Rick Crawford, driver of the No. 14 Ford F-150, took some time during a rain delay in testing for next month's Craftsman Truck Series season-opener to discuss the off-season changes to his team and the upcoming year. Crawford, the 2003 Daytona...
Rick Crawford, driver of the No. 14 Ford F-150, took some time during a rain delay in testing for next month's Craftsman Truck Series season-opener to discuss the off-season changes to his team and the upcoming year. Crawford, the 2003 Daytona 250 race winner, is teamed with veteran crew chief Kevin "Cowboy" Starland for the 2005 season with the hopes that the driver/crew chief combination can return the team to a top-10 finish in the point standings.
RICK CRAWFORD -14-Circle Bar Truck Corral Ford F-150
THIS IS THE SECOND CONSECUTIVE DAY THAT RAIN HAS DELAYED TRUCK SERIES TESTING. HOW HAS THE WEATHER IMPACTED YOUR AGENDA?
"Well, we've only tested once with I call the new crew configuration, and that was to get some laps and get me and Cowboy (Kevin Starland, crew chief) focused on how each other operates. It worked out really well at Talladega and I think he feels the same way. We got back and the fabricators massaged on the truck some, and we came here to Daytona and we really need to test here to be ready for the race."
IF TESTING IS SHORTENED TO ONE DAY, CAN YOU STILL ACCOMPLISH ALL OF YOUR OBJECTIVES?
"I think so because Cowboy and the staff we have at Circle Bar Racing is really on time and they've prepared a neat piece for here at Daytona and it shouldn't take long because it's to the limit. I won the race here two years ago and he won it last year, and we're going to try to win this year together."
DO YOU PLAN ON SPENDING MORE TIME IN QUALIFYING TRIM OR RACE TRIM TOMORROW?
"You want to go out first by yourself and maybe make three or four runs just to see what kind of speed the new F-150 generates, and then I think you need to spend most of the time drafting to see how it handles around other trucks. Qualifying is not everything here at Daytona, but speed sure would help."
THE FORD D3 CYLINDER HEAD WAS APPROVED FOR TRUCK SERIES COMPETITION THIS YEAR. HOW WILL THAT IMPACT THE OVERALL COMPETITION OF THE SERIES THIS YEAR?
"We've been talking about it and having horsepower under the hood is always a plus. We've been down in horsepower the past couple of years to the other manufacturers, and this is what we need to be more competitive overall. We haven't tested the new motor yet, and I wish we had it to test a little bit, but I think come Daytona next month they will be ready and we'll have them installed."
WHAT ARE YOUR FEELINGS ON THE NEW RULE TO IMPOUND THE TRUCKS FOLLOWING QUALIFYING THIS YEAR?
"I think it's going to take some time to get used to. Being already a veteran driver in the truck series, sometimes I can stand it because you leave the shop ready to race. If I know that's the rule going into the weekend, that's how you prepare your equipment. On the other hand, why would you want to be a rookie and want to come into the truck series when you've never seen some of these tracks before? Sometimes I feel like in that aspect we need to give these guys some more laps and some more experience at these places, and usually in Happy Hour was the only time they got to run together with the trucks because during practice everybody was doing individual runs. That's the only thing that you're going to have to change in your approach. A lot of practice this year is going to be in race-ready configurations and not necessarily in qualifying."
WITH THE INFLUX OF VETERAN DRIVERS OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS, IS THE TRUCK SERIES BECOMING LESS OF DEVELOPMENT SERIES FOR TEAMS AND DRIVERS?
"I've often said that this is the Senior Tour of NASCAR, but you also have to make the future Cup stars and the truck series is a definite stop. You really never have a person say that they want to start their racing career in the Craftsman Truck Series. They come into the series with experience in other forms of racing, but I think NASCAR needs to have person set out to explain to some of these teams, especially the rookies, what to expect. I think they either need more testing time for these guys or a manufacturer's test. You've got to have more time on the race track to develop your talents, and if you're going cut practice time with the new rules I think there needs to be a way to get it back to some of teams that need that help."
THERE WILL BE FOUR PAST CHAMPIONS COMPETING FULL TIME IN THE SERIES THIS YEAR. HOW DO YOU RATE THE LEVEL OF COMPETITION THIS YEAR COMPARED TO PAST SEASONS?
"There's going to be some great racing. It was great racing when they were here before. I hope that Hornaday and Sprague get together with Ted and Bobby and they have a big old time and miss the 14 truck. It will be exciting for the fans. This year the truck series will probably be the most competitive ever. It used to be that if you had a bad race you could still finish in the top 10. If you have a bad race today you're going to finish outside of the top 20, and so a good race might be in the 10. The Circle Bar Truck Corral Ford is here to win. Kevin is here to win a championship and I am, too, for Tom Mitchell."
DOES THE RETURN OF SKINNER, SPRAGUE AND HORNADAY ADD A LEVEL OF VOLATILITY TO THE SERIES?
"I think you have a good group of racers here in the Craftsman Truck Series. Some are more established than others. I think you need some aspect of confrontation, and if there weren't the fans would see right through it. It's just like the good guy and bad guy wrestlers, but they can be friends after the match. You have to have confrontation at some time to help enhance and build the sport and give people something to talk about. That's not always bad. I can answer for Rick Crawford, and I'm going to go back to the mentality I had three years ago when I was second in the points, and I'm going to perform on the race track. If I'm running up front I'm going to get media attention and I'm going to be in front of the television, but my focus is performance and racing. They might say that to try to intimidate you out here, but I still think they're racers. You know what to expect from them because I've raced against all of those guys and they don't want Rick Crawford to dish it back when they do something to jeopardize my team. It hurts when it comes back and I think they need to race straight up, but things happen on the race track, and every driver knows how the other one drives; we watch out for that."
YOU ARE JOINED THIS YEAR WITH A PROVEN CREW CHIEF IN KEVIN STARLAND. TALK ABOUT THE DECISION TO BEING HIM ON BOARD.
"I listened to the boss (Tom Mitchell) and sometimes when you're involved with the management side of it or with the people side of it you start missing some of the strengths and the weaknesses of the team, and we took an in-depth look at the race team some of it was in disarray because at the end of the year you had people that were leaving and you didn't have the crew chief in the middle of the season out and things like that that you really needed for performance. As soon as the season was over at Homestead, we saw it as the start of our 2005 season and we wanted to start it right then and there. Tom Mitchell and myself got together and we talked about it and decided there are a few things that you need to be successful. One, you need your crew chief. You need a winning crew chief, one that has proven himself. Two, you need to be prepared at the shop. If you put all of that together you can win the championship, and we felt bringing Kevin on board would accomplish both of those objectives."
YOU FINISHED SECOND IN THE POINT STANDINGS IN 2002 AND SEVENTH IN 2003, BUT FELL OUTSIDE OF THE TOP 10 IN POINTS LAST YEAR. WHAT WOULD CONSTITUTE A SUCCESSFUL SEASON FOR YOU IN 2005?
"Multiple wins. When I look at last season, I look at the stats and you have to with money you're spending nowadays. The first stat you look at is points, and where did we miss out on some points? How come we didn't finish in the top 10? Even though we had a dismal second half of the season, what kept us from being in the top 10? I looked at the stats and we didn't have any bonus points, none. They give them away, they're sitting out there for you and we couldn't get any. You've got to have every possible point that you can find, whether it's in strategy or performance. We were missing that aspect of it and our performance wasn't good enough to generate those kinds of points. That's what I'm looking at, but the main thing that Kevin has taken responsibility from Rick Crawford is leadership. There is one thing that can impress me and that's a fast truck. I want to drive a fast truck. I don't want to have to worry about when I'm coming down pit road whether those guys practiced pit stops last week. Kevin is handling that. He's handling the surface plate and making sure that the truck is set up properly. He's making sure those guys in the shop work for him. We're all in this together and we're one team, and we want the best possible team on the race track."