review: Craven was finally able to showcase the
talent many knew he possessed when he picked up
his first Winston Cup victory in October at Martinsville.
2002 outlook: Entering just his second year with
his Cal Wells-owned team, Craven should continue
the success he started in 2001 and fight for a
spot in the top 10 in points.
Until winning at Martinsville, Craven?s best
Winston Cup finish was third on four different
Craven was rookie of the year in 1995 in a Larry
Hedrick car and had two hard wrecks, at Charlotte
and Talladega, the next season. He moved to Hendrick
Motorsports and rebounded in 1997, but wrecked
hard again at Texas. Ricky Craven resigned from
the Hendrick team while suffering from post-concussion
syndrome and ran sporadically over the next two
seasons before joining Cal Wells' team for the
Craven scored an extremely popular first victory
at Martinsville Speedway in October 2001, swapping
paint with 1999 Winston Cup champion Dale Jarrett
on the last lap. It marked a season in which Craven
scored his first Bud Pole since 1998 and added
four top-five and seven top-10 finishes to attain
a career high in money won with $1,996,981.
Ricky Craven, whose career was interrupted in
1997-98 by accidents and head injuries, came back
in 2001 with a solid sponsor, Tide, on the technically
proficient PPI Motorsports Fords.
Some call Craven a modern-day version of former
driver Pete Hamilton -- the comparison obviously
made because both came from the New England states
and established themselves as fierce competitors.
And both won NASCAR's Rookie of the Year title
in their inaugural seasons.
Craven spent much of 1998 recovering from post-concussion
syndrome, resulting from injuries he actually
suffered in 1997. He won the Bud Pole in his first
race back, the Jiffy Lube 300 at New Hampshire.
Hendrick Motorsports had recognized Ricky Craven's
potential and lured the young driver away from
a shared ownership deal with team boss Larry Hedrick
for the 1997 season. He opened with a stunning
third place finish in the Daytona 500 and ended
up with a career high 19th place in the point
His path to Winston Cup came through the Busch
North Series, where he ran the full season for
the first time in 1990. He won two races that
season, grabbed the Busch Pole Award for winning
seven poles and claimed both the rookie of the
year title and the series' most popular driver
award. In 1991, he swept it all, including the
championship, with 10 victories, six poles, the
pole award and the most popular driver trophy.
Ricky Craven moved to the Busch Series in 1992,
won the rookie title and finished second in the
1993 and 1994 Busch Series season standings. His
first two wins in Busch Series competition came
in 1994, when he scored at Hickory and Nazareth.