NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Driver Rick Crawford considers Talladega Superspeedway to be his hometown track, but as one of a handful of veteran drivers who have made a career of racing strictly in the series, has yet to compete here. Now that the opportunity is imminent with the track's inaugural Talladega 250 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race slated for Oct. 7, Crawford said a debut during the UAW-Ford 500 event weekend is perfect timing for him and his No. 14 Circle Bar Truck Corral Ford team.
"Now it even goes along with the new Ford saying. Talladega's always been 'Big & Bold,' and now Ford's making some 'bold moves,'" Crawford said. "I am glad to be a part of the first truck race in my home state of Alabama. I am looking forward to it being exciting because we've run good at Daytona since '03 (a win), and so I am looking forward to leading some laps and maybe going for a home state win at Talladega."
Crawford said he is especially pleased to see the series finally coming to the legendary 2.66-mile track because he believes it is something Talladega Superspeedway's fans will overwhelmingly support.
"I bet it will be packed. Talladega has been hungry for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series for a long time. Even testing at Talladega, all we've heard is 'When are you coming back to race? Will you talk to NASCAR?' I am glad the management at Talladega and NASCAR both realized that the trucks are ready to race here and they pulled it off," Crawford said, adding that the varied levels of experience in the series will make the inaugural Talladega 250 even more spectacular. "We've got veteran drivers that used to race in Cup here that came back to the Craftsman Truck Series to have some fun. We've got probably the biggest rookie fleet that we've had, all who have earned their way to the Craftsman Truck Series and proven themselves to run at Talladega. It's a wide variety, and that is only going to lead to excitement."
Those drivers who have gleaned Talladega Superspeedway experience racing in other series will return this fall to find a new racing surface, with the track's first paving since 1979 to be completed prior to the UAW-Ford 500 event weekend. Crawford said teams will have to make some adjustments for the new surface, but that shouldn't take long.
"I believe even with doing extensive testing at Talladega I was able to find a groove that was maybe a little bit quicker than other parts of the racetrack. Every racecar driver learns a knack for what the track is actually giving back to his equipment. It is probably going to take a little while to find that at Talladega again," Crawford said. "But we are going to put on one heck of a race and it won't take long to find that particular groove that is going to be a winning groove."
Crawford said he'll likely have a home state contingent of friends present to see him make his first Talladega Superspeedway start, but that as always, his focus is going to be on the racetrack. He also addressed the question of whether driving a Ford adds more pressure, considering the manufacturer's high profile here.
"I am sure there will be plenty of friends there being my first time to Talladega to compete, but they'll realize that is my job. We'll be cordial and polite, but when the old helmet goes on, the shield goes down and the boots are tied, I have got to go out and do my job, and I am extra focused on winning at Talladega," Crawford said. "The easiest way to answer the question of added pressure is to say I eat pressure for breakfast. But the pressure is on each and every week. A manufacturer, still in racing today, races on Saturday and Sunday and sells on Monday. So we're under pressure every weekend to win for our manufacturer, our sponsor, our owner, our team. So the pressure is on, but it doesn't feel any different, because we are out there to win. And we're going to make some bold moves."
Talladega Superspeedway will welcome fans back for the UAW-Ford 500
event weekend set for Oct. 6-8, 2006, featuring 1,000 miles of racing in 3 days. The weekend begins with the Food World 250 ARCA RE/MAX Series race on Friday, Oct. 6, followed by the track's inaugural NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race on Saturday, Oct. 7. Then on Sunday, Oct. 8, NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams will compete in the UAW-Ford 500, race four in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. Kids age 11 and younger are admitted free of charge on Friday and Saturday of race weekends in the general admission grandstands at Talladega Superspeedway. To order tickets, call 1-877-Go2-DEGA (1-877-462-3342). For our hearing impaired guests, please call TDD 1-866-ISC-TRAK (1-866-472-8725). Tickets also are available online at www.racetickets.com, or in person by visiting the Talladega Superspeedway Ticket Office from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. CDT, Monday - Friday.