Fontana: Rick Crawford - NASCAR spotlight

Iron Man Rick Crawford poised to make 200th consecutive start DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 22, 2005) - To hear Rick Crawford (No. 14 Circle Bar Truck Corral Ford) tell it, competing in 200 consecutive NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races was the ...

Iron Man Rick Crawford poised to make 200th consecutive start

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 22, 2005) - To hear Rick Crawford (No. 14 Circle Bar Truck Corral Ford) tell it, competing in 200 consecutive NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races was the furthest thing from his mind when he took the green flag at Walt Disney World Speedway in Florida on Jan. 19, 1997.

Crawford showed up with one truck, one engine and a short track crew and with 71 trucks entered he was pleased to qualify for the 36-truck field. He wound up finishing a solid 11th.

"We weren't thinking about making 200 starts," said Crawford. "We were thinking about making one."

But the Alabama native is still on-track 198 races later. He'll make his record 200th series start in Friday's American Racing Wheels 200 at California Speedway. The streak includes victories at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 1998, Daytona International Speedway in 2003 and Martinsville Speedway a year ago.

Crawford, winner of more than $3 million, came within 46 points of the 2002 championship in finishing second to Mike Bliss.

What makes Crawford's feat even more intriguing is that the 46-year-old veteran has run every race for the same owner, Texas entrepreneur Tom Mitchell.

Crawford's truck will carry a special paint scheme this week and a logo saluting owner Mitchell. The one-race colors feature a metal background to represent the iron man status of driver and owner. The metal is blended with the retro blue color that traces its roots to the Mitchell-Crawford NASCAR All Pro Series entries from 14 years ago.

Mitchell, who lives in the west Texas town of Ozona and operates what many call a "truckers' oasis" on Interstate 10, never has attended a race but follows the fortunes of the team via satellite TV and frequent telephone updates from his driver.

"He's a business associate as much as an owner," said Crawford. "He's absent but very much a part of the team."

Keeping the string alive has been a challenge for Crawford and his team. He's overcome mechanical problems, illness and injury, most recently last April following an accident at Atlanta Motor Speedway that left Crawford with a broken foot.

"If we had raced the next week it might have ended the streak," he said. "As it turned out, we had a few weeks off before we raced again. I'll never forget that day (at Martinsville); I limped to get in the truck and I jumped out of it in Victory Lane."

Crawford dodged another bullet last week at Daytona International Speedway when his truck was crowded off the track and slid through the grass but came to rest on all four wheels. Crawford drove the Ford back to pit road.

"Somehow the truck righted itself without hitting anything and we're ready to go to California," he said.

Rick Crawford truly is an iron man - in his never-give-up attitude as well as the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series record book.

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Rick Crawford , Mike Bliss