Craven to leave PPI at end of season
By Marty Smith, Turner Sports Interactive
July 23, 2004
11:23 AM EDT (15:23 GMT)
LOUDON, N.H. -- Cal Wells gave Ricky Craven a shot when no one else would. That's why it's so hard to leave.
Craven will leave Wells' PPI Motorsports at the conclusion of the 2004 Nextel Cup Series season, ending a four-year partnership that produced every top-five and both victories in the team's history.
But for all their success, they've struggled badly of late. Both are veteran racers. Both know it's a performance-based business.
"You're always judged by how well you're running or not running. What he and I agreed is that there's a right and wrong way of doing things, and the right way for he and I to do end this would be at the end of this season instead of letting this go with no clear picture," Craven said Friday at New Hampshire International Speedway.
"I'm thankful Cal called me four years ago when I was on a boat in Moosehead Lake and said, 'Hey, let's have dinner.' As much as I love my family and appreciated that we had that opportunity to be together, I wanted to race."
In his second start at PPI, at North Carolina Speedway, Craven earned the team's first ever top-five. Six months later at Michigan he earned the team's first pole. Seven races after that, in Martinsville, he took them to Victory Lane.
Though he failed to win in 2002, he did post a trio of top-five finishes. Then, in March 2003, he out-sprinted Kurt Busch to the checkered flag at Darlington Raceway to win the closest finish in NASCAR history.
They've yet to post a top-10 in 2004, but Craven says they're not through yet.
"Cal and I have a lot to race for this second half of the season. A lot," Craven said. "And I think you're going to see that. I'm going to enjoy it. I understand my position and I'm going to go after it."
Craven said he has an opinion on what's gone wrong, but chose not to elaborate. He knows he's auditioning for the remainder of the season, and has concerns about being a veteran in a sport currently driven by youth.
"It concerns me in the respect that I don't know what the perception is on 38-year old racecar drivers," Craven said. "My own opinion is, there's a certain value to youth and the energy and aggression, but there's a certain value to experience and savvy and knowing the drivers and their personalities.
"I feel like 35 to 40 is the sweet spot there, where you have both. I've still got the energy, the determination, but I've also got the experience. I'd like to race at least two more years in a quality situation, but I'm not interested in just being here. And at 38, as we close the door on 2004, I'll just have to evaluate that based on opportunity."