Rick Crawford, driver of the No. 14 Ford F-150, captured last year's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season-opening event at Daytona in a dramatic three-wide finish to score his second series victory. With 173 starts in seven seasons - all for owner...
Rick Crawford, driver of the No. 14 Ford F-150, captured last year's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season-opening event at Daytona in a dramatic three-wide finish to score his second series victory. With 173 starts in seven seasons - all for owner Tom Mitchell - Crawford currently holds the mark for consecutive and all-time starts in the series. Crawford spoke about the upcoming season during the first day of testing for next month's Daytona 250.
RICK CRAWFORD-14-Circle Bar Motel & RV Park Ford F-150
WILL LAST YEAR'S THREE-WIDE FINISH IN THE DAYTONA 250 BE A STORY THAT YOU WILL TELL OVER AND OVER AFTER YOUR DRIVING CAREER? "I'm still telling that story. I had a good time last year. It sort of makes a career complete, I guess. I'm not ready to retire yet, so we'll make a prediction and go ahead and write it down now: I'm going to do it two in a row. I've got Ray (Stonkus, crew chief) over there working on my new Ford F-150 for 2004. We need a little bit of speed, but we'll get it when the green flag drops."
ANY CHANCE OF GOING FOUR-WIDE THIS YEAR? "One thing about winning, at least you know how, and so we'll take that out of the equation. You know drama follows me, so if it takes the dramatic, we can do it again. If not, I'm sure it will be a great race."
TALK ABOUT YOUR RECENT OVERSEES TRIP TO IRAQ. "Sometimes you hate to see what you went to see, but the trip was real this time. The last couple of times that I went was just to boost the morale of the troops and let them know that everybody in the United States still cares about them and the job they're doing over there. This time when we left New York we flew to Frankfurt, Germany, and left Germany on Qatar Airlines and went to Qatar to the new Air Force base down there; it's supposed to be the largest in the world when they get finished with it. We left Qatar and went to Kuwait, and got to witness what our bombs had done there. We were right on time. We blew up things that the French said couldn't be blown up. We went from Kuwait straight into Baghdad with bullet-proof vests on and Kevlar helmets. I got to stay with the 82nd. I thought that roughing it was having reservations at the Holiday Inn, but were in Tent City from the time we left till the time we got home. It's almost a trip, once you've been to Baghdad, once you've seen the destruction that a tornado can do, which people along the Gulf Coast and Florida area know what tornadoes can do and hurricanes, that's what our boys over there are doing. They do have a couple of problems and we saw that firsthand. I got to shoot some guns while I was over there, a 50-caliber sniper rifle; that's a canon. And the new M-4 machine gun. I got to ride in the Black Hawk helicopters, like the ones we just lost the other day, and I think that was part of our escort troop we had. But, things are real over there. It's a real war going on and we were in the middle of it. We've seen the fire, we've seen the flares that try to follow a rocket that they don't really care if it has any direction or not, but it was a real trip. To tell you how real it was, on the way home they warned us no pictures. We carried two of our bodies home with us. It was a real trip; it was reality."
"The first thing you look forward to when you get home is sleeping in your own bed and in your own home, unlocking the door and taking that warm, hot shower. In perspective, when you get on the plane to leave, you wish you could stay longer. You wish you could meet each and every one of those service people over there doing their job for us. I know it's exciting for them to see us. There are a lot of them that can't come home and they're busy. They're well trained. We've got the equipment over there and our president is doing a great job. I think if I was to bring home what I saw over there, everyone needs to support those guys and any chance you get to relay the message to other people. Somebody better not come up to me in my face and say, 'What the hell are we doing over there?' I can see what we're doing over there, and I just hate that we're in that situation, but I know that we've got to be there."
AFTER YOUR WIN AT DAYTONA LAST YEAR, HOW DID THAT CHANGE YOUR MINDSET AND THE MINDSET OF THE TEAM? "We'll go with changes in the team first. It made our race team know that it was prepared well, but it's got to be strong in the same sense. If you look throughout the garage area today I think you see 10 more trucks than you did here last year during testing and they're 10 more tougher trucks. I just told Steve Park a couple of minutes ago and I told Jack Sprague this last year, 'Welcome back to the Senior Tour,' meaning it's probably the toughest series out there today. And, I see Carl (Edwards) coming back. He's going to be really tough. I see his name up on top of the leaderboard and he's back at a lot of tracks he'd never been to, and this year he comes back not being a rookie, so he's going to be an experienced NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver. As far as my perspective is concerned, it just fulfilled a dream of Rick Crawford's to know that he can come to the World Center of Racing and capture a victory. You can probably name a lot of drivers on just two or three pages that have won at Daytona, and no matter what they're in they go to the same victory. So being a part of the same victory lane at Daytona was pretty special to us."
COMMENT OF THE NUMBER OF VETERAN DRIVERS RETURNING TO THE SERIES THIS YEAR. "I remember when Skinner left and went on to bigger and better things. I remember when Hornaday left. I remember when Jack Sprague left, and then Greg Biffle and Kurt Busch. Look at the guys that have graduated through the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series up to the higher ranks of NASCAR. Once they graduated, after whatever happened in the other series, they come back and realize, 'Hey this is great racing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.' It's competitive racing and so they find themselves back home in the Senior Tour, I call it. But ask Darrell Waltrip about all that. But anyway, that's what you're up against. You call it come and gone, we'll there're coming back. When you have Skinner and Sprague come back, past champions of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, it's going to make it tough because they know how to win a championship."
WAS THE COMPETITION IN THE SERIES EASIER IN THE PAST WHEN CHAMPIONS MOVED TO HIGHER RANKS IN NASCAR? "No. Like I was mentioned earlier, when I saw those guys leave the series I was like, 'Oh boy, they're going to be out of my way and it's going to be a little easier.' But you have guys like Travis Kvapil that came in, and like I said, Hornaday and Sprague was replaced by Biffle and Busch. The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series has never been easy and it's a far cry from being easy this year."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON TOYOTA ENTERING THE SERIES? "I'm driving the Blue Oval. I really have a different feeling than some people about it, but I'll go ahead and answer it. I just feel like NASCAR is born American auto racing. It was a shock to see Bill France, Jr. over here unveiling a Toyota. To go and ask, because we've been asked, to ask your owner would you like to switch from Ford to Toyota, and you see what I'm still driving, the new Ford F-150. You know where the old owners come from and people that buy American and all that. But, I'm sure the series has to welcome that. There's room for it and it's going to make some excitement for the fans I'm sure, but I just wish that what we race on Saturday we can sell on Monday and it would put back in our economy rather than take it across the water."
HOW EXCITING WILL IT TO BE TO RACE UNDER THE LIGHTS AT DAYTONA FOR THE FIRST TIME? "We're trying to sign a contract deal now, our sponsorship package with a paint company where we can make the 14 Circle Bar Ford glitter Friday night. Everybody wants to see the smoke and the fire and the sparks on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, and how better is it than Daytona at night? I think a lot of that is missing during the day in a daytime race, but we'll see it at night and I'm sure it will be plenty of excitement."
DOES RACING AT NIGHT CHANGE THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE TRACK FOR A DRIVER? "Not necessarily. Just like Charlotte, we race under the lights. Even at Texas we start in the daytime and end at night. The way the lights are on the race track it makes it look like it's daytime anyway. I don't know if your mindset changes from daytime to dark, but I know my doesn't; I'm looking out of the windshield going to the front. I really don't care what time we race."