Steady rainfall this morning in the Darlington, S.C., area forced the cancellation of today's qualifying activities for both the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Craftsman 200 and Busch Series DarlingtonRaceway.com 200. The fields were set by the ...
Steady rainfall this morning in the Darlington, S.C., area forced the cancellation of today's qualifying activities for both the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Craftsman 200 and Busch Series DarlingtonRaceway.com 200. The fields were set by the NASCAR rulebook, and with fewer competitors than starting spots for both events no teams were forced to pack up early.
Rick Crawford, the most recent race winner in the Craftsman Truck Series, will start second in tomorrow's 147-lap race. Crawford won the season opening event at Daytona and holds the lead in the point standings for the first time in his seven-year career. Crawford also has the distinction of being the only driver to finish in the top five at the two previous Darlington truck series events.
Stanton Barrett will start Saturday's 147-lap Busch Series race from the pole position, while fellow Ford Racing driver and South Carolina native Jason Keller will complete the front row. Barrett currently occupies 19th place in the Busch Series point standings, but he is coming off an eighth-place finish at Las Vegas Speedway. Keller is fifth in the point standings, posting a pair of fifth-place finishes in the last two races.
RICK CRAWFORD-14-Circle Bar Motel & RV Park Ford F-150:
YOU'VE HAD A MONTH SINCE YOUR LAST RACE, BUT YOU'VE ALSO HAD A MONTH TO SAVOR YOUR WIN AT DAYTONA. "I don't want to quit thinking about Daytona, either. If you ask me that same question 10 years from now, I'll probably still be thinking about Daytona. That was pretty exciting for the Circle Bar race team, but we're here at a new race track, a new race. I think the Circle Bar guys, it was probably late at night before we went to bed after the race at Daytona and we were already thinking about Darlington because we're a great bunch of racers, I guess. I guess qualifying starts by points. Outside front row, maybe I can lead the first lap, but if I can't we have to race the track all day and try to have something left for the finish; try not to hit anything. It doesn't hurt my feelings a whole lot (not to have qualifying). Ray Stonkus (crew chief) has brought a good truck the last couple of times that we've raced here at Darlington. We have two top-five finishes the only two times that the Craftsman Truck Series has been here. Maybe we can have another good run here tomorrow."
YOU MADE A DARING MOVE TO WIN THE RACE AT DAYTONA. WHAT HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT THAT RACE OVER THE LAST FOUR WEEKS? "It's been pretty exciting. I've been busy fulfilling commitments with Craftsman and doing things for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and Ford Motor Co. I'm just hearing a lot of neat things about the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. I'm really, honestly a small part of a great race team. To cross the finish line and know that my name is in the headlines, but I brought a great race team across the finish line with me. Just to be a part of a win at Daytona, you don't know how special that is, but it's a very special moment for me. Like I say, if the same thing is asked of me 10 years from now, I hope I can recap it the same way because it's been very neat, very cool, and I hope that I've represented the series very well in the last month."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THE HAVING THE TRUCK SERIES RACES ON THE SPEED CHANNEL? "I'm proud to be part of it, don't get me wrong. If anybody would have been in my place at the same race, I probably would say the same thing. They had one great trace. The truck race was an awesome race. I hate to use the word awesome, but it was an awesome race. Look at what happened in the Busch Series. Look at what happened in the Cup Series, and the Speed Channel has exploded. That's great for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and I'm sure it's great for Speed and look for our viewing audience to expand."
HOW WILL THE LACK OF PRACTICE AFFECT YOUR STRATEGY TOMORROW? "Jason (Leffler) was exactly right. Here we are and I'm sure, like he said earlier and I said, it doesn't hurt my feelings not to have Happy Hour or to have practice. I'd like to have practice; I'd like to have a little practice. We don't need a whole lot because we could probably use our four sets of tires. I think we're ready. This is a driver's race track and a handling truck. We do have good notes from being here and I don't think the track changes much through the years. We're all facing the same situation, so it's up to the team and the trucks, and then let the drivers do their jobs. I feel like we'd been pretty good if we qualified, anyway. We brought a really good truck here. It's a pretty serious effort, but you have to be. It doesn't hurt my feelings to know that we're not qualifying because of the owner points situation. I just wish maybe we could get a little bit of practice. We don't need a whole hour, but I wish we could get a little bit of practice."
STARTING ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE FRONT ROW, HOW MUCH EMPHASIS ARE YOU PUTTING ON TRYING TO TAKE THE LEAD EARLY? "You try to get the jump. I'm going to try to get the jump and lead the first lap, and race the track for 147 laps. Well, probably 130 laps and then whatever happens and whoever is the hungriest will gut it out from there. I'm not going to take a chance of tearing up all of the trucks on the first lap because I want to lead a race. If the opportunity is there, I'm going to take it."
STANTON BARRETT-60-OdoBan Ford Taurus:
THIS IS YOUR SECOND STRAIGHT RACE STARTING ON THE POLE. "Every track, track position is very key, especially here; it's always good to start on the front. I'm just happy we get to do it two weeks in a row. We've worked really hard to start on the pole; it took a lot of effort on my part for that. Thanks to Greg Biffle and the crew last year. It's exciting, it's good for our sponsors and good to be up front running with these guys and learning. I'm looking forward to Saturday."
WAS YOUR EIGHTH-PLACE FINISH AT LAS VEGAS A CONFIDENCE BUILDER FOR YOU? "I think so. We felt really strong there. It was a good run for both my guys and myself. They made good calls and we worked real hard on the setups there. I think we were a contender there for the win at the end until the last caution when I made a mistake and spun my tires. We had a strong car and it was good to run up front with all of the guys that we ran up front with. There were a lot of good Winston Cup drivers and top Busch guys, with Keller and everyone. That was a good confidence builder, I think for the crew especially. That's an all-new crew except two guys, so that showed that they're doing their part in building good equipment and maintaining that level of success that they've had in the past. Obviously, it was great for me because it's always good to run up front for any driver and it's been a long time. It was fun. It gave us a new idea of our potential but also keeping in focus our long-term plan that we set out in the beginning of the year to finish races and run every lap to build that chemistry and seat time that it takes to be competitive and learn and grow off of that. It was fun. I had a lot of fun and it was definitely beneficial to change the tone of the team in the shop."
JASON KELLER-57-Albertsons Ford Taurus:
THIS TRACK IS NEAR YOUR HOMETOWN OF GREENVILLE. TALK ABOUT RACING HERE. "Definitely, Darlington is special. Me being from South Carolina, I've raced around this area for a lot of years. I don't really know how the Albertsons Ford will fair. Hopefully we'll get some practice the next couple of days so we'll know what to expect on Saturday. One good thing, my teammate Scott Riggs came and tested last week, so we have those notes to go off of. We actually chose to bring a 2002 Ford Taurus because we didn't know what to expect out of the 2003 quite yet. It should be the same as last year, mostly the same, and we ran great both races last year, so we're looking forward to that. We're looking forward to a great race. We've come close here a lot of times and this is one of those places that if I could win at any other place - you don't ever choose it chooses you - it would be a great place to add to my resume, that's for sure."
ARE YOU USING SCOTT'S SETUP IN YOUR CAR? "We had already set up our car for race practice this morning. Even if we would have qualified or if it would have been pretty, we had already said that we were going to practice our race pace. Actually, the car right now has the same identical four shocks and springs that we had in the fall last year. That was going to be our starting point. Now, we do have the notes to go off of of what Scott did, but right now, our game plan is to start out where we ended last fall. That may change if we don't get any laps on the race track. We may have to go away from that and take what Scott has, but right now our game plan is to use his notes if we have to, but go off of what we had in the fall of 2002 because this is a 2002 car. We did test in Nashville Monday and Tuesday of this week. We tested a 2002 and 2003 trying to see what the differences were. We opted to bring the 2002 here just because we had such good notes from last year. Actually, the spring race and the fall race both were good to us. We feel like we have a good database. This place doesn't change a tremendous amount, so hopefully we have some good notes to go off of."
DID YOU TEST IN NASHVILLE IN ANTICIPATION OF RACE THIS WEEKEND? "I don't know if it was in anticipation of rain. It was our first open motor test that we've had all year long. We tested at Talladega and Daytona for those two-day tests, but we go to Rockingham and get little or no practice. We go to Las Vegas and get little or no practice, so we haven't been able to build a lot of information this year in our 2003 stuff. We're still a little bit not knowing and the reason we chose Nashville to go test is because the track stays so consistent on the tires. With it being concrete, it's not real heat sensitive, so we could make changes and know what the changes would do to the car. That was kind of our thinking of going to Nashville. Plus, too, your tests are so limited, we chose to do that because we race twice at Nashville. Instead of going to a place that we race at only one time, we definitely wanted to go to a track that we race at twice. I think that those notes will come into play here because we do get some trends of the cars and it got me feeling real comfortable in the car. The weekend off helped me mend a little bit from the first of the year, and I'm looking froward to it."