Craven Needs A Full-Time Gig

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Winston Cup Series driver Ricky Craven has been fighting against big odds since the season-opening Daytona 500. More often that not, Craven has been playing the role of underdog. Not by design, but rather out of necessity.

There have been 31 Winston Cup races this season, and Craven has been a participant in only 14, coming off a best finish of the year of 15th at Rockingham this past Sunday.

"It's frustrating not driving every week because the weekends off are painful knowing the circuit is moving on without you," Craven said. "For me to get to the next level, I need to race every week, just for the repetition. Practice, practice, practice. I can name off six or eight races we've run in the Top 10 and had a legitimate chance at finishing in the Top 10. It slipped out of our hands, but in fairness to the team, it's very difficult to be a part-time Winston Cup team in this day and age.

Craven has had the opportunity in Winston Cup, a teammate to Jeff Gordon and Terry Labonte at Hendrick Motorsports in 1998. But after the fourth race of that season, the Maine driver was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome, and later was given his walking papers from that camp.

So Craven is ready, looking to get back into things on a full-time basis for the 2001 season, if for nothing else than to prove his doubters wrong.

"I’m absolutely ready to be full time," Craven said. "The past two years, we'll call it a rebuilding mode. I'm fine with that, but I'm ready now. It's time to be full time, and I feel like I have something to prove.

"I’m as confident as I've ever been, and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to run the full schedule next year. I really enjoy the challenge of the points, points racing and having something to fight for through the course of a season."

So does Craven have something new planned for 2001 to make his wishes come true?

"We need more support financially with sponsorships with the No. 50 team to start preparing for next year in a way that's not an abbreviated schedule," Craven said of the Hal Hicks-owned operation. "We're not going to be a part-time team. You can't race that way. You need to race with authority, every one of the team members needs to know every week that we're going to be at that next race. Here's the bottom line. I don't have a contract for next year. Two teams interest me, and hopefully I'm going to sign with one of them by the end of the week."

With that the case, Craven says there is absolutely no guarantee that he will come back to the Hicks team next year, he would like to, but getting a full-time ride is at the top of his list of things to do.

"I feel like as far as next year, I need to solidify something this week, and it's simple for me," Craven said. "We're either going to expand on what we're doing here with the 50 car, or Larry McClure is going to hire me. It's one of those two things. I really appreciate Hal Hicks, he's really stuck it out, and this team is through the toughest times, but I believe that the Kodak opportunity is a phenomenal opportunity, and if that opportunity presents itself this week, that'd be an exciting offer.

"There have been discussions, and only two things that interest me. That's to continue to build what we've got with the 50 team, or the Kodak ride. I hope there's no consequence for that, but that's how I feel. I absolutely feel like I could win in either car."

Craven agrees that the trials and tribulations of the past two seasons have been a tough thing to deal with, both physically and mentally.

"There was a time when I lacked confidence," Craven said. "When I got beat up and I was sitting on the outside looking in. When things are taken out of your hands, that's going down the wrong road. I don't even like to talk about that. I appreciate what Hal Hicks has committed to here, but I'm ready to race full time and I'm qualified to be a top-10 Winston Cup racer. I want the opportunity. If Hal can commit to the full schedule next year, I'm ready to go. If Larry's in a position to offer me the ride, I'm ready to go. I need to make the decision this week."

Craven says he’s sure he’s capable of getting the job done as a Winston Cup racer.

"It's not motivated by the money or just being a part of the lore of Winston Cup," he said. "I've won in everything I've done except Winston Cup, and I've been so damn close that I have that burning desire. I won't be satisfied until I've won in Winston Cup."

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