NASCAR Media Conference
July 15, 2008
TRACEY JUDD: Rick Crawford has joined us. Rick is the driver of the No. 14 Circle Bar Truck Corral Power Stroke Diesel Ford for Tom Mitchell. Currently fifth in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series standings and only 74 points behind leader Ron Hornaday, Jr. Best finish this year, third at Martinsville and second at Kentucky in 2006, where, of course, the trucks will be racing this weekend.
Rick, welcome and thanks for joining us today.
RICK CRAWFORD: Thanks for having me. Appreciate it
TRACEY JUDD: The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series does come off a two-week break, and I'm sure you are certainly ready to get back to racing. Can you talk about how you stay prepared during the layoffs that are part of the truck series schedule, especially in light of such a tight championship race at the midway point of your season thus far?
RICK CRAWFORD: Well, yeah, you know, we appreciated the two-week break. I think all the teams needed it. We battled hard for the first half of the season. The Ford Power Stroke Diesel by International Ford F-Series pickup has been performing well. I think it's coming to potential now. And we're looking forward to going to Kentucky this weekend with the Built Ford Tough 225. But, you know, in the couple weeks that we've had off I've been visiting some short tracks and also done some testing at Darlington with the pickups.
TRACEY JUDD: Thanks, Rick.
Why don't we go to questions now from the media for Rick Crawford.
Q. Good afternoon, Rick. You mentioned that you spent some of your break visiting some short tracks. Did you buy any of them?
RICK CRAWFORD: (Laughter.) I'm looking to buy one, Rick. It's always a pleasure to talk to you. I am interested in buying the Montgomery Speedway down in Alabama, as you know, and make it into a racing complex, and give everybody in the southeast a nice short track to race at and several venues there at that particular property.
But, no, actually I went to one of the finest run short tracks in the nation this past weekend at the Motor Mile in Polaski county Virginia. I think you are aware of that particular speedway. Those fine folks thereat the Motor Mile treated me with utmost respect. I watched a fine show.
And, like we've all talked about short track racing, I was in my truck leaving at a quarter to 11:00 so, and I watched 400 laps of racing. That's the kind of facility and the kind of show I'd like to put on.
Q. Do you have any timetable when you might make a move on Montgomery?
RICK CRAWFORD: Actually, Rick, I'm in a city conference on Thursday evening, this Thursday evening on July 17th, and I feel like there might be some opposition there. I hope my reputation and my vision for having a race track back alive in Montgomery, Alabama comes true, but, you know, if there is an opposition there I want to be a friendly neighbor and a good neighbor. But like I say, if there's an opposition there then they can leave the race track closed.
Q. Wanted to ask you about Kyle Busch. He announced he is going to be racing in your series this weekend. What are your thoughts about a guy like that coming into your series and once in awhile racing with you guys?
RICK CRAWFORD: I just like to catch him. It's been fun racing against Kyle. I don't think he's hit me yet, so it's been fun racing against Kyle. And I watch him, you know, on the other Saturday and Sunday shows and I think that a lot of the Nationwide drivers and Cup drivers probably like for him to come back and run the trucks full time.
You know, I'm looking forward to it. I always like running against Kyle. I like running against all the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competitors because I think we got some of the best racing in NASCAR.
Q. Are you looking forward to -- usually Kentucky has a pretty big crowd for all kinds of NASCAR racing. Are you excited about that, for the fans?
RICK CRAWFORD: Oh yeah, especially being a Ford race, the Built Ford Tough 225. I always look forward to going to Kentucky. My luck's not really good there even though we had a second place finish one time, I think a fourth place finish another time. I look forward to going there.
We tested our truck this past week at Darlington, tested very well, and our team's ready to go.
Q. Good luck this weekend. Thanks so much.
RICK CRAWFORD: Thank you for your time.
Q. Hey, Rick, thanks for coming on today. I just wanted to ask you about your longevity in the series. I believe you and Jack Sprague are tied for most career starts. I was just wondering what you attribute that to?
RICK CRAWFORD: Well, you know, I was a car racer. You know, I raced locally at our local Friday night, Saturday night short tracks down south then I started venturing out and running the whole pro series of NASCAR. Then in 19 -- the end of 1996 season my boss Tom Mitchell of Circle Bar Motel and RV park in Texas came to me and said,I'm in the trucking business; I service the truck service guys throughout the country, and, he says, why don't we try this truck racing. It's been around for a couple years. And maybe you'd like to do that. I was ready to go. And so that's the business he's in, the trucking industry. Ford power truck diesel our sponsor and the super duty Ford pickups. We've been with Ford for all of our starts. I've been with Tom Mitchell in all of the starts in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and hopefully I'll end my career at circle bar racing driving for Tom Mitchell.
Q. Sort of on that same note. You have been incredibly consistent over the years with picking up some wins and some top-ten points finishes and so forth. What do you attribute your level of consistency to after all these years?
RICK CRAWFORD: Well I like to win. I like to be competitive. I have a pretty hard drive for competing and racing. I'm not one of those that rides around, you know, and say and write a book about where I raced at. I mean, I want to race hard. I want to be a hard racer. I want to give my sponsors what they're paying for. I want to give my owner what he's proud of his team and what he deserves and I want to give the fans what they pay to see. So if it takes putting on a show that's what I want to do and that's what I've always done and hopefully everybody's enjoyed that.
Q. It seems like this year you have been just a tick off. You have been really strong. But maybe not quite where you want to be. If there's one thing that you could put your finger on that's maybe missing what would that be, Rick?
RICK CRAWFORD: Well I can tell you have been keeping an eye on me. And I've often said that our team hadn't reached potential yet. We're getting real close. Kevin Starling the Circle Bar race team, Roush H engines, our Ford trucks from the factory have stepped up their program. But we're coming around. We're trying something new this year to me, to Kevin, and I believe we're hitting on it. I believe we might reach our potential this weekend. But I feel really good about driving it now. I'm having fun driving my truck. And I'm having fun competing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. And I think you see that by our points performance.
Q. Just as a last question, I appreciate your time. What would it mean to you to win a championship there?
RICK CRAWFORD: That would probably put the trophy at the head table and it would be a welcome sight. We're trying to do that for circle bar racing, Ford Power Stroke Diesel, the Ford F 150 brand and for Rick Crawford. I have to add my name this there last. I'd love to be called a NASCAR champion when it's all over.
Q. Just kind of wanted your opinion on the truck series. I mean, you're fifth in points and 74 behind. That's not that much. What makes the truck series so strong, so competitive?
RICK CRAWFORD: Well just being candid about it I don't think anybody wanted to lead the points. I've had a chance at leading, Hornaday's had a shot at leading, Johnny Benson's had a shot at leading, Todd Bodine's had a shot at leading. Every time somebody gets in the lead for the points something always happens .I enjoyed leading for the week I was actually leading. I'd go out and talk about it with my friends and the team and they was all hyped up and we was high-fiving through the shop. It didn't last very long. Now we're not necessarily struggling but we're having to catch back up. But it's due to a lot of strong teams. Some have had trouble but NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is very strong in competition. But it's all coming together.
I mean, week in and week out we have tough races. We're all competitive. So it's going to be a tight points battle all the way to the end.
Q. You spoke at the beginning how breaks were good in the truck series. You guys welcome the two-week break. But on the other side of that, how hard is it for a driver and team mentally to keep focused with breaks throughout the season? I know you guys have more breaks than the Cup series and the Nationwide Series. If you are on a roll, how hard is it to stop that roll, and if you are not, how hard is it to get it back after a break?
RICK CRAWFORD: I think being on a roll is not hard to the keep momentum going. I think the hardest thing in the world is to deal with the agony of defeat. When you have a defeat or you have agony in your last race, the quickest way to get over it is to get quickly to another race. So our last race was Memphis. We had a fourth place finish. So that was a pretty good day for us. I felt like we had a second or third place truck but we'll take fourth. It was a good points day for us. And we had a good test, like I said, a couple weeks later at Darlington. Now we're ready to go at Kentucky.
So it's harder to get over agony and defeat than it is to keep momentum going.
Q. Do you feel like you have changed much over the years as a driver?
RICK CRAWFORD: No. I really don't. I might have gotten smarter. I might have gotten smarter. I'd like to say that I'm aggressively smooth being a veteran of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. But other than that, I mean, I don't think I've changed. I try to give the fans their money's worth. And I've always said that. I mean, if Elvis Presley got on stage and didn't put on a show or didn't move, hell, everybody's be sitting home listening to records.
Q. And the other thing I was interested in getting your opinion on was, you know, so many first-time winners this year. New guys coming along having lots of success. Have you ever seen a year like this year in the series where it's been so competitive with so many first-time winners and so forth?
RICK CRAWFORD: No. But, you know, I mean, I was a first-time winner at one point and time in the 1998 season. That particular year I think a few drivers had their first-time wins that year. I've very proud. I'm very proud to be a series that a guy can celebrate his first win in NASCAR or the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and, you know, I mean, they deserve it.
I mean, at one point and time I was a rookie in this series. And I felt welcomed to come in and enjoy the Craftsman Truck Series. I feel the same way about the rookies coming in.
Because I always thought a rookie in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series has proved himself somewhere else in the United States in some other form of racing and I welcome him to come in. It always adds on to the competition and to the value of the race.
Q. What do you feel like the addition of a second team has meant to Circle?
RICK CRAWFORD: I think I've used a lot more Just for Men, I guess. But, no, we did that -- we started the second team to enhance the performance of the 14 truck. We believe that between myself, Kevin Starling, Lisa Mitchell, Tom Mitchell, that some more additional information was needed and to run for a championship.
It's only a year and a half old and we have Brendan Gaughan as a teammate in the MaxxForce Diesel and it has allowed more information to be shared by Bryan Berry and Kevin Starling the crew chiefs for the teams. And I think you see that coming to show in your points race for the championship.
Q. Rick, we're looking forward to seeing you come back to Talladega in October and wanted to get your thoughts on what it feels like to be one of the lone Alabama racers in NASCAR. We always think about the Alabama gang and Bobby and Donnie Allison and Red Farmer and really you are the only full-time driver in the NASCAR series. What does that feel like?
RICK CRAWFORD: I'm pretty proud about that. And, you know, I was -- as part of NASCAR we use to use Talladega Speedway four, five years ago for testing. And when the trucks started going to the super speedways and I would get asked that question, When are you coming to Talladega? That question was -- when you showed up at Talladega, When are the trucks going to race here?
So when the trucks finally came to run at Talladega, I mean, I'm probably the proudest guy on the planet. On the other hand, but what a race. What a venue you have there to put on a race for the truck series and I don't think we've let the fans down at all. I mean, the fans can come out and watch the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series at the big and bowl super speedway at Talladega and they'll see one fine show but they'll also see an Alabaman. Very proud.
Q. You sounded a little pessimistic earlier that this deal with the Montgomery speedway might actually occur. Do you think there's going to be a significant opposition there are you still hopeful this deal is going to get done?
RICK CRAWFORD: Well I hope it gets done. I mean, you know, the track just didn't appear yesterday. I mean, we're not moving into a neighborhood yesterday and a half mile, fine facility with some of the greatest lighting that could put a half mile short track race on television and produce some big racing and produce some names that could be attracted by some of the NASCAR teams. That's what I look forward to opening up Montgomery speedway for.
Second of all, I mean, the track is 55 years old. It's rich in history. It was always -- it was built in 1953. The first race was in 1954 and it's always been an asphalt track. So, I mean, I hate to say it but the community knew it was a race track before they ever moved there. And so I just hate the race track had been shut down for a year or so and I would just like to resurrect racing right deep in the middle of Alabama. And I think it's produced some great stars of NASCAR and I think it could produce more in the future.
But, also, I mean, let's talk about this. I mean, I want to be a good neighbor. I'm not the bull here that is firm about I'm going to open up a race track regardless. I'd like to -- if there's an opposition of a race track being in Montgomery, I'd like to be able to give the chance to prove the reputation of Rick Crawford, his promoting ability, his vision of seeing a race track in Montgomery, and, you know, I'd like to give everybody a ticket, a free ticket that's on the opposition to come see what I've done.
Q. Along the lines of the Montgomery track, when did you start thinking about reopening that? And have you had any conversations with Indy about some of the situations he faced in reopening Rockingham?
RICK CRAWFORD: You know, I've known Indy for quite awhile. I mean, I realize his vision in Rockingham. I've been to the drag races at the Rockingham drag way across the street. I thought maybe we could have a truck race sometime at the rock. And, you know, our trucks have been over to the rock and tested several times. I think it would be a really fun race track. Only thing I can say about Indy is I always see him smiling. So I hope they say that about Rick Crawford after he purchases a race track too.
But, no I haven't really talked about some of the things. This is not something that Rick Crawford's thought about in the last two or three months. I've run this across my mind here for the last ten years. And I've talked to several people, you know, that have been very fortunate in short track racing and also that haven't done so well. But I tend to listen to more people that's done it right than people that's done it wrong.
So I think I've learned from the best. We can start with Bob Harmon. I've learned from Lee Fields in the Mobile Speedway. Bob Harmon is all-pro series. He was a NASCAR owner back in the late 60s, early 70s. My grandfather was the first generation of my family that raced cars, a NASCAR member back in the 50s. So this is nothing new that Rick Crawford would like to own and promote a race track.
I have a lot of great ideas from a lot of great people, from Ken Schrader to Humpy Wheeler to Bruton Smith, I've talked to all of them. It's something that and let's always keep in mind, I'm not doing something to lose at it. I'm not doing something also to fail at. So once I set my mind to promotions or looking at another avenue in racing then I always like to succeed
TRACEY JUDD: Rick, we appreciate your time the this afternoon. Good stuff from both you and RICK CRAWFORD and both of luck to you this weekend at Kentucky Speedway.
RICK CRAWFORD: I appreciate that. Thanks for having me.
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