fastest driver that's won the race, but it was because that driver drove it all day long."
DO YOU EXPECT THAT THE VETERANS WILL OUTSHINE HE ROOKIES THIS WEEKEND?
"I've often said that to be a rookie in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is an understatement because I was once a rookie but I had a lot of experience to try to get to be a rookie in the truck series. Travis Kvapil, Brendan Gaughan and Jon Wood all have a lot of experience in the trucks, not necessarily at Bristol, but I believe after practice, qualifying and happy hour that they will be fine and they all drive for tough teams. Just because we're racing against Ted Musgrave, Bobby Hamilton and Jason Leffler, who all have Cup experience, and Kevin Harvick, it's not going to be a cakewalk for anyone. I'm looking forward to it. It's one of the races on the schedule that when you see it back on the schedule it was a I-can't-wait-to-get-there feeling."
THE TEAM SEEMS TO HAVE REGROUPED AFTER A COUPLE OF TOUGH RACES TO START THE SUMMER MONTHS. IS THAT THE CASE?
"Getting Ray Stonkus back on the road full time and getting him feeling better has been the reason. I hate to look back on races, but the race where we ran out of gas at IRP would have been the good momentum that we were looking for. We were running second and stalking Carl at the end of the race and just didn't make it to the end. We had no idea that we wouldn't make it to the end. We thought we were good to go. We switched over to Robert Yates engines and when we had good races we finished in the top five, just like we finished third at Nashville. I think we have the momentum going back in our favor, but we can't points race right now. We need to go after some wins and get ourselves back in that picture. You can points race if you're in the top three and within 20 points of one another just like Travis, Brendan and Ted. They're going to be out to protect as many points as they can get, but me and Bobby Hamilton and Carl Edwards are further back and we're still looking to be champions, so we're looking to win races to try to get back in the points picture."
IS THAT DIFFERENT MINDSET FROM LAST YEAR WHEN YOU SPENT MOST OF THE SEASON STALKING MIKE BLISS?
"I think that one thing has changed this year. Our team had to change. We had to develop new things because the evolution of racing is changing a little bit each year and you have to stay up with it. There were a couple of things that we didn't stay up on as much as we needed to be and there were a couple of tracks early in the year that we didn't excel at like we did the year before. We look at that and then at Memphis was the first race that Ray was sick, but I don't think he was feeling well two or three races before that. All of us, especially as athletes and sport figures, know the show must go on and I think that may have taken a toll on Ray's health because he didn't want to quit; he didn't want to take a rest. None of us in this sport can take a breather or take a timeout. This is the only sport that you can't say timeout. When we made a change and got on another track away form Ray's setups, I think our team had to unfold another page. I know a couple guys in the shop were questioning whether we forgot how to race, but the Circle Bar team is a strong team and it's a team that's a contender, but you have to ask yourself that question because the finishing results weren't there. We had to get this team back in line to finish up front again and that's exactly what we've done."