The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will race under the lights for the first time in history this spring during the March 18 World Financial Group 200. Rick Crawford, Ricky Craven, Ted Musgrave, Todd Kluever and Terry Cook got a sneak preview of the excitement that event will generate as Tuesday¿s test session at Atlanta Motor Speedway carried into the early evening hours.
For Crawford, who was fastest Tuesday with a lap of 30.93 seconds (174.58 mph) it was a chance to get accustomed to a new crew chief, new truck and virtually all-new crew.
¿I think we¿re finding out what we want,¿ Crawford said. ¿We¿re fast; now we need to work on being more consistent.¿
For Craven, it was a chance to learn his way around the lightning-fast track in an all-new vehicle. Craven has spent the last nine years in the NEXTEL Cup Series, moving this year to the No. 99 Superchips Ford with Roush Racing.
Craven will be teaming this season with Todd Kluever, pilot of the No. 50 Roush Racing truck. Both were pleased with the progress they made during their one-day test at Atlanta.
¿To compare one vehicle to another, while it¿s still racing, it¿s a really different form of racing,¿ Craven said. ¿We¿re trying to get acclimated to a new environment, different people, learning everyone¿s personality ¿ and the vehicles themselves, because they drive so much different than Cup cars.
¿I¿ll miss the Cup side ¿ I¿ve been there a decade. But this is the path I¿ve chosen, and I¿m real excited about it.¿
Craven¿s fastest lap Tuesday was 31.52 seconds (171.32 mph), just a tick faster than his teammate¿s 31.53 seconds (171.30 mph).
Terry Cook turned the second-fastest lap of the day, cruising around the high banks of Atlanta in 31.11 seconds (173l.60 mph). Musgrave was third fastest at 31.22 seconds (172.97 mph).
¿We¿re working with two different cars, trying some different combinations,¿ said Musgrave. ¿It¿s been a process of elimination ¿ and we¿ve already eliminated lots.¿
At the other end of the garage, Crawford said his team was going through much the same process, looking for a way to gain a few tenths of a second when they return to Atlanta next month. But according to Crawford, not all of the adjustments can be made in the car.
¿Here, you¿ve just got to have the guts to stand on the gas,¿ Crawford said. ¿You can stand on the gas all the way around, which makes for some really great racing for the fans ¿ Atlanta is a great action track.¿
Crawford saw more action last year than he anticipated, as he was collected on lap 43 by a spinning Tina Gordon. The hard crash left his foot shattered.
It¿s all just part of the business, according to Crawford. And although he hopes to be far away from any of that kind of action this year, he expects another humdinger of a race for the fans in Atlanta.
¿Truck drivers are crazy anyway, and a lot of them are making names for themselves as rookies and some as veterans.¿ Crawford said. ¿I always call it the senior tour of NASCAR.
We¿re not ready to give up, and when you get some fighters that¿s been beat down and not ready to give up, they put on a great show for the fans.¿
The World Financial Group 200 will get the green flag at approximately 9 p.m. on Friday, March 18. Preceding the Craftsman Truck race, NASCAR NEXTEL Cup¿s finest will try to keep hotshot Ryan Newman from earning his fifth straight pole position at NASCAR¿s fastest track. Great seats are still available for this great double bill of racing, and tickets start at just $45. For more information call (770) 946-4211 or visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.