Rick Crawford spent 2008 as one of Frontstretch’s Driver Diary contributors, and through this relationships fans got to keep up with Crawford not only on the track, but off the track as well. While he no longer contributes a regular diary, Crawford knows fans enjoyed hearing about some of the things he likes to do in his spare time and thought everyone might like an update on some of his ongoing activities, as well as the inside scoop on the 2009 season at Circle Bar Racing.
Toni Montgomery recently visited with Crawford at his race shop just behind turn 2 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Crawford’s shop has a lot of history. It was once home to NASCAR champion Alan Kulwicki and Crawford works out of the same office Kulwicki once used.
Toni Montgomery, Frontstretch: Why don’t you start off by telling us about your 2009 season in general and catch us up on the racing side of things.
Rick Crawford: It’s taken us a little bit to get caught back up to speed for some reason and hit what I would call our potential. All year long we haven’t run like we should, or at least to my expectations. That’s what we want to work on for the rest of this year.
Montgomery: Is there anything in particular that’s been the problem? Anything you can attribute that to directly?
Crawford: It’s a lot of little things and the only way to fix it in the racing industry is to keep working at it and address all of them individually. It takes the whole package and everything working together to succeed and that’s what we’re going to focus on, fixing all the individual elements to make the whole better and reach our potential.
Montgomery: You have a new teammate in James Buescher this year. How has that worked out as far as the two trucks working together?
Crawford: He’s a very talented young man. When he came to us he was 18 years old and we saw a lot of talent and a lot of promise in James. They’ve also had their, I’m not going to say issues, but they’ve had their setbacks as well but as we all get some of those things worked out I think we’ll see some good things from him as well. He’s got a lot of talent and we’ve seen some promising things from James as far as things like his control and his ability.
Montgomery: Your past teammates have all been veteran drivers so this is the first time you’ve had a rookie teammate. Tell us about how that’s gone.
Crawford: We decided this year to change directions on that. We can see in some ways where that has been good but we’ve also seen in some ways how that has been a challenge to bring a rookie driver along.
Montgomery: Have you found yourself in a bit of a mentor role to James this year?
Crawford: At times, but I wear a lot of hats around here so it’s just another part of what I do. I’m always here and I’m more than happy to offer my advice and my experience if he needs it.
Montgomery: Switching gears just a little bit, the last time we featured a diary from you, you were in the process of getting your private pilot’s license. How is that going?
Crawford: Yeah, that took a while. I can’t go every day for a lesson so I had to go when I had the free time for it. Then during the off season, the weather has to be right to fly during the winter and we had a lot of cold days so it took me a little while. But I’ve accomplished a goal in life to become a private pilot. I’m really comfortable flying and I believe I did it the right way. I went to Fly Carolina here at Concord Airport and my instructor was David Calhoun and we’ve become good friends.
Montgomery: Now that you have your pilot’s license, you’ve got a new airplane?
Crawford: It’s a small airplane but it’s a nice airplane, really. It’s almost like the racing business where money buys speed and it’s how much money have you got versus how fast do you want to go. I just wanted a plane to enjoy aviation and also I thought it might help cut some travel time because that’s the one thing you can’t buy in life is time, but if this airplane can help me to have more time and be able to use it more wisely, that will be a big help to me.
Montgomery: So do you plan to use your plane to fly yourself to the race weekends?
Crawford: Yeah, I’ll do that and some of the other trips and appearances we need to make. You wouldn’t necessarily think that you lose that much time traveling around but you’d be surprised. Our schedules are so busy and I’m always looking for ways to add some more time for myself.
Montgomery: While we were walking around your shop, we saw a pet project of yours in the back. Tell us a little bit about it.
Crawford: That’s my uncle’s car. My uncle raced super modifieds. He was the second generation of my family that’s raced. He drove that car one time, I want to say it was probably in the early ’80s. But anyway, that’s just part of history back there. It’s a piece of history that was built in the mid-’60s in Pensacola, Florida. Donnie Allison was a previous driver of it. We have some pictures back there.
Donnie had actually won races in it. I think everybody that drove it won races in it. It was one of those kind of cars that I think people hated to drive it, but they loved to drive it because it would win. My uncle became the owner of it two or three years ago. He was taking an engine to get freshened up for Adam in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, turned a corner and saw this car sitting on a slab. The building had actually gotten torn down by a tornado. He pulled up in the guy’s driveway and said, “Do you mind if I look at it?” He walked back there and eventually he bought it. So it came home to my uncle’s shop back in Alabama. People started realizing what he had and what he’d gotten hold of and they wanted him to fix it up into restoration condition to go to the Sprint Car Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Iowa. My uncle being in his 70’s, all he did was really accumulate all the parts that went with the car and sent it to me so that’s been my after work project.
Montgomery: So you’re going to take it along when you go to the race in Iowa?
Crawford: I’m going to try to have it ready for then. If it works out, we will take it along but if not, it’s going there sometime this year.
Montgomery: OK, now let’s have some fun with the last few questions. What’s one thing you always buy when you go to the grocery store?
Crawford: What do I buy at the grocery store? I’d say essentials. When I go to the grocery store, I don’t really buy anything to eat because I can’t cook. So if I go to the grocery store I just buy essentials. Toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, thinks like that. The grocery store often has a bigger selection than the drug store does. But when I go to the grocery store, I don’t usually shop for groceries.
Montgomery: What’s the craziest request you’ve ever gotten from a fan?
Crawford: I don’t think it’s publishable. Can we just say that? There are some things I won’t do! I will say this, in my racing career which spans over three decades, I’ve had a lot of good memories. And I think any time a group of fans has been introduced to me, they’ve come away with some good memories as well.