This Week in Ford Racing March 11, 2003 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Rick Crawford, driver of the No. 14 Ford F-150, has had a month to relish his season-opening victory at Daytona, which put to rest a 120-race winless streak. Now, the runner-up in...
This Week in Ford Racing
March 11, 2003
NASCAR Craftsman Truck
Rick Crawford, driver of the No. 14 Ford F-150, has had a month to relish his season-opening victory at Daytona, which put to rest a 120-race winless streak. Now, the runner-up in the 2002 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series points standings is focused on the winning the championship in his seventh season of competition. Crawford, the only driver who has posted top-five finishes in the two previous truck series events held at Darlington Raceway, also enters the Too Tough To Tame 200 with the points lead for the first time in his truck series career.
RICK CRAWFORD -14-Circle Bar Motel & RV Park Ford F-150:
IT'S BEEN A MONTH SINCE YOUR WIN AT DAYTONA, BUT ARE YOU STILL SAVORING THE MOMENT? "I'm going to be on that all year long. I'll be on that until Adam has my grandkids. I'll be thinking about that victory from now until the end of the roller-coaster ride."
YOU FINISHED SECOND IN THE POINTS LAST YEAR, BUT A RACE VICTORY ELUDED YOU SEVERAL TIMES. HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT TO WIN EARLY IN THE SEASON SO THAT YOU CAN FOCUS ON THE CHAMPIONSHIP RATHER THAN WINNING YOUR NEXT RACE? "We wanted Phoenix last year and we ran real good there. We wanted Kansas and ran good there. There were a lot of places, like Nashville, that the win eluded us and we ran second. We really did want a win last year. We were hungry for a win last year. It just never seemed to be our perfect day for some reason or another. To me, Daytona sets itself aside from the rest of the year. We realize that it pays 170 points just for the win, and it pays as many points to win Daytona as it does South Boston, but Daytona is Daytona and I think that's why it sets itself aside. It's just like Winston Cup; there's so much research and development, planning and sacrifices that just go into Daytona. The best equipment that you can possibly have goes into Daytona because you want to win that race so bad. And, I did, and I'm grateful to this race team - Tom Mitchell, Ray Stonkus and the whole Circle Bar team - for providing me a piece of machinery that could get the job done, but now it's time to set that aside. You're only as good as your last race and now Darlington is coming up. I think we're going into Darlington with a lot of momentum. A lot of guys on the team - going to victory lane that weren't with me in 1998 when we last won - I think they're really proud and they have a lot of integrity and I think they know that they work for a great race team. We have a lot of momentum going into Darlington, and now is the time to think about the championship and going forward."
WITH A MONTH BREAK BETWEEN THE FIRST AND SECOND RACES OF THE SEASON, HOW TOUGH IS IT TO MAINTAIN THE FOCUS IN THE SHOP? "You wouldn't believe the attitude; I think it's made all of our jobs easier here. All of the guys on the pit crew, the fab guys and the guys in the body shop, they all now know that the jobs that they have been doing are good jobs. They now know that it's good enough to win, and coming up to this point, the question was, 'Do we have the right people in the right place and are they doing a good enough job?' I think we've strategically aligned everybody to do a good job and we were trying to keep up morale. I found myself saying that if you keep doing your job then we're going to win, but you can say that all you want to for a long time and then it becomes, 'I don't believe it.' The crew guys will quit believing that they are making a difference on this team if you don't win. I realized we were a factor in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series rather than just a fixture, but we were not winning, so to be able to win and get that out of the way, that makes the rest of the crew know that their job does make a difference and they are the difference. I'm just a small part of a great team."
CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES RULES PROHIBIT TEAMS FROM TESTING AT RACE VENUES. HOW TOUGH HAS IT BEEN FOR YOU TO STAY FOCUSED WHEN YOU ARE UNABLE TO TEST AND THERE IS A LONG LAYOVER BETWEEN EVENTS? "It's been easy. I've talked to more radio, television and newspapers for the past month; it's been great. I have really enjoyed it and don't want it to stop. These guys in the shop are still saying we won Daytona and they don't want it to stop and I think it's made them even hungrier. Let's go to Darlington and make it two in a row. I don't think you put yourself past a Martinsville or Charlotte coming up but I do know that we're concentrating on Darlington and we have been for the past month with a great attitude at the shop. You're coming off of a win at Daytona and there's nothing else that can take its place."
YOU ALWAYS SEEMED TO SHY AWAY FROM MEDIA ATTENTION IN THE PAST. NOW THAT YOU'VE BEEN THRUST IN INTO THE FOREGROUND, HOW COMFORTABLE ARE YOU? "I'm only a small part of a great race team. I realize I might be the spokesman for the race team. The driver gets the headlines in the newspaper and he gets his name announced on the radio, but when they say the Circle Bar Motel & RV Park Ford they also mention Rick Crawford. It'd be like going to interview Mark McGuire and he hadn't hit any home runs. Now that he's hit over 70 home runs in that one year, don't you think it's time for him to talk? No matter if I had won any races or not, I did something to talk about. But, I've also said in everything that I've talked about is that we are a team here and the team won that race at Daytona. Rick Crawford didn't win by himself. I'm not a professional golfer and I'm not a tennis player. Tom Mitchell has allowed us to assemble a great team here and we want to have a championship-contending team here."
DO YOU FEEL THAT THERE IS A GREATER DEPTH OF COMPETITION IN THE TRUCK SERIES THIS YEAR COMPARED TO PAST YEARS? "It was just like with 10 laps to go at Daytona, my truck owner comes on the radio and says we're going to win today, and I'm thinking to myself, 'I hope she told the other 35 that.' But, if you pointed at me and said you're going to win the championship, I sure hope you go down the garage and tell everyone else that they're running for second or worse because the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is tough. I realize we have some unfinished business. I realize we finished second in the points last year, but there are no guarantees that since Mike Bliss stepped aside that we're automatically taking that spot. Look who finished second to me at Daytona - that 16 truck. Look at who finished third, fourth and fifth - those guys are going to make it tough on you. Watch Leffler and Musgrave, they had some bad runs at Daytona, but they're not rolling over and falling asleep. The points chase in 2003 is going to be unbelievable. I'm just glad to know that the Circle Bar team is not going to Darlington like it did last year, coming off of a 24th-place finish at Daytona. We were trying to run the race at Darlington and be on the insurance side. Now we can go to Darlington and race the race track like we should, and hopefully we'll have as good of a finish as we did last year."
YOU'VE BEEN A REGULAR COMPETITOR IN THE TRUCK SERIES SINCE 1997. HAS THE SERIES UNDERDONE A METAMORPHOSIS IN THE PAST FEW SEASONS WITH VETERAN DRIVERS GARNERING MORE OF THE ATTENTION? "I think what's probably changed the truck series is, one, media attention, and, two, NASCAR attention. One of the often-asked questions year to year is: 'Mike Skinner is gone, do you feel like you have a shot at the championship?' Then it was: 'Hornaday is gone, Sprague is gone, Biffle is gone, Busch is gone - is it going to make it any easier?' Well, look at the guys who replaced those guys, and, no, it hasn't got any easier. It's tough. It's like Adam winning last year in his Bandalero car, and he says, 'Okay, Dad, it's your turn.' I wish it was that easy. It's not that easy. Even winning Daytona was not that easy and racing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is truly not that easy. We're in position. We have a great race team and a lot of great equipment to win a championship. We know how to run for one and hopefully we're around at the end."
WITH WINSTON CUP VETERANS COMPETING IN THE TRUCK SERIES, DO YOU FEEL THAT YOU'VE BEEN ABLE TO CLOSE THE GAP IN EXPERIENCE WITH ONLY TWO PREVIOUS TRUCK RACES AT DARLINGTON? "I think it's one of the race tracks that handling and knowing what you're looking for in your vehicle plays a definite advantage in your performance. I'd hate to be a rookie there without a test session. Darlington is very intimidating and it should be because you don't run it like any other race track. But, it's a great race track. It's a traditional race track. It's made a lot of people great race-car drivers. Darlington is a track that I'm looking forward to going to, and I looked forward the first time I went there two years ago because everybody says it's tough. That's the track I pointed out. Darlington and Bristol are two of the toughest tracks on the circuit and two of my favorites. To be a good race-car driver, you have to be able to maneuver around Darlington. Like I said, it's made a lot of great race-car drivers, but the more laps you get at a place like Darlington, the more of an advantage you have in performance."
IS THERE ONE END OF THE RACE TRACK THAT YOU PUT FOCUS MORE ON IN TERMS OF HANDLING AND SETUP? "The whole race track. You have to feel comfortable, number one, around the whole race track, and then you have to be fast. But, you can't go fast and not be comfortable. I'm not saying that fast is comfortable, but you have to have that comfort zone in your machine that allows you to be fast and be on the edge at Darlington without hitting something - the wall - because you sure aren't racing anybody else."