RICK CRAWFORD - NO. 14 CIRCLE BAR MOTEL AND RV PARK FORD F-150 - FINISHED THE 1997 SEASON SECOND IN THE CINTAS ROOKIE OF THE YEAR RACE AND 12TH IN THE NASCAR CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES POINTS. HE WON THE SECOND RACE OF THE 1998 SEASON AT HOMESTEAD,...
RICK CRAWFORD - NO. 14 CIRCLE BAR MOTEL AND RV PARK FORD F-150 - FINISHED THE 1997 SEASON SECOND IN THE CINTAS ROOKIE OF THE YEAR RACE AND 12TH IN THE NASCAR CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES POINTS. HE WON THE SECOND RACE OF THE 1998 SEASON AT HOMESTEAD, AND THEN FINISHED FIFTH AT THE FOLLOWING EVENT IN PHOENIX WHICH PUT HIM UP TO FIFTH IN THE POINTS. IN THE PAST 13 RACES THE BEST FINISH CRAWFORD COULD MUSTER WAS AN 11TH AT PIKES PEAK. WHAT HAPPENED?
"Well, we had a couple of things go wrong. What really happened, we prepared ourselves really well for Homestead. We were prepared well for Orlando. We had a part failure while we were running in the top-ten there, and there was really nothing we could do about that. The fuel pump just quit. We had a couple months between there and Homestead so we could prepare really well for that. We had a motor builder who came on board that was really trying to impress us. So everything worked out. We had a real fine truck and a nice running engine that gave us our first win.
"Then we went to Phoenix, and we basically ran the same combination. That was a good run.
"Then we go to Portland, and we had a great qualifying run (fifth), and when the race began I got a little over anxious and started charging to the front. We running third or fourth, and then toward the end of the race our truck got torn up. It got torn up pretty bad. But here is the way we looked at it. We were still eighth in points after Portland, and what we needed to do was go from Portland to our shop in Georgia, get the truck fixed and go to Seattle. And there was no way to fix that truck as badly as it was damaged to get it ready for Monroe, but we did. It was countless hours in the shop, the whole deal. What we should have done was go to plan B and get the back-up truck ready and run. But problems kept snowballing on top of us.
"We had transmission problems in Seattle which probably stemmed from the accident in Portland. It was something we had just overlooked. When you see damage here, you think let's just fix this part here, this one corner or whatever. And, well that's okay - it didn't get hit. It didn't get damaged. But in an accident like that, a lot of things get stressed and stretched, and that happened to be one of them. We still came out of Seattle with a finish (21st).
"Then we went to I-70 and things went well in practice. We were in the top-five in practice. Then we get ready to start the race. Our qualifying was not what we expected. I think we started in the middle of the pack (17th) there. Then we got into it with another truck. It was like a train - one end started to stop, and the other end didn't finish until it run into one another. We got caught up with that on the first lap, and we had a deficit from then on. Then we got a stop and go penalty. I didn't feel it was justified and later NASCAR apologized for it. They had talked to both parties involved, and found the other party was in the wrong. What I was trying to do was avoid a big wreck. They seemed to think I was trying to take advantage of somebody. The apology was fine, but it couldn't do anything for the results of the race (18th). We finished a lap down, and that was from the stop and go.
"Then our season started going down hill as far as engines. We have really had some serious engine problems. We started the year out with five trucks and seven engines. Right now we've still got five trucks, but we don't have any engines. I really was impressed with engine builder at Homestead. I could really feel the difference in power from last year. I guess I put all my eggs in one basket. It was a deal where probably I shouldn't have. That was probably a bad decision on my part to key in on just one engine builder, and it just didn't work. And that's where we've been from then to now. We've had a race every week. We've had some great trucks, set-ups. They are nice to drive.
"The fortunate thing about it is that our whole team is intact. It would be different if with the troubles the team had started falling apart. But right now the team is still intact, and we are fixing to make some additions, and get some more key people in. I think the second half of our season is going to go well. I'm really looking forward to it."
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO? WHAT IS GOING TO BE DIFFERENT? "Like I said after the race a week ago, we just need a breath of fresh air. We've been fighting adversity throughout the season since the fourth race on. We've been working late night hours. On the way to Flemington, we worked 24 hours straight in the shop. The guys are not necessarily going to get burned out, but they aren't going to be able to work efficiently. It's really not anybody's fault. It's not my fault. It's not Roland's (Wlodyka, crew chief) fault. It's not the owner's fault. Things just have to be done, and it's not like people are knocking the door down in Cleveland, Georgia. What we had to do, was we had to do the best we could with what we had to work with. The guys worked really hard, and got the job done. Sometimes it might not have been as efficient as it could have been, but we got the job done with what we had to do it with. We've had good trucks.
"We've got a two-race deal now to run (Robert) Yates engines at Nashville and another race. This morning we signed a deal with Jeremy Upchurch to build a couple other engines for us. I know we're going to run one of his at Topeka, and at Louisville.
"I was talking to the boss (team owner Tom Mitchell) this morning, and he is proud of the fact we've made these decisions. He's proud that last weekend we ended up with a truck that wasn't torn up, and we were still running on all eight cylinders. We ran with an engine that had been freshened up. It ran well at Flemington. We were in the middle part of the race, and somebody came on the radio and said, 'let's turn it on now. 'Let's get on fire now.' And I had to say, 'we've got to run this truck next week'. It's like trying to choose which race is important. I know if we were leading the points, or top-five in the points, every race would be important. But we need to concentrate on winning again, and doing the best that we can. You can't tear up trucks and expect that."
THE YATES DEAL IS ONLY FOR TWO RACES? "Right now. There is a possibility of some more."
YOU HAVE SOME HISTORY AT NASHVILLE. "Yeah, a little bit. Nashville is one of my favorite places, one of my favorite race tracks. I first drove there in 1986. The first race I drove there was the All American 400 with the All Pro Series. Ever since I took my first lap around there, I said, wow, I wish I had this to run every Saturday night. For a Saturday night racer to grow up at a track like that is pretty remarkable. That is quite a facility to run at on a weekly basis. We ran two races a year there from then on with the All Pro. We had quite a bit of success. The best finish we had there in the All American 400 I think was a fifth. I ran second a couple of times at the All Pro races in the spring. And I won a TNN event there one October. It was a Nashville Network sponsored race. A fifty lapper. I started at the tail end and won that event. Some of the best short track drivers in North America were there, and it was live on TNN. That was quite a race. I thoroughly enjoyed that. Junior Hanley was there and Bobby Dotter, the finest short track racers in the country, and we came away with a win."