Rick Crawford, driver of the No. 14 Ford F-150, will eclipse the all-time mark for NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series starts when he takes the green flag in tomorrow's scheduled 150-lap race, breaking 171-race mark he currently shares with Jack...
Rick Crawford, driver of the No. 14 Ford F-150, will eclipse the all-time mark for NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series starts when he takes the green flag in tomorrow's scheduled 150-lap race, breaking 171-race mark he currently shares with Jack Sprague. In the process of solidifying his claim as the iron man of the series, Crawford will also notch his 172nd consecutive start, a streak that dates back to January 1997. Crawford, who won the season-opening event in Daytona, currently sits seventh in the point standings, only 93 points out of fifth with two races remaining in the season.
RICK CRAWFORD-14-Circle Bar Motel & RV Park Ford F-150
BREAKING THE ALL-TIME MARK FOR TRUCK SERIES STARTS IS QUITE AN ACCOMPLISHMENT? "I guess if you were giving a plaque for that you'd have my name on it, but all of the credit goes to Tom Mitchell. This is our eighth year with the series and we've enjoyed every minute of it, and hopefully there is a lot more racing to come and a lot more up-front racing by his race team. He stuck in there with us when we didn't have but one truck and one engine, and I'm a competitor and a racer and I didn't even know if we could make all of them, but it certainly is an accomplishment for the whole team."
YOU ALSO HOLD THE MARK FOR CONSECUTIVE RACE STARTS. WHAT WAS CLOSEST YOU CAME TO NOT MAKING A RACE? "I remember one time in Portland, Oregon, we got crashed and the next race was in Seattle and we had to go back to Georgia and fix that thing. We drove cross-country and had to fix it and had to put frame sections on it and went back to Seattle and made the next race and actually ran real good with it. We've never really suffered any setbacks. We've suffered luck problems, we've suffered some equipment failures, but each and every weekend you bring something to the race track that's capable of winning now that you've been in the series for a little while, and there is no greater satisfaction to building a race team than winning at Daytona."
WHEN YOU STARTED RACING IN THE TRUCK SERIES IN 1997, DID YOU THINK YOU COULD MAKE A CAREER OUT OF IT? "I didn't know how long we'd last. I didn't know how many races we'd run. Running out west, this is the expensive part of NASCAR. I knew we'd make two or three races and we'd see how far it could go and how we were doing. That was the quest that I was given by Mr. Mitchell to do. We made one and ran pretty good. The first race out of the box we started 21st and finished 11th. We only had the truck three or four days, quite an accomplishment at DisneyWorld. It was like a person learning to ride a bike. It was one foot after the other and we've kept pedaling and picked up steam."
WHEN YOU LOST YOUR PRIMARY SPONSOR AFTER THE 2001 SEASON, WAS THERE EVER A DISCUSSION ABOUT SCALING BACK THE TEAM? "No, Tom Mitchell is probably the greatest owner in NASCAR. To be able to drive for a gentleman like that, he lets you have the resources and the people it takes to go do your job and run good. That's why we try to run the business as if he's standing right there and I hope he's proud of his race team."
YOU HAVE AN INTERIM CREW CHIEF THIS WEEK, BLAKE BAINBRIDGE. HE HAS WORKED WITH THE TEAM FOUR OTHER RACES THIS YEAR WHILE RAY STONKUS RECUPERATES FROM ILLNESS. HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO HAVE AN INTERIM CREW CHIEF ON SELECT WEEKENDS? "First of all, Blake is one of the students of Ray's racing book of knowledge, so when we needed a crew chief Ray said let's get Blake. We did and Blake thinks a lot like Ray but he's probably about 100 mph faster and sometimes that's not bad. We get along really well and I like his attitude. I still want to win a lot of races and he does, too, he has something to prove and so do I, and the Circle Bar race team runs up front when he's around."
WHEN BLAKE ISN'T WITH YOUR TEAM, WHAT IS HIS PRIMARY JOB? "He's the crew chief on Rusty Wallace's new Busch team that just started and will running in the 2004 season. If Rusty Wallace hired him he must be pretty good, so I was proud to be able get him. You never know, I think he likes the truck series."
YOU ARE CURRENTLY SEVENTH IN THE POINT STANDINGS, BUT FIFTH PLACE IS NOT OUT OF REACH. IS A TOP-FIVE POINTS FINISH YOUR GOAL THIS SEASON? "Yeah, but to make up 93 points in the truck series, we have to have something happen to the 50 and I really don't wish that. We just want to race them, and points are hard to make up in this series. That's our goal but if it's not met, we've had a tough year and we're looking forward to 2004 with the new Ford F-150."
LAST YEAR YOU FINISHED SECOND IN THE POINT STANDINGS WITHOUT WINNING A RACE, BUT THIS YEAR YOU WON AT DAYTONA AND ARE ON THE CUSP OF A TOP-FIVE FINISH. WAS IT MORE SATISFYING TO WIN THIS YEAR, OR WOULD YOU RATHER BE IN POINTS BATTLE WITHOUT HAVING WON A RACE? "We've had a couple of breakages this year that were beyond our control. At the end of May we had a setback with Ray getting ill and his health wasn't there. When a crew chief, number one, he's tired, and number two, he doesn't feel good, the communication there is a little lost and the team suffered on the account of that. Luckily we gave Ray enough break, he came back and he was able to be at the races he could drive to, and, in fact, he drove all the way to California and Las Vegas and that would have wore any normal person out. Old Ray is trooper and we're glad to have him back. But, I think our team suffered a little bit on account of that, plus, we made an engine change to Yates. We had a couple of DNFs early in season before the change and that didn't help us either. Sure, I'd rather be leading the points because you won the biggest race of the year. You hear things that it's just another race, but not to me and not to Tom Mitchell and not to the Circle Bar race team. We don't race like that. We race each and every race as if we're coming to win. We bring a piece of equipotent that's sellable to a sponsor and we want to win races. To finish seventh in points is not where the Circle Car race team needs to be."
WITH A NEW PLAYER ENTERING THE SERIES NEXT YEAR, HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO GET THE NEW F-150 RACE TRUCK UP TO SPEED QUICKLY? "We've got a nice piece. The new F-150 for 2004 is just like what they're selling in the dealership. It's the number one selling pickup and we're going to prove it on Fridays and Saturdays and they can sell it on Mondays as being one of the hottest brand pickups on the market. Fortunately, our team was selected to build it, and me and Carl Edwards have tested it, and I think it's a really nice piece and it has a lot of promise. I think everybody is going to have to step up their program not just because of Toyota, but you have Chevy stepping up their program, and Dodge is a racing organization. If you're going to race in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, you've got to want to win. It's not necessarily the one who spends the most money, it's the one who has the best group of racers that can work together because all of the resources are about the same."
IS THERE ANY TRUTH TO THE RUMOR THAT YOU WILL RUN SELECTED WINSTON CUP RACES NEXT SEASON? "I'd love to do some Winston Cup races. It's a good wish for any race car driver to say he can run some Cup races, but right now we're focused on the 2004 Craftsman Truck Series, and that's the way it has to stay right at this minute."