PPI Becomes Haven For Craven

Ricky Craven will have a new lease on life in 2001 in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.

The 34-year-old Maine native, who has spent the past two seasons with fairly underfunded teams, will be the driver of the PPI Motorsports No. 32 Tide Ford beginning this season.

A team official confirmed Craven’s hiring to RacingOne on Tuesday, and an official announcement was made Wednesday. The team also announced that veteran Mike Beam would be the crew chief on the car.

The 1995 Winston Cup Rookie of the Year has 145 career starts, including 17 in 2000 with the No. 50 Midwest Transit Ford team, owned by Hal Hicks. Craven finished 44th in the Winston Cup points standings this past season and did not have a top-10 finish.

Craven began the 1999 season with a new team and new hope after being released from Hendrick Motorsports in 1998. He made just 12 starts with the Scott Barbour-owned No. 58 team before it closed it doors, and then went on to drive in 12 races for Hicks’ team the remainder of that season, with limited success.

The announcement means bad news for Scott Pruett, whom Craven replaces. The open-wheel veteran, who opted to run for Winston Cup rookie-of-the-year honors with owner Cal Wells’ fledgling team in 2000, made only 28 of 34 starts last season and finished 37th in the points standings.

Pruett’s best finish was a 10th-place run in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in early August. His plans for next season have yet to be announced.

PPI Motorsports will expand to two Winston Cup teams this season. Last fall, Wells announced he had hired NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series veteran Andy Houston to drive his McDonald’s Ford and compete for the Winston Cup Rookie of the Year Award in 2001.

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