Wells/Craven Are Back On Track

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On Monday, Cal Wells’ two-year-old NASCAR Winston Cup team had its best finish ever with Ricky Craven behind the wheel of the No. 32 Tide Ford.

On Tuesday, Wells and Craven basked in their success, but stressed that they’re not content with just one Top-10 finish.

That says a lot, considering Wells’ PPI Motorsports team managed just one Top 10 in all of last season and finished the year 37th in the points standings.

"What we did was we gave ourselves some hope, so that we know we've got a chance,” said Craven, who charged from the 41st starting position to finish eighth in the rain-delayed Dura-Lube 400 at North Carolina Speedway on Monday. “The four guys that finished in front of us have won - they're contenders - and that's what we need to do.

“We need to establish ourselves as contenders and we need to do that right there (finish in the Top 5 consistently) week after week, and we're gonna get a win.”

Wells is hoping for more, too.

"We were the first Ford on the day, so I guess you could say we were first in class,” Wells said. “We've got some areas we need to improve and we took a good measure of that. We couldn't run with the Top 3. We just couldn't. No matter how good - fresh, old, whatever - we were totally covered by them.”

The drivers doing the covering included winner Steve Park, second-place finisher Bobby Labonte and Jeff Gordon in third.

That’s impressive company, and running with the big guns left the team wanting more. It also gave the team a much-needed dose of confidence after last season’s debacle.

“Hopefully, we'll be able to run in the Top 10 every weekend,” Wells said. “That's obviously what we're gonna fight for, we just have to keep working and working hard to get there.

“I think it went really well. I think we might have been able to catch (fourth-place finisher) Tony Stewart, but we just ran out of time.”

Craven attributes his success at The Rock to a rock-solid team, even if they’ve only been together for two races.

“I told them early on I said, 'Guys, let's just go work 'em to death.' We just worked, worked, worked. That's what this team is made of, that's what they represent,” Craven explained. “This was good because it gives us a little momentum and it's so important to establish that early on like Michael Waltrip did last week.

“It's just a big boost for the team because it's only our second race together. You want to establish some confidence, but you can't pretend.”

Coupled with a 23rd-place finish at Daytona, Craven sits eighth in the Winston Cup points standings, proving that Wells made the right move when he hired Craven to replace Scott Pruett.

Craven’s glad Wells made the move, especially considering he’d been labeled damaged goods after a head injury kept him out of a full-time ride in recent years.

"I'm thankful that in December my path crossed with Cal Wells and Mike Beam and Roy McCauley,” Craven said. “They got me back on track.”

Wells could say the same about Craven.

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