Ray Evernham has made it very clear that his personal relationship with Craftsman Truck Series driver Erin Crocker is exactly that… personal and completely off limits. That’s fine if he wants to believe that, and frankly I neither want to nor need to know the details. As a matter of fact those details are completely irrelevant. As much as he believes by keeping that information to himself, his relationship is not public domain, he is wrong. You see, what he chooses to reveal or keep private has nothing at all to do with the perception that is in the public eye. He has no control at all over what everyone will think.
I know what I think and I’m willing to bet I am not alone. I think that even if it did not get her the ride in the first place, it sure appears to me that Crocker is keeping her seat in Evernham’s truck because she is sleeping with the boss. Again, I’m not saying that is or isn’t the truth, but that is the perception that I have of the situation. I can throw some facts in there to strengthen the argument too.
Let’s take a look at Crocker’s numbers in the Craftsman Truck Series this season. Through 22 races run so far in 2006, Crocker has an average starting spot of 24.8. It turns out she qualifies better than she races because she has an average finish of 25.8. I think it is worth reminding you that there are only 36 trucks in each race. Her best result of the season was 16th place in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 250 at Kansas Speedway in July. An 18th-place at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in May and a 20th at Talladega in October are her only other top-20 finishes. That means she was pretty much a backmarker in the other 19 races she has run this season.
As for points, Crocker sits 23rd, the farthest back of any driver that has started in all 22 races. The next closest driver with a full 22 starts is Kerry Earnhardt in 20th. Crocker doesn’t even have the equipment excuse to play because her team likely has access to better funding than most of the other teams in the Series. Unlike Earnhardt, who runs for an independent Truck Series team, Crocker runs for a team that is part of a top-flight Nextel Cup Series team. If they can figure out how to get at least one car into the Chase every year, they should be able to figure out how to finish decently in a Craftsman Truck Series race, don’t you think?
To put it bluntly, those are not encouraging numbers for a driver in a development program with a Nextel Cup Series team. Erik Darnell is 14th in points with a pole, three top-five and nine top-10 finishes. David Ragan is only two spots behind Crocker in points in 25th but has run five fewer races. In his 17 starts, he has posted a pole, one top-five and seven top-10 finishes.
I don’t buy the diversity initiative as a reason to keep a driver who is performing so poorly in a ride either. Crocker’s numbers are actually slightly behind those posted by Deborah Renshaw, and I haven’t seen Renshaw around this season. I might be able to understand it if I was seeing some improvement happening but I don’t see any signs of that either. Note that her best finishes of the season were sporadic and spread out in no particular order. Between those finishes is a sea of results in the mid-20s or worse.
So given all that, why would a team keep a development driver that hasn’t shown much in the way of results, hasn’t shown any real improvement over the season, and tears up a lot of equipment on top of all that? Whether it is right or not, I can think of only one reason in this case. So whether Ray Evernham likes it or not, if I have arrived at that conclusion, I am sure many others have as well. I’ve arrived at one other conclusion too. Whether it’s the truth or not, I perceive that Erin Crocker has managed to set women in NASCAR back at least a decade and for that I know she has lost my respect.
It saddens me to think that because of this situation, all women that follow may be looked at in a different light. There may always be those skeptics that wonder exactly what talent earned her a ride.