NASCAR Craftsman Truck The road to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship has come down to the final race of the season with the victor to be crowned in Homestead, Fla., following Friday's Ford 200.Â Rick Crawford, driver of the No. 14...
NASCAR Craftsman Truck
The road to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship has come down to the final race of the season with the victor to be crowned in Homestead, Fla., following Friday's Ford 200. Rick Crawford, driver of the No. 14 Ford F-150, is embroiled in the third-closest points battle in Craftsman Truck Series history and trails first-place Mike Bliss by a mere 32 points. Crawford has closed the points gap in each of the past two races, chipping away at the 85-point deficit he faced leaving Las Vegas, the 19th of 22 races on the schedule. Crawford spoke about his standing in the points and his outlook for the final race, which is the site of his first and only truck series win.
RICK CRAWFORD-14-Circle Bar Motel & RV Park Ford F-150 - THIS MARKS THE SECOND WEEK IN A ROW THAT YOU'VE BEEN ABLE TO CUT INTO THE POINTS DEFICIT BETWEEN YOU AND MIKE BLISS. IS THE MOMENTUM ON YOUR SIDE ENTERING THE SEASON FINALE?
"It is, but I just wish it would get even closer than it is. Like I said after the race in Phoenix, I'm still riding this wave, and proud that Mr. Mitchell has given us the opportunity to compete all year. Being in this position in the points with one race to go just shows the strength of this team. We've been working hard all year to put ourselves in this position, and it started even before the season kicked off in Daytona in February. If the season ended last weekend, we've had a great year, and I'm just glad to be a part of the championship race this year in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Going into Homestead, we have a lot of confidence with our recent performances that include a pole last week in Phoenix and a pair of top-five finishes. The team is on an upswing and we're taking the best we have down to Homestead, and it's good to know that you haven't hurt or had to repair the truck you're taking into the last race. We're ready to go. The last few races that we've been in to close up this points race, we've been ready, so more than trying to capitalize on a bad race for the points leader, we're trying to capitalize on us being ready. If we do that and finish some spots ahead of Bliss, then we can try to win the championship."
YOU WERE 68 POINTS BEHIND BLISS HEADING INTO PHOENIX, BUT YOU CUT HIS LEAD BY MORE THAN HALF, LEAVING 32 POINTS OUT OF FIRST. DID YOU ENTER LAST WEEKEND'S RACE TRYING TO CUT THE DEFICIT IN HALF KNOWING THAT THERE WERE ONLY TWO RACES TO GO IN THE SEASON?
"No, I wish I could have knocked off all 68 and then some last week to go into Homestead. Truthfully, after the race was over, I realized I finished third and I asked over the radio on the cool down lap, 'Where was the 16 truck at?' They told me he finished 10th, but I didn't know what the points picture was, and it wasn't until I got into the media after the race was well over that I knew we closed the gap by half. That's still pretty good. We did cut it in half, and you know what you have to do in Homestead, but in auto racing, I don't think you can try to pinpoint something down to a single point. You're not in control of the 35 trucks, but the team also has to do its best. The driver can only do so much. My team did a fantastic job of capitalizing last weekend by not only giving me a fast truck, but by giving me fast pit stops. With the truck races being shorter in length, they usually have fewer pit stops so the importance of those stops is multiplied when it comes to the outcome of the race. They did their job last week and we have to do it one more time this week."
GIVEN THE FACT THAT YOUR LAST CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES WIN CAME AT HOMESTEAD, CAN YOU THINK OF A BETTER PLACE TO END THE SEASON?
"Yeah, I wish we were in Texas. I wish we were in Texas, Nashville or Dover, somewhere that was really good to us over the season. Really and truly, all of the tracks that we have run at this year, we've run good at most of them, but some a little better than others. Homestead should be no different. I think we should go to Homestead with the outlook of winning the race and then we'll just let the points fall where they fall. What I'm hearing, he (Bliss) can run in the top-five and clinch it, or I have to run at least eight spots ahead of him. I'm not necessarily in a race with Mike Bliss, I'm in a race to win, so that's what we're going after. It's his championship to lose, I just hope I win it."
YOU MIGHT NOT BE ABLE TO KEEP TRACK OF MIKE BLISS DURING THE RACE, BUT WILL YOU HAVE YOUR CREW CHIEF, RAY STONKUS, RADIO YOU ON HIS POSITION?
"I really didn't even know where he was running last week. We went to win Phoenix. We went to win California. We've gone after the win at the 20 other races this year. The same thing goes for Homestead. My guys want to win a race. We want to be in victory lane; that's where I want to be. That's where I want the Circle Bar Ford to be and that's what I'm looking at. I was asked earlier if it would mean more to me to win the championship than to win a race, or to be the only guy to win a championship to not win a race, and I realize that the championship is more important to me. The most important thing for me and the entire the Circle Bar Racing team is to be a NASCAR champion. But, I'm going to go to Homestead to try to win the race and if I wasn't, and only went there points racing, it would be time to hang up the helmet and take the boots off. I'm going to Homestead to win and it doesn't make any difference where Mike Bliss runs until after the race is over."