Does Crawford have all the tools? By Marty Smith CONCORD, N.C. (Feb. 2, 2000) With a new sponsor and an ultra-fast Ford F-150, Rick Crawford appears ready to take the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series by storm in NASCAR 2000. And, when asked...
Does Crawford have all the tools? By Marty Smith
CONCORD, N.C. (Feb. 2, 2000) With a new sponsor and an ultra-fast Ford F-150, Rick Crawford appears ready to take the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series by storm in NASCAR 2000. And, when asked about his prospects for the upcoming year he was, as always, straight to the point.
"Somebody's got to take Hornaday's place," he said.
Hornaday is two-time former series champion Ron Hornaday, who made the jump to the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division following the 1999 season, opening the door for several drivers -- including Crawford -- to solidify themselves in the upper echelon of the Tough Trucks ranks.
Crawford began his assault on the series in early January, testing the No. 14 Milwaukee Electric Tools Ford at Daytona International Speedway in preparation for Speedweeks 2000. During that test, Crawford posted the second-quickest speed on the chart, reaching speeds that exceeded 190 mph.
"I drafted with (series champion Jack) Sprague the last time we were here on the second day, and that was pretty neat," Crawford said. "He got to see what my truck was doing, and I got to watch his truck some. I was around three other drivers that are real respected, and we wanted to see how it was. It was real stable. And we picked up a lot of speed."
By all counts, the No. 14 team has a full head of steam.
On Wednesday, they announced Milwaukee Electric Tools has signed on as their sponsor for NASCAR 2000 and beyond, giving them the necessary funding to further develop their talent. They also have a new shop.
During the offseason, the No. 14 team has progressively moved its headquarters from Cleveland, Ga., to Concord, N.C., placing them in a state-of-the-art 13,000-square foot shop just two miles from Lowe's Motor Speedway.
"We are very proud to represent such a great, historic company as Milwaukee," Crawford said. "We are especially pleased to have been chosen for their initial venture into the NASCAR arena. Everyone involved with the team is very excited about our chances in 2000.
"The improvements that we are making in the offseason will give us the complete package next year and I hope to return the thanks to Milwaukee Electric Tools by taking them to Victory Lane in their debut season."
Crawford has been a series regular since 1997, when he and longtime owner Tom Mitchell nearly pulled off the Rookie of the Year crown but were fended off by now NASCAR Winston Cup Series star Kenny Irwin. During his rookie campaign, Crawford reeled off a top-5 run and 10 top-10s.
He bettered that effort in '98, winning his first race and placing in the top-5 four times. In '99, a direly inconsistent season saw Crawford post his worst numbers yet, but gave him the initiative and desire to recover in 2000 in grand fashion. It appears he has all the tools to do so.
After all, somebody has to replace Hornaday.