Thirty-five NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series teams took the newly reconfigured Las Vegas Motor Speedway today for an open-test session prior to tomorrow's running of the Smith's Las Vegas 350. Rick Crawford, driver of the No. 14 Ford F-150, was one...
Thirty-five NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series teams took the newly reconfigured Las Vegas Motor Speedway today for an open-test session prior to tomorrow's running of the Smith's Las Vegas 350. Rick Crawford, driver of the No. 14 Ford F-150, was one of four drivers that participated in a Goodyear tire test on the new surface last month and shared his thoughts on the new surface and his expectations for the race tomorrow night. Marcos Ambrose, driver of the No. 20 Ford F-150, scored his two second-place finishes this year on superspeedways - Kansas and Nashville - and feels that with a level playing field this weekend, his odds for a victory are greatly improved.
RICK CRAWFORD-14-Circle Bar Truck Corral Ford F-150
YOU WERE ONE OF THE DRIVERS THAT PARTICIPATED IN A TIRE TEST HERE A FEW WEEKS AGO. HAS THE TRACK SURFACE REMAINED CONSISTENT SINCE THAT TEST? "I think so. I think the crew with the track tried real hard to accommodate us for coming in here this weekend, being that they're a little behind and tried to rush things. I think they're going to have a good race here. If you look at the speed times out there, when somebody gets faster, everybody gets faster. Looking at the speeds, from my Ford F-150, it's been getting faster and faster all day and we're learning some things that we have to throw at the truck setup-wise as what the track is looking for. Things are going good so far. It's basically the same layout as when we came here and tested. It's calling for a little different chassis change, but it's still going to be pretty racy tomorrow night for the fans."
WITH THE PROGRESSIVE BANKING, WILL THERE BE SIDE-BY-SIDE RACING TOMORROW NIGHT? "During practice guys run the preferred groove, but I made some passes out there already, and I think you can. But, during the race sometimes you make an outside groove, and when that gets made then there will be some side-by-side racing. This track has a lot of width to it, and you know us trucks drivers, we race all over the place."
FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE, IS THE NEW CONFIGURATION AN IMPROVEMENT? "Let's put it in perspective. You want the speed, you want the side-by-side racing, and it definitely has the plans for that."
THERE WERE A COUPLE OF EARLY INCIDENTS DURING THE OPEN-TEST SESSION. ARE THERE ANY TROUBLE SPOTS ON THE TRACK? "There are just some of what I would call character flaws. There are a couple of bumps down in one and two, and I think it's turned into three now. Actually, three and four is really a nice corner with the progressive banking, and it has a lot of width off of the corner where you can carry a lot of speed through there. I think one and two, I think during the winter if they let the track even settle some more and they come back and probably laser cut it or do whatever they need to do to make the asphalt smoother over there, then next year the track will be fine."
THERE WAS SOME TREPIDATION BY THE DRIVERS TO GET OUT ON THE TRACK THIS MORNING. TO WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE THAT? "You had a problem this morning, and NASCAR could probably explain what happened better than me. We really need to put down some rubber to get ready to run, and I don't know what caused a couple of accidents, but being a veteran, you creep up to things and you don't say, 'Boy, it really looks nice out there. Let's see how fast we can go.' Sometimes that will bite you."
MARCOS AMBROSE-20-Team Australia/Aussie Vineyards Ford F-150
YOU SEEM TO BE ADAPTING TO THE NEW SURFACE RATHER QUICKLY. "This is good for us because no one else has seen this place either with the new configuration. I've got to tell you, the truck is just fantastic, the best truck that I've ever had. We've got an eight-hour test and we don't know what to do with ourselves. We were happy after the first 10 minutes."
YOU'VE EXCELLED AT THE LARGER TRACKS SO FAR THIS SEASON. WITH THE NEW SURFACE BEING AN UNKNOWN TO THE ENTIRE FIELD, DO YOU FEEL THAT YOU MIGHT BE ABLE TO SNEAK UP ON THEM THIS WEEKEND? "Perhaps. We're really disappointed with our form in the short-track stuff. I don't know what I'm doing wrong there, but clearly I'm not driving well enough on the short tracks, and I've got to get my head around that. I feel semi-comfortable on these bigger speedways and it's kind of what I'm used to when the field spreads out a little but. We're excited. We're pinked up to be in Vega, and we're going to invest our money wisely here over the weekend. I'll try and waste a couple hundred bucks down there on the poker machines. We're excited and we've got a truck we know really well, and it's a race truck that I think suits me. It's the first time this year that we've gone to a track that no one has an advantage on us."
BEING A NATIVE OF AUSTRALIA, HAVE YOU EVER BEEN TO LAS VEGAS BEFORE THIS WEEKEND? "I have been here once."
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU CAN COMPARE IT TO IN AUSTRALIA? "No, there's only one Vegas, baby."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE TRACK'S SURFACE? "I'm really complimentary toward it because we're running good. It's got a few ripples in it, but that's what gives a track character; you can't complain with that. I like the banking on it. I think the banking is really smooth and it has nice entry and exits to the corners, so I've got no complaints with it. It looks like a bomb has gone off in the infield, but the track is in great condition."
THERE WERE A FEW INCIDENTS EARLY IN THE TEST SESSION. DO YOU FEEL THAT MIGHT BE A PRECURSOR FOR TOMORROW'S RACE? "The tough thing is that we're running so fast here, three and four is pretty much wide open, and one and two is just a fraction of a lift. It's pretty hard to set up passing because everyone is going the same speed. This tire is so hard that the tires aren't going to wear out, so you can't wait to pounce on them when the tires go away because everyone's tires are hanging in for 60 to 70 laps. It's going to be tough to race on because of those factors, but it's fast. We're running 31-flats around here and that's pretty fast for a one-and-a-half-mile oval."
-credit: ford racing