Roush Racing teammates Ricky Craven and Todd Kluever held a Q&A session in the Daytona International Speedway infield media center today during a rain delay in testing and spoke about next month's Craftsman Truck Series Daytona 250 and the...
Roush Racing teammates Ricky Craven and Todd Kluever held a Q&A session in the Daytona International Speedway infield media center today during a rain delay in testing and spoke about next month's Craftsman Truck Series Daytona 250 and the upcoming season.
RICKY CRAVEN -99-Superchips Ford F-150
TESTING HAS BEEN POSTPONED FOR THE DAY DUE TO THE WEATHER. WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO HAVING TO WAIT ANOTHER DAY BEFORE GETTING ON THE TRACK? "It's probably the same for everyone. Coming to Daytona to race is big, but coming to test at Daytona is big. So, traveling here last night and the anticipation of finally getting on the track in 2005, and for me in particular with circumstances of being in a new series with a new team, obviously, I would have liked to start the day at nine o'clock this morning on the track. But, the flip side is that with the circumstances being the way they are I'm kind of glad they called it so everybody can sort of prepare for whatever the new schedule is because you can only hang around for so long."
TODD KLUEVER -50-Shell ROTELLA T Ford F-150
WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO HAVING TO WAIT ANOTHER DAY BEFORE GETTING ON THE TRACK? "I was asked about that a little earlier and I know the guys on the team are real disappointed. They wanted to get everything done today and tomorrow and have Monday back at the shop. I've been waiting my whole life to get here, so I guess I can wait one more day. I've been wanting to get here forever, so I just get to spend more time in Daytona now. I would have loved to have been on the track this morning, but it wasn't meant to be so I can wait another day, and we'll go out tomorrow and get what we've got to get done."
YOU'VE BEEN TO THIS FACILITY MANY TIMES IN YOUR CAREER, BUT THE INFIELD HAS A NEW LOOK THIS YEAR. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE NEW LAYOUT? "It's very impressive, and I commend everyone at Daytona for putting the type of effort into the facility. When we get on the race track it will look the same and that's really the lure for any driver. Without question, it's the most exciting couple of weeks in racing, and then again, it's a little different for me this time because it's a change in format, but what an opportunity. I'm glad to be with Roush. I'm glad to be part of their organization that obviously speaks for itself. Going into 2005, my expectations are high. I know Jack's expectations are high, and we're going to exhaust ourselves to be a contender for this. We made up our mind before we ever agreed to agree and before we ever agreed to do this together. Mike Beam coming on as my crew chief is big. I'll go to Daytona in February with a crew chief that I raced with for three years and have been to victory lane with, a team that had made some great accomplishments and Superchips' support; they had a lot of success last year. I just want to capitalize on the opportunity; it's a good one."
SOME OF THAT SUCCESS OCCURRED HERE LAST YEAR WITH THE SUPERCHIPS TRUCK WINNING THE RACE. "That's a good point and it goes back to those expectations and how we measure ourselves is with the expectations. Carl and the Superchips team did everything but win the championship last year. They had three wins and several good runs. Everything about this is comfortable and exciting, and if we were racing tomorrow I think that would be fine by all of us. We're not, so we'll take the three or four weeks that we have and be better prepared."
TALK ABOUT HOW DIFFERENT YOUR LIFE WILL BE THIS YEAR RACING IN THE TRUCK SERIES? "I expect that it will be quite different in roughly 30 days. My wife (Cathleen) is expecting our third child. It's a lot of change. Between personal and professional there is a lot of change for me. The circumstances surrounding this opportunity are perfect. Again, they're comfortable, I'm excited, I have high regard for the Craftsman Truck Series, the competitors and the identity that it has. I'm looking forward to being a part of that, but on a broader perspective, being successful in the Craftsman Truck Series. So, the changes for me are plenty. We'll have a third addition to our family some time in mid-February. We're going to have a new team and a new focus, and I'm not going to tell you that there won't be withdrawals because I've been part of the Cup Series for a decade and there's no question from a competitor's standpoint, from an athlete's standpoint, that that's always been the draw. But, this is the path that I've chosen and it's a great opportunity and I want to capitalize on it."
IS BEING WITH A COMPETITIVE TEAM PART OF THE COMFORT ZONE? "There's nothing comfortable about losing as a competitor, and I know that you all can relate to this because we're all competitors in some fashion. We had a miserable year last year, and there's nothing comfortable about that. This opportunity was created because Jack (Roush) took the time to call and I could sense the interest in having me drive one of his automobiles, and I reacted to that. I'm excited about it. It's perfect for the circumstances. I'm 38 and I have quite a bit going on and this is going to be perfect."
IS TRUCK TESTING HERE AT DAYTONA MORE VALID THAN IT IS IN THE CUP SERIES? "That's a great point. This is fresh, and my first experience in the truck was last year at New Hampshire and it left an impression. I also left an impression on the turn one wall, but it's fresh. It's a lot of fun. I like the way they drive. I like the momentum that this series has and even testing is different. We tested at Talladega and it was fun for me again. I don't want to spend a lot of time talking about it, but I didn't have a lot of fun last year and there's good reason because we didn't run well. There's a correlation between performing well and enjoying yourself. You can see it on the faces of any competitor. I'm looking forward to this because I believe that we're going to have an opportunity to battle for this title and I have tremendous confidence in the people surrounding the Superchips team. I have the utmost confidence in the leader of the organization, Jack Roush. I've always admired Jack and his work ethic and his commitment to his teams and his employees, and so this is fresh. This is much different. My first impression is that it is a lot different than the Cup side. I think there's even a difference in the atmosphere within the garage area with the competitors and the team members. Believe me, the Cup thing was very good to me and I feel like I have some unfinished business there, and whether I get back or not depends highly on capitalizing on this opportunity. Testing in a Cup car at Talladega or Daytona can be so redundant, or as my wife says, respectively redundant, which is just sometimes the most difficult thing that you could ever do in race car. Going out and losing a hundredth of a second and then coming in and making a change and going out and gaining less than a tenth, and going out and losing two tenths and not knowing why, maybe the wind changed. It's very difficult from a driver's perspective. The truck is a little different because it's not as dependent on some of those things, the aerodynamics or whatever, because it punches such a big hole and when it comes time to race these trucks, wow, it's going to be fun. There's always been some apprehension surrounding restrictor-plate racing as it relates to the competitors or considering the big wreck. It's always talked about, and it's an element of restrictor-plate racing. It's a component because you run so close to one another at a high speed. The cool thing about these trucks is that from a driver's perspective is that you actually have some options again. Running wide open for 250 miles isn't your only option. If you get in trouble you can roll out of the gas and the trucks will recover quickly and you can make that time back up within a half of a lap or three-quarters of a lap. It's great and I'm looking forward to it and I think it's going to be a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to racing with Todd."
THERE SEEMS TO BE AN ALL-STAR FIELD IN THE SERIES THIS YEAR. "I think it's a great mix of experience and also the flavor of some youth and energy. Todd is an example of that where I see myself 12 years ago, which is good for him and not so good for me. It's been fun to watch him over the last four or five or six weeks because he's coming down and he's experiencing a lot of what I experienced when I moved from Concord, N.H., to Concord, N.C. I had a six-week old baby girl, I had never been away from home and we were scared to death. I'm not implying that that's the case for Todd, but there's a lot of new and a lot of change, but when you see that energy and enthusiasm it's fun. He's, like he said, worked his whole life to get here. Then you combine that with the mix of drivers like Ted Musgrave, Bobby Hamilton, and Mike Skinner and Steve Park. Just taking Bobby Hamilton and Ted Musgrave, for example, they represent years of racing successfully. They are identifiable, they've done a lot in the sport, not just in the truck series, but the sport, so everybody's got their own objectives, but they're completely different in appearance. It's most like a Seniors Tour and a PGA Tour combined. I don't necessarily like that analogy, but I used it anyway because in what other sport can you have drivers or athletes in their late 40s winning championships? My reaction to that is that experience weighs pretty heavy. Experience must be worth something because Bobby Hamilton, Ted Musgrave and Dennis Setzer proved it. I think I'm sort of in a sweet spot here, where at 38 I'm not either. I'm certainly not young, but I feel like I've got a few years left, so it will be good."
TALK ABOUT BEING ABLE TO RACE AGAINST SOME VETERAN NASCAR DRIVERS IN THIS SERIES. "It's pretty neat for somebody in my position to be able to come and race with so many guys that have been through so much in NASCAR and to the top of the series, and people like Ricky, who has won NEXTEL Cup races. There are a lot of guys that have had really successful careers in higher levels of NASCAR. For a guy like me coming in, it's great to be able to race with guys that you know are on top of their game, that you can learn a lot from and that are going to make you earn their respect and go through the motions of helping you to become a better race car driver. Of course, I have aspirations of going on and doing what those guys have done. It's pretty safe to say that the competition level in the Craftsman Truck Series is as good as it is in any of the other forms of NASCAR. I think a lot of that reason is the schedule is easier and a lot of these guys don't want to run the big schedules, but can still make a very big impact in a sport that they love and do it in the Craftsman Truck Series. I'm excited about being here. I'm excited about learning from all of the veteran guys here and proving to myself that I can compete with them on a level that high. I'm excited about getting to work with Ricky, who's a veteran in himself this year. I can't explain to you how much he has helped me so far, whether it would be at the race car shop or at Talladega when we were testing, or helping me get my personal issues in order for the move and for this life-changing thing that I'm going through. He approached me and offered his help to me and didn't make me come and ask him for it. He's been spectacular, and I hope a lot of the people in this series are going to be that way, and I have a feeling that they are. I'm excited about getting to work and race against most of these guys."
IS THIS THE PERFECT TIME IN YOUR CAREER FOR A FRESH BEGINNING WITH A CHILD ON THE WAY AND A MORE RELAXED SCHEDULE IN THE TRUCK SERIES? "If I look back on the circumstances and everything that led up to this, yeah, it's perfect. But having said that, I can also tell you that I went into the beginning of last year with a three-year contract in NEXTEL Cup. It wasn't part of my agenda. This wasn't the long or the short-term goal. Perhaps it was a long-term goal at some point to give this a shot because I'm very intrigued by this series. Again, when you think about drivers in their mid to late 40s, having the success that they're having and then the younger drivers, and we'll use Carl Edwards as an example, coming in and making a strong, strong argument that he's the next generation, this series has it all. In my opinion from where I sit, it offers more to me than the Busch Series because it has its own identity and it clearly has the support of the manufacturers. They're selling trucks and we're selling F-150s. That appeals to me, so I can I certainly say having reflected over the last 12 months that it is perfect."
WHAT ARE REALISTIC GOALS FOR YOUR TEAM THIS YEAR? "We haven't really sat down and talked about team goals yet, but I realistically think, my personal goals are Rookie of the Year. I want to be, after a couple of races, running in the front whether that's the top five or top 10. I don't want to be an also-ran or a we-showed-up type of person. It might take us a couple of race to hit our stride, but I think with any new team that's always the case. I definitely want to be a contender. I want to run in the front and I want to lead races and I want to win races. I'm by no means delusional about this whole situation. I know exactly how hard it is going to be to win races, but I think that's a possibility for us by the end of the season, too. I want to be a contender and I want to take our shot at wining races."
IS YOUR TRUCK SERIES OPPORTUNITY BETTER THAN ANY BUSCH SERIES OPPORTUNITY? "I really think it is. If you look at all of the people that have come through the Roush organization, whether it was Kurt Busch or Greg Biffle, they've all started in the trucks. If I could go on to be as successful as those guys, obviously, that's the right decision. Jack is the winningest truck owner in the series, and if you have somebody like that who is going to offer you a position like I've been offered, I don't see how it could ever be a wrong move. To go in the Busch Series, it seems that you have to have the exact right opportunity with the exact right team, and it's very much the case in the truck series, too, but I was given that exact right team and that exact right opportunity here in the truck series. I signed with a team that can take me through the truck series and has very capable equipment and they've won championships before. Their Busch cars are extremely fast; they contended for the championship this year. And, obviously, we all know the NEXTEL Cup cars have won the last two championships. For me, this was the perfect move. I have the exact team that can take me through all of the levels of NASCAR and the best equipment there is, I feel."
DO YOU FEEL THAT FOR A YOUNG DRIVER LIKE TODD THAT STARTING IN THE TRUCK SERIES IS THE WAY TO GO? "I think it's a fabulous opportunity. Without question, there are several factors in having success, but it begins with having an opportunity. These circumstances are wonderful for Todd because he's in with a group where you know the equipment is good, but he's also got a tremendous support group relative to drivers. If he struggles or if he has issues he can go to those resources and that should be a big asset."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE LACK OF HAPPY HOUR PRACTICE THIS YEAR AND HAVING THE TRUCKS IMPOUNDED AFTER QUALIFYING? "For me, from what I raced in the past it was all impounded stuff anyway, so it will be nothing new for me. I'm personally a big fan of it. I think we can just concentrate on our race setups then and there will be a couple of little things you can do for qualifying. I'm all for the impound rule. We can just work on our race setups and we'll go out and qualify with what we've got and race. I'm a big fan of it."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE LACK OF HAPPY HOUR PRACTICE THIS YEAR AND HAVING THE TRUCKS IMPOUNDED AFTER QUALIFYING? "There's no question that it simplifies things. It helps abbreviate the week and I think we're all in favor of it. First of all, the part we love about this job is the two or three hours we spend in the automobile racing. Sometimes that gets lost in the shuffle of the other responsibilities, but we need adequate practice and we need to put on a good show for the fans. It needs to be a good product, entertaining to the point where people get excited about it and they come back and it continues to grow, but if we can condense that, I think that's good for everyone."