Erin Crocker Returns to Racing Q&A

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Q: When and why did you decide to return to racing?

I went to the Chili Bowl in Tulsa, Okla., in January of this year and as soon as I was at the race with all of the excitement, I immediately wanted to be a part of it again – it is in my DNA.

Bryan Clauson, who is a midget racer, and Tim Clauson, who is my car owner, also convinced me to sit in a midget when I was at the race, and once I did that it was over. As soon as I got back from the race I started making plans to get back in racing.

Q: How did you feel as a spectator at this year’s Chili Bowl? Are you excited about participating in next year’s race?

I love being at the Chili Bowl. It is one of the best events for short-track racing and it is at a perfect time of the year – in January – when most racing is in the offseason.

The Chili Bowl attracts top names, with Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Justin Allgaier and the top World of Outlaw and USAC drivers bringing together the top drivers who have such a passion for racing.

The race is full of camaraderie and it feels like a family reunion seeing all of the competitors and their families, which is what I always loved about racing quarter midgets and sprint cars. It is the Saturday night, local track atmosphere that I’ve been around for so long; I feel like the people are my family.

I’m really excited to race in the next Chili Bowl. I ran it once about 10 years ago and it was the only time I’ve raced a dirt midget. I had only raced sprint cars up until that point so I was a fish out of water. But Brian and Tim Clauson have put together a great car for me for the 2014 race, and Brian has been a Chili Bowl champion for a number of years. I have
great equipment and sponsorship behind me so I have a full team of support.

Q: How does your husband, Ray Evernham, feel about you racing again?

Ray is a little nervous about me racing again. We’ve been around midgets and sprint cars a lot and I think he would feel better if I was in a stock car with more body around me.

I took a bad tumble a few years ago in Knoxville and went over the guardrail and Ray was about 30 feet from it and he didn’t like that too much. But he supports what I want to do and is letting me take the lead.

Q: What is your biggest challenge in your racing comeback?

I don’t have a ton of experience racing midgets. I have a lot of dirt, sprint car experience with a wing on the top so it will take time getting used to driving without a wing on the car. The horsepower won’t be anything too crazy for me because it is a little less than sprint cars.

Q: Describe your expectations for your return to racing.

I’m a racecar driver, so I can’t help but have expectations. I’m sure I’ll adjust my expectations as I go. I don’t know what to expect in the races leading up to the Chili Bowl, but I always expect to win. If you go to the track thinking anything else you won’t be successful.

In my mind, I’d like to make the A-main, which is hard to do and an accomplishment itself.

I’m the only woman who has qualified for the Knoxville Nationals A-main, which is the biggest event for winged sprint cars, and I’d like to have a similar accomplishment in midget racing.

Q: You helped pioneer women in racing. How do you feel about women in motorsports?

I’m always flattered when people say I helped pioneer women in racing because it was never really my intention. I just grew up around it and it is something I love. I have an engineering mind and I’ve always been interested in the mechanics of a car. To know that I’ve helped other females is an honor, and it is also an honor if I can be a role model or an example for a young girl coming up in racing.

I grew up with a lot of females that raced quarter midgets. As we got older most girls
weren’t pushed into racing and went off to college. In the higher levels of racing I’ve seen the numbers change and it is more acceptable and there are more women in racing, but there is also still a lot of room for improvement. There is always interest and attention on women drivers, but you need to attract people – sponsor, crew chief, team owner – who truly
believe in you in order to be successful. Danica Patrick is the best example now of having that support, but I’d like to see more women get that chance as well.

Q: What are you most looking forward to in your first race?

I’m looking forward to the feeling back behind the wheel with the pedal to the floor and the smell of methanol fumes and just the adrenaline of the racing competition. Racing is part of my DNA and part of who I am. It almost doesn’t feel right when I’m not racing, which is why I’ve come in and out of retirement a few times – and I’m only 32. There is no better sense of accomplishment than coming off a feature event knowing you’ve driven the wheels off the car.

Q: Why did you choose to partner with WIX® Filters and the Team WIX program that supports grassroots racing?

My husband, Ray Evernham, has had a successful partnership with WIX for years and the Team WIX ( program fits exactly who I am. I share the same passion for grassroots racing that Team WIX supports – it is what I love and I want to represent that.

Even though I’ve stepped out of the seat a few times I continue to climb back in because it’s my passion. I love hanging out at a local dirt track on a Saturday night with friends and drive the wheels off a car – there is something about it that continually draws me back.

It is also important to support local tracks and give kids the same opportunity that I did.

Ray and I own a small dirt track and dirt-track cars and we hope to continue to show the excitement of grassroots racing and local short tracks to show little girls that is okay for the girls to do it too.

Q: As a driver, what is your favorite racing series?

The World of Outlaws series is my favorite and where I’ve had the highest level of success. It is the toughest, grittiest racing series there is. There are about 90 races a year and you live on the road, so there is nothing luxurious about it.

The racing is spectacular. You run about 30 to 40 laps all-out with your foot on the floor in a 1,200-pound sprint car with 900 horsepower. The series fits my personality a little better than some of the stock car races. I’m not necessarily known for having a great attention span, so the short-track races suit me better.

Q: What is your favorite track and why?

Knoxville Raceway, which is the dirt racing capital of the world, is one of my
favorites. I’m still the only woman to qualify for A-main and I have done that twice. It is a prestigious track with a lot history and where National Sprint Car Hall of Fame is located.

The Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare, Calif., is where I became the first woman to win the World of Outlaws feature event. Both tracks will always have a special place in my heart.

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Wray Ward