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NASCAR Trucks: Practice kicks off at Daytona for the Truck Series

Posted By Terry Callahan
Motorsports Editor, The Auto Channel
Craftsman Truck Series practice kicked off today in Daytona, and with a full day's worth of practice before Tuesday's first round of qualifying, 11 Ford teams made laps around the 2.5-mile oval. Rick Crawford enters the 2001 season as one of the veterans in the Ford camp, and has expectations of getting back into Victory Lane for the first time since Homestead in 1998.

RICK CRAWFORD --14-- Milwaukee Electric Tools Ford F-150 - HOW WOULD YOU CHARACTERIZE THE TRUCK'S HANDLING ON THE RACE TRACK TODAY? "Comfortable, almost too comfortable. We need to pick up some speed before tomorrow's

qualifying session." HOW ARE THE TRACK CONDITIONS AND TRUCK COMPARED TO THE TEST HERE IN JANUARY? "The heat is a little bit different, but that's not the biggest factor. We tried to massage on the truck over the winter, and NASCAR'S templates fit a little different in some places, so we're not able to trim out as much as we were when we were here in the wintertime. There are some other ways to get some speed; we're just still trying to find them. I think we're third in terms of manufacturers right now, but that's by yourself. When we were down here testing, and we when we were in race mode, we were as quick as anybody. I'm more looking forward to Friday than I am tomorrow, so it's difficult, and you probably see a little aggravation on my face. I'm a racer, and it's my job to get the truck up to speed and mash the gas to the floor. I want to be the fastest one here, and that's what our sponsors are paying for. I feel like I'm not giving them their money's worth if I'm not the fastest one out there."

HOW IS YOUR MOTOR SITUATION THIS YEAR? "We've got Roush motors this year, and they're tough. You can scratch that part off the list. They hammer on them pretty hard. We just have some things to work on, and we're hammering on them as hard as we can."

YOU HAVE A SENIOR ROLE THIS YEAR WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE FORD ROSTER. DO YOU FEEL ANY ADDED PRESSURE OR EXPECTATIONS? "No, not any pressure like that. I'm proud to be a Ford driver, and if you want to call me their poster child for their calendars, I'm fine with that role. I think they did me a favor by coming on this year, and I think I owe them, and hopefully this will be a good year."

HAVE YOU TALKED TO ANY OF THE ROOKIES AND GIVEN THEM ANY ADVICE? "I have talked to all of them, and sure, there are some that are young and there are some that are rookies. I made the move from the short-track ranks, and I ran short tracks for a long time, and then I moved onto the speedways and into the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. I was a rookie here once, and when I came into the Craftsman Truck Series, we didn't have but one truck. We built this team from the ground up. The second year we one a race. It all depends on their learning curves. These rookies were chosen to run the Craftsman Truck Series because they proved themselves somewhere. In some series, in some point in time, and I don't care if it was on the Friday night level, but they caught somebody's eye that they could mash the gas. Everybody's going to have growing pains, and we're still going through it, but I think you'll see a competitive crop of rookies. You see a lot of veterans leaving to go to Busch or Winston Cup, but competitive trucks and competitive people have replaced them, and in turn, you'll see that the Craftsman Truck Series is a competitive series as well."

WHAT ARE YOUR TEAM GOALS THIS YEAR? "We have to go win one real soon. We're going to pick up a win pretty quick, and we're going to run for the championship. If we finish fifth in the championship, that's fine, but we should finish first. Fifth would be our highest points finish, but we have higher goals. You've got to win races and run up front to win a championship. We sort of have an owner like A.J. Foyt over here. If he doesn't see results, we're going to make a change. We've got all the tools to do it with; it's about execution now. Today has hurt me a little bit in terms of attitude, but my attention level and focus is right on the money. I'm attending to that truck to make sure it's running at its maximum performance."

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO THIS YEAR IN ORDER TO GET THAT WIN? "Consistency is there. We worked on that last year. We just need to stick our neck out a little further and get more technology handed down to us from the factory. Roush is not running for a championship right this minute, so maybe we can be second or first in line for a motor, rather than third. We can run with those boys. Nathan (Haseleu) and Chuck (Hossfeld) are good guys, and it will take them a little while to get going, and I'd like for JR's Garage to pump me out an engine we can win with pretty early in the season."

WHAT WOULD IT MEAN FOR YOU TO WIN AT DAYTONA? "I'm ready to win at Daytona. It would be a dream come true for me. As a youngster growing up, I had big aspirations of being a six-time Winston Cup champion, sitting in high school and dreaming of being a race car driver. You have different sacrifices you have to make to be a race car driver, there are learning curves, your last name has to be the right name and you have to pay your dues. I did all that. I'm proud to be where I'm at in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. To win, especially at Daytona, would be big, but winning the championship would be more important to me. I want to win some more races before I retire; I want to earn my share. I still have the fire in my eyes, and I won't even rule out a win on Friday until the checker flags waves."

Text Provided By NASCAR Truck Series

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