You can’t fault Rick Crawford for being anxious to start tonight’s NextEra Energy Resources 250. After all, Crawford hasn’t won a Camping World Truck Series race in over two years, has only been behind the wheel for two practice sessions since the 2008 season finale at Homestead and is at the track where he has accumulated the most points of any driver over the past six seasons.
While most fans associate Crawford with Daytona for his three-wide win in 2003, he has consistently been one of the series’ strongest drivers at the 2.5-mile track, scoring six top 10s in nine starts.
Now, with 25 of 39 drivers switching teams in 2009 and NASCAR banning testing at all sanctioned tracks, Crawford comes to Daytona with one main advantage – his longtime Circle Bar Racing team – with hopes of crossing one goal off of his list early in 2009 by ending his winless drought.
“I haven’t won in a couple of years so that’s definitely a priority on the list, to win and hopefully run for a championship,” he said. “We hope it (no testing) helps a lot, but it won’t take long for these veteran drivers to go with these teams and get on track.”
One of the newcomers to the series is Crawford’s Circle Bar Racing teammate and Daytona ARCA winner, 18-year-old James Buescher, who is expected to come in and help get Circle Bar Racing back in victory lane. The team went to two cars in 2007, but has yet to find victory lane since. But while most truck series teams opted to not test at tracks like Rockingham or New Smyrna in the off-season, having two trucks may help both Buescher and Crawford.
“Rather than one crew chief and a dozen guys, now we have two crew chiefs and 30 guys,” Crawford said. “When a truck team goes to the racetrack to test, the shop is empty. When the team comes back from testing, then we all go back to work. Since there’s no testing we’ve had a couple of weeks of hard work that we probably wouldn’t have been able to do if we’d been here testing.”
Despite not winning in over two years, Crawford still has managed to find consistency with 31 top 10s over the past two seasons. As a 12-year truck vet, he also sees it as his responsibility to mentor the young teammate he calls, “a cross between Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon.”
“He’s excelled as a champion in every form of racing he’s been in and he’s only 18 years old,” he said. “I’m just trying to teach him some respect for the sport and probably some things I’ve learned the hard way and hopefully make them a little easier for him.”