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Ricky Craven

Ricky Craven's recent career has proven that the former Northeast standout is committed to excellence, and on his way to the top of the Winston Cup ranks. Given that he comes into 2001 with a solid sponsor, Tide, on the technically proficient PPI Motorsports Fords, he could be on line to achieve the potential he showed before his career was derailed by injuries a couple seasons ago.

Ricky Craven, a Newburgh, Maine native whose upward career path was slowed by injuries suffered in 19997 and 1998 when he drove for Hendrick Motorsports, steps into the PPI ride and replaces 2000 rookie Scott Pruett, who bore the brunt of the former Indy car team's step into the Winston Cup Series by failing to qualify for six races and finished 40th or worse seven times.

Some call Ricky 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.

But any driver's skill or reputation other than his own won't define Ricky Craven. Once again, Craven overcame a great deal of adversity and made the absolute most of the opportunities he was given. He hasn't put up the results to match his perceived talent, but his tenacity continues to win him fans and respect.

The NASCAR world still hasn't seen what Craven will be able to do when he is able to stay healthy for an entire season Hendrick Motorsports recognized 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 standings.