ESPN's Craven: New Chase System, Kentucky NSCS Schedule Spot Can Create Fan Utopia
CINCINNATI - Former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) No. 32 Tide Ford driver and current ESPN analyst Ricky Craven visited Cincinnati to provide his insight into changes in the series championship format and the Kentucky Speedway's June 28 Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts.
Craven, a veteran of 278 career NSCS starts who earned one of the series' most exciting victories for his Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble sponsor March 16, 2003 when he aced out Kurt Busch by 0.002 of a second at the Darlington Speedway stripe, was pleased to learn the speedway's surface will be as rough and rugged as ever when NASCAR's national series arrive June 26-28.
"Even though I'm not competing, I'm very excited to hear you're not going to repave the track.
"Drivers loved to be challenged and there's no greater challenge for a driver than to have to transition across a less than smooth track, but also amulti-lane track. I don't want single-groove racing, I don't think you do either, so that's a blessing and a good decision, " Craven said.
He predicted this year's NSCS Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts is on track to produce some of the season's most intense competition due to the new 16-driver, four-round elimination championship format in which race winners automatically qualify and its slot at Race No. 17 on the 36 event schedule.
"When you think about the whole equation, being in June, in this system, is utopia. It's perfect because when you get to June, you better have things figured out. If you haven't won yet, you're going to do some things. I call it racing without a conscience and there are only a few drivers that can do that. What are you willing to do to win a race?
"We're going to see some very entertaining racing and I think June, July and August are going to be the best.
"I think Kentucky is in the sweet spot if you think the middle of the summer, early part of summer - middle innings to late innings of the game. There are going to be some drivers that are typically in a position of strength that aren't. They might of even had a good year, but they haven't won. I think that creates an urgency that leads to a lot of excitement, " Craven analyzed.
He additionally endorsed Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup knockout system for its potential for raising the competitive stakes throughout the marathon campaign.
"I think it's perfect and I love the concept. If you win, you move on. It really puts the emphasis on where it belongs in all sports. It's not about being really good on average, it's about winning.
"The emphasis is going to be on taking risk, whether it's inside the racecar or on the pit box. Even the spotters, if you can imagine, helping to do the little things that might separate a second- third- and fourth-place finish from winning.
"It changes the game for the teams at that point. You're going to get drivers taking from one another.
"When that happens, there's usually some type of payback. The rule of thumb, in my career, was that if a driver talks about paying back, usually, nothing happens. It's the driver that quiet that you've got to worry about. That would be the Dale Earnhardt type.
"All of that comes back into play now, because I think the personality of the drivers is going to change, particularly late in the race," he concluded.
Tickets, campsites and infield Fan Zone passes for the venue's Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts, the June 27 NASCAR Nationwide Series 300-mile race and June 26 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 225 can be purchased by calling (859) 578-2300, through the tickets pages of this website or by visiting the ticket office at 1 Speedway Drive just off Interstate 71 Exit 57 and Ky. Hwy. 35 in Sparta, Ky.
- Kentucky Speedway -