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NASCAR Trucker Rick Crawford says NASCAR men need to pump more excitement into the sport, to fill the stands

By Mike Mulhern

   Rick Crawford, the folksy, well-liked NASCAR racer from Mobile, Alabama, who has been a fixture on the Truck tour for more than 10 years now, put some spark into the weekend's Daytona FanFest Saturday when it came his turn to speak his peace – with an emotional, impassioned 20-minute monologue about the state of the sport of stock car racing.
    Crawford was just back from a hunting trip to southwest Texas with Las Vegas casino whiz Michael Gaughan (Brendan's father): "I have the shiniest bullet in Texas….because I didn't shoot it."
   With only a handful of Truck owners with full-season sponsors, Crawford says the sport's economy is very fragile at the moment.  
   "All the owners in the Truck series are concerned. All owners in all series of racing are concerned," he said. "It's a fragile situation…and if we don't handle it right, we're probably asking for our own answers. 

Rick Crawford: NASCAR needs more excitement (Photo: Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

"It needs to be handled right -- We need to go back to the fans, we need to go back to the grandstands and keep them as full as we can, and put great shows on on the track, without a lot of hassle and without a lot of change.
    "How else can you put it? I'm looking for answers too. 
     "There are a lot of Truck owners out there on the fence, and if they don't receive sponsorship they'll be not coming here or to California or Atlanta or Martinsville.  Some might back away from the sport.
   "Not only do we have to make things happen, but you guys too -- Make up something good, you know?  Make it exciting. Make something exciting….to get the fans back in the stands. 
    "I will do my part on the track. And maybe we can entice some new owners into this sport. That's what we need…because drivers are plentiful. 
   "I don't know what the fix is. And there are a lot of problems across these United States that you're not going to know how to fix.
    "I'm not trying to be a politician or anything, but if you believe in each other and you don't pull your support back from what you've been doing, things will come back around."
   Crawford says the current economy will probably push out the team owners who have been doing this as sort of a hobby: 
    "The owners in this sport who have been having a good time in the luxury of it are not going to be around.  There are very few of those left.  The real racer is going to be the owner….because he knows how to run a race team."
     Crawford says NASCAR needs to be more exciting….and he says he plans to do his part:  "This sport does not need resurrecting. Rather it needs to be carried on with excitement. 
   "There are people out there who haven't come to a race because they haven't been asked. But if they see entertainment value….
   "There are a lot of people out there feeling bad today who wouldn't mind buying a $40 or $50 ticket to see some entertainment. 
   "I'm looking for a good time, okay? And there are fans out there who, if they knew about us, and knew we were putting on a great show, would come see it. 
   "We're all feeling a crunch.  But is there something wrong with our sport?  No. No, there's not.
    "But we all need to stick together and work through it. 
     "It's not going to be easy. 
     "It's not going to be fixed by Martinsville. But I think by Daytona in July…."
    How many cars will show up for the Daytona 500, for the 300, for the Truck race?
    The Truck event may be short. "Yeah, I've heard the rumors about not having a full field," Crawford said. "I wish we had a full field here at Daytona. 
   "But I think the track that's going to suffer will be California, because the guys can't afford to go out there.
   "I wish there was some way to have a full field of 36 Trucks, competitive Trucks. But if we have only 28 trucks in a race, or 25, you'll still see one hell of a damned race.
   "I guarantee you -- Mike Skinner, Ron Hornaday and Dennis Setzer and those guys, we've always been putting on good shows."
  But even Skinner, a former champion, doesn't have a ride yet for 2009.
   Crawford is undaunted: "The American people are not going to quit, and I just don't feel like NASCAR is going to quit. 
   "There are some great opportunities for people to race in all aspects of NASCAR.
   "But everybody knows we're in a crunch. We're in a delicate, fragile situation.
   "Now if you came right out and said 'Hey! We're going to have fireworks at Daytona!' you're probably saying the right thing. Is everybody going to hear it?  No, because some people are deaf….and afraid to drive to Daytona and buy whatever it costs – a $40 or $50 ticket -- to see a Truck race. 
    "They're afraid.  They're afraid to put any more money in the bank. They're afraid to go spend $100 at the grocery store, when they used to spend $200.
    "But if we keep hammering, if we keep saying that we have excitement and a great show, there are a lot of people who might not have enjoyed this particular sport just yet but who might say 'You know, why don't we go to Daytona, or go to California. Go to a race, because they've still got a lot of hype in that sport, and they're not talking about the problems that we have. They're being positive.  Let's go enjoy that.'
   "Put a singing group out there on stage that people like to hear. Bring Mario Andretti back to sign autographs; let him be grand marshal at one of our events. 
    "Do something different. 
    "It's got to be different. 
     "It's different times, folks. So it don't hurt to be different."

Dale Earnhardt Jr. can always make things exciting....if he wants to (Photo: Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

offer excitement?

I don't care if there is a band playing or fireworks! I want to see Ricky Carmichael battle Steve Park.. I saw it on the short tracks last year in the Camping World East series. It was some of the best racing watching those two.. even going 3 wide on a bullring like nashville's music motorplex. Great side by side racing and holding those cars in the top ten even with the tires coming apart and their motors smoking. Harvick was able to bring up Carmichael but Park who raced just as well and truthfully I think helped Carmichael pace himself in some of the races and raced him clean was left OUT of the truck series. A serious mistake on what the fans want. The fans want to see Park racing trucks. Sponsors pay attention. It's not about the fireworks or the rock bands. It's about the interplay and Park Skinner and Sprague bring that to trucks. I will be back if that happens. You don't throw out the baby with the bathwater and add bubbles to make a fan happy. I'm sticking with the East series this year.. exciting racing.

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