Ricky Craven will try to avoid a sophomore jinx on the NASCAR Grand National tour this season by concentrating on his forte – short-track racing.
Craven, the 1992 NASCAR GN Rookie of the Year, was left unfulfilled success-wise following his first year racing down south. But, he learned a lot and plans to make his second season one to remember by using more than 10 years of racing knowledge he attained while competing in the North.
“My forte is short-track racing,” Craven said in a telephone interview from Daytona Beach, Fla., where he is preparing for Saturday’s Goody’s 300 race, the season-opening race for GN drivers.
“I spent 10 years of my life driving on short tracks and I feel I have a degree in short track racing,” Craven added. “That’s what I brought with me from the North. I’m going to be a success on the short tracks and I’m sure that’s where I’ll get my first win. But we need to be consistent and have some success on the superspeeedways, as well.”
Craven has made some changes from last season.
A majority of his pit crew has been replaced and no longer will he be driving the purple car as he did last season. This season, he returns with a new crew and a metallic blue car with red, green, and yellow stripes. The DuPont-sponsored car will still be No. 99.
The different crew is one of the big changes that Craven hopes will carry to more success in 1993.
“(The old crew) wanted to be successful, but their hunger and desire wasn’t like mine,” Craven said. “I was looking for things they couldn’t give me. I may not have, at times, expressed the patience that was required for a rookie, but I want to take the accelerated route to success. The team chemistry wasn’t there between us.”
J&J Racing, Craven’s car owners, have allowed the 26-year-old Newburgh native to hire his own crew and run the team his way. Craven picked David Levendall has his crew chief.
“I’m still afraid we’re going to go through some growing pains, but I’m pretty confident,” Craven said. “I’m not going to accept anything less than success. Those have been my parameters for racing for as long as I’ve been in it.”
Two things Craven will look to change this year are time trials and staying in races.
Craven’s history shows he has always been one of the fastest drivers on every tour he has raced. He was also around for most of the checkered flags.
Last season, he was up and down in both catagories.
This year should be better for one simple reason – Craven has already seen most of the tracks he’ll be racing on.
“I absorbed a lot in ’92,” he said. “It’s very difficult to go to these places for the first time. Now, I’ve got something for reference. That’s going to be very important.””
Two years ago, Craven won 10 of 21 races en route to dominating the action in the NASCAR Grand National North circuit.
Though he knows repeating such a feat is next to impossible on the southern tour, Craven does not want to go through a year like ’92.
“I want to show people what Ricky Craven is capable of doing,” he said. “I’m no longer considered to be at the head of the class. I’m in the middle, working my way up. I’m just really excited about racing again. My goals are to be a championship contender.
For Craven, the road to that goal starts where his career began – on the short tracks.