Rick Crawford, driver of the No. 14 Ford F-150, is one of 28 Craftsman Truck Series drivers participating in a three-day test session at Daytona International Speedway in preparation for next month's Florida Dodge Dealers 250. Crawford, the...
Rick Crawford, driver of the No. 14 Ford F-150, is one of 28 Craftsman Truck Series drivers participating in a three-day test session at Daytona International Speedway in preparation for next month's Florida Dodge Dealers 250. Crawford, the highest returning points finisher from last season, is once again teamed with veteran crew chief Ray Stonkus in their quest for a NASCAR championship. Crawford spoke about the test and the upcoming season.
RICK CRAWFORD-14-Circle Bar Motel & RV Park Ford F-150
YOU ARE THE HIGHEST RETURNING POINTS FINISHER FROM LAST YEAR. IS THIS YOUR YEAR TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP? "I think it's Rick Crawford's year to win some races. We've got some unfinished business in that department and we'll do what we can to win the championship, but I want to win some races this season. We came close to winning the championship last year, but I think you need to win some races to be realistic about winning the championship. That's my main objective this season and that's why we are down here for the next three days."
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH OVER THE COURSE OF THE NEXT THREE DAYS? "We talked about what we wanted to accomplish before we came down here and a basic plan of attack. The Circle Bar team wants this to be an honest test. We came down here three years ago and fooled ourselves and didn't have a really good race truck. We want to have an honest test here and we want it to be fast. These three days give you a chance to try to the things you've worked hard on all winter and what you thought would be fast at Daytona. If they're not then you have to go back the drawing board, but the guys worked hard back at the shop and I think we'll be OK. We also wanted to have an honest test to see where we stand in terms of the other manufacturers. We saw what the Dodges did on the bigger tracks last year and we've worked hard all winter to close the gap. I think we did our homework during the off-season and we'll have to see where the current set of rules have us in terms of the other two makes."
BESIDES FROM INPUT ON CHANGES MADE TO THE TRUCK DURING THE TEST, ARE THE NEXT THREE DAYS MORE ABOUT THE CREW AND THE TRUCK RATHER THAN THE DRIVER? "I'm a calculated driver, I guess. We've got the data acquisition hooked up. The wires in this thing make it look like a quadruple bypass. It helps me to explain what the truck is doing with the changes that we make. I can feel the air, I can see air, and I'm the only one on the team running through it. Having the data acquisition system hooked up helps Ray (Stonkus) see what the changes are doing without relying solely on what I'm telling him. What you try to do here at Daytona and Talladega testing, you want the truck to be as free as possible without any drag. You can feel drag just by the tune of the engine. You don't want to lose anything by having something going on with the aerodynamics. I am pretty conscious in the race vehicle, and believe I give good feedback, but this is just additional data to go off of. It is boring sometimes running around here by yourself, though."
HOW DIFFERENT DO YOU EXPECT THIS TRUCK TO LOOK LIKE WHEN IT COMES BACK HERE IN FEBRUARY? "I only expect a few minor changes to the appearance of this truck by the time we come back in a few weeks. We'll take this truck home and just do some messaging on it. To the untrained eye, you won't notice any differences between now and when we bring this piece back for the race. Really, you come down here with the best piece that you can get and take it back home and message it a little bit. Paint adds a little bit to it, but on the track, you probably can't tell the difference between today and when I bring it back and race. We'll just take it home and rub on it some."
THERE IS ALWAYS TALK ABOUT PUTTING RESTRICTOR PLATES ON THE TRUCKS TO SLOW THEM DOWN. DO YOU EXPECT ANY RULE CHANGES BEFORE THE RACE IN FEBRUARY? "The past few years here, NASCAR has had a tendency to change its mind on doing some things during the race week and throwing you a curve, but I will say this, they've dome their homework this year. The carburetor airflow and things to cut the speed back have worked. Somebody has done their homework in obtaining that objective, but our objective is to make that more efficient. We've really had to do a lot of work in that area and there's not much you can do, but you have to have a keen eye on what you're doing. We know there's always a chance for them to change to the rules, but I think they've slowed down the trucks enough where we shouldn't need a rule change when we come back here in February."
AT THE END OF LAST SEASON YOU MENTIONED THE POSSIBILITY OF RUNNING TWO TRUCKS IN 2003, YET IT APPEARS THAT THIS IS STILL A ONE-TRUCK OPERATION. "That wasn't by choice; I wish we had a teammate. I wish we could come up with some additional sponsorship money to put a second team together. I think it would be pretty easy for Circle Bar to have a second team. This test is a prime example of where that would be beneficial. You only have three days of testing, but if you had two trucks, it would be the equivalent of six days of testing. If you had two trucks at each race, it would be two hours worth of practice for every one that a single-truck team has. You double your knowledge with two teams, and one truck could be used to set up the other truck and one driver could give advice to make the other truck better and you can work together at the race track. There is a little bit of a disadvantage to that, however, but if it was the same Yates wouldn't have two cars and Penske wouldn't have a couple. That's what's winning."
YOU SAID THAT YOU SAME ROAD CREW THAT YOU HAD LAST YEAR. ARE YOU SURPRISED THAT THERE WAS NO TURNOVER IN THE OFF-SEASON? "That's because Circle Bar Racing is a great company to work for. This is my 13th year with them and I know there aren't many drivers out there in the entire sport that can say that. We've had only a couple of shop people to replace, but it wasn't in an area that would hurt, so this team is back and intact. We've been working hard all winter to put something on the race track to be more competitive, and if the timing is right then we're going to win some races, so that's what we're going to do."