DOVER, Del. – Maine driver Ricky Craven hopes his fourth-place finish in Sunday’s MBNA Platinum 400 – his best this season and best at Dover Downs International Speedway ever – means big things for his No. 32 Tide Ford Taurus racing team.
“It’s such a big boost, particularly under the circumstances,” Craven said in quotes from Ford Racing on his online web site (www.RickyCraven.com). “The last few weeks have been tough on us.”
Craven put the brakes on a few miles of personal frustration with the finish as his previous best in Dover was 13th in 1997. He moved up 26 spots from his start in the 30th position over the 400-lap race.
“We’ve run in the top 15 and got knocked out, or broke a shock mount, or had really unusual things, but we’ve rebounded,” Craven said. “That’s the sign of a tough team. We’ve got a tough team to rebound from what we’ve had the last few weeks.”
Craven led the race on lap 150, laps 267-270 and laps 351-353.
The 35-year-old Newburgh native entered the race ranked 30th in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings after numerous mishaps, from car trouble to inopportune pit stops and crashes that have resulted in only one top five finish in nine starts this season.
“If we’d stop shooting ourselves in the foot – I’ve got a couple of toes left – hopefully we can bring something home,” said Cal Wells III, owner and president of Precision Preparation Incorporated (PPI) Motorsports.
“We’re doing a good job. The crew’s doing a good job. We just make mistakes occasionally and that’s what hurts us, and that’s what hurt us in too many races this year,” Wells added. “That’s why we’re wherever we are in points. I’d be thrilled with a top-20 this year in points.”
This is the first time since 1997 Craven has logged two top-five finishes in a season.
“He’s a good race car driver. He just needed an opportunity to get a full-time deal again,” said Wells of Craven. “So often people perceive an accident somebody’s in, they perceive them as being damaged goods. … We needed somebody with maturity to work with young Andy Houston, who we have great, great respect for. Ricky was that guy … Was the right guy, and he proved it again today.”
Craven admitted his hunger for a win may have worked against him late in Sunday’s race.
“We were running second and [crew chief] Mike [Beam] is saying ‘You’re six back, you’re five back, you’re four back,’ and for a brief moment I thought ‘What am I going to say in Victory Lane?’ I shouldn’t have done that,” said Craven.
Beam said Craven’s Taurus ran well all day despite running over something after the initial crash of the race day.
“The car really stayed hooked up all day. We were just off a little bit, but it was a good effort for us,” Beam said. “I need to work on down-force a little bit on this car, it seems like. On a long run it was pretty good, but I couldn’t really get it going whenever, it just started. It was kind of like Rockingham. You know, we just keep going and keep digging.”