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Ricky Craven's in the financial driver's seat

Ricky CravenRicky Craven is at the top of his game as a NASCAR driver. Ricky began racing at the age of 15. He has won three Rookie of the Year awards, two most popular driver awards, and the 1991 Busch Grand National North Championship. In 1994, Larry Hedrick called on Ricky to drive his NASCAR Winston Cup car for 1995. After an intense battle throughout the season, Ricky was named the 1995 NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year, making him the first driver to ever earn the title in three major NASCAR touring series.

But his promising start was interrupted by injuries. He spent most of 1998 recovering from the effects of a concussion but came back strongly in 2001, driving the No. 32 Tide Ford for PPI Motorsports and team owner Cal Wells. Driving aggressively, he took his first win at the Martinsville Speedway in 2001, swapping paint with Dale Jarrett on the last lap. He ended the season with four top-five finishes and $1.9 million in earnings. In 2003, he will be switching to Pontaics for his team.

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A native of Maine, Craven now resides in North Carolina with his wife and two children. Ricky Craven is not what you'd expect when speaking to a man who risks his life every week at record speeds behind the wheel. He is soft spoken, erudite and knows how to get his point across.

Bankrate: Are you involved with any charities?

Ricky Craven: Yes! I have my own foundation, which benefits five other foundations through "Ricky Craven Snowmobile Rides": Make a Wish Foundation. Children's Miracle Network. The Travis Roy Foundation -- Travis is a close friend of mine from New England who was in a freak accident in his first shift of college hockey, paralyzing him from the neck down. He is an inspiration for me because of his positive attitude. He believes through research and technical advancements that he will walk again. Give Kids The World Foundation, which I got involved with through Procter and Gamble. It's a wonderful thing, they support the families of kids with cancer by providing a place for them to stay for free while they are receiving treatment. It's beautiful; it has a Disney-like theme. I have been involved with the Marrow Foundation. That is a direct result of my racing with Rick Hendrick, who was diagnosed with leukemia. Also, my mom received a bone marrow transplant in 1980. I have been close to each foundation, they are all compelling and easy to commit to. I have children and it's very difficult to see these difficulties.

Bankrate: You have spoken about the need in the future for a partner or even a multicar team. What will you look for in a teammate?

Ricky Craven: As a driver, someone I could communicate with, someone I could build a relationship with. Professionally, someone who could challenge me. That would be very valuable, I have no insecurities. Communication is very important. We spend two hours on the track qualifying, an hour and a half competing. There's always a benefit in conversation between drivers, considering all the things that go into a weekend race, talking about the different conditions, the different tracks. The information would be a great resource to me and my drivers.

Bankrate: There has been quite a controversy about your switching from Ford cars to Pontiacs in 2003.

Ricky Craven: It's an element of our business that there's often change. I had two quality years from Ford. Cal got me a wonderful package from Pontiac.

Bankrate: Do you have any other businesses?

Ricky Craven: Yes. I own Ricky Craven Motorsports North Inc. in Belfast, Maine. My sister runs the store. Our Web site is RCMNorth.com. We sell snowmobiles, ATVs, and of course, the merchandise.

Bankrate: How do you decide what to merchandise?

Ricky Craven: That is controlled by Hawk Sports Management. They have the authority to do most anything. We are conscious of image, though. We're family oriented. It has to have the flavor of NASCAR.

Bankrate: Do you ever reject any items?

Ricky Craven: There have been items for veto, sure.

Bankrate: Do you manage your own money?

Ricky Craven: My money, our money, is managed by State Street Global in Boston, also Fidelity. My wife and I manage our own portfolio, though.

Bankrate: Do you still trust the stock market?

Ricky Craven: Long-term, I absolutely have confidence. I have a high degree of confidence in the majority of companies, like Proctor and Gamble. Others this year left a horrible taste in our mouths. I hope there are fewer stories like that. We're in long equities. Short selling is of no interest to me.

Bankrate: Do you get free samples from Proctor and Gamble?

Ricky Craven: It's interesting because we always used the products, it's fun to race for them. We got some Tide and a thank-you package. We buy Tide, too; we buy it regularly, like our milk and our eggs.

Bankrate: What do you want to do when you finish racing?

Ricky Craven: There's plenty of time to make that decision. The next five years should be the most rewarding for me; I should still be competitive with younger drivers. I will have the wealth of experience.

Bankrate: Would you want your children to become drivers?

Ricky Craven: Both by son and my daughter want to drive the Tide (car). I do struggle with that. I know that it's selfish of me -- I have no consideration of my own health or risk. But as a parent, I do worry about it.

Bankrate: What advice would you give to people following in your footsteps?

Ricky Craven: There is no substitute for hunger and desire; you truly get what you put into things. You need to be resilient and committed.

-- Posted: Nov. 11, 2002




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