Erin Crocker was hired recently to a development deal at Evernham Motorsports. The open-wheeled driver not only fulfills NASCAR's new interest in diversity, she hopes to become the first woman to win a race in one of the three top touring divisions in NASCAR.
She talked about her new job and what she expects.
Question: What are your feelings about joining Evernham Motorsports?
Crocker: Signing with Evernham Motorsports is truly a dream come true. I've always hoped for the opportunity to someday race for someone like Ray Evernham. Growing up I watched what he had done with Jeff Gordon and this past year I saw what he accomplished with a rookie driver, Kasey Kahne. I believe working with Evernham Motorsports will provide me all of the ingredients to become a successful stock-car driver. Starting next year, driving a variety of different racecars will certainly be the next step to get me on pavement and get started. So will having that opportunity to spend time with Kasey Kahne and Bill Elliott and spend time at the race shop and at the track, to provide me a chance to learn from some of the best in the business. I started racing when I was seven years old, and I grew up watching my two brothers race. I think they taught me a lot about earning respect from the men and just how to be competitive. Next year, I want to learn as much as possible, and gain as much experience as I can, which in turn will hopefully create some strong performances. My ultimate goal is to be successful in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series, but I want to take the right steps in getting there. I think Ray Evernham has the same plan in mind for me, so I believe it is a perfect fit. I thought winning a World of Outlaws feature this past October was the highlight of my career, but getting a call from Ray Evernham certainly ranks right up there.
Question: Where do you get your drive to compete?
Crocker: Honestly, I don't know where it comes from. I've always been very competitive. I've played every sport in the book. I've played ice hockey, and I've played all of these sports with my brothers. I've always just had a really competitive fire inside me.
Question: What would it mean to be NASCAR's first woman to win a race?
Crocker: It would obviously be an incredible honor. But, I'm really not doing this because I want to be the first woman to win a NASCAR event. That would just be a bonus. I'm just really competitive, and I love racing. I just want to go out there and run hard and be competitive, so that just comes as an extra honor.
Question: Will you continue to drive in the World of Outlaws this year?
Crocker: I think that's something that Ray and I have discussed a little bit, and if time permits and it's not going to conflict with any testing or any races, there's a chance that I may be able to get in a winged sprint car again. I've definitely enjoyed driving winged sprint cars, but this is the path I want to take. I want to be in NASCAR. I'll probably miss the sprint cars a little bit, but I'm very excited about my opportunities here.
Question: What would you be doing if you weren't racing?
Crocker: If I couldn't drive I would certainly still be in the racing world. I would probably put my engineering degree to use and hopefully go to work for a big team or even a manufacturer. I've been offered opportunities in the past. If driving doesn't work out, I've been offered shop specialist opportunities and different things. I'm sure I'd still be involved in racing and, hopefully, using my engineering background.
Question: You come from an open-wheeled background, so have stock cars been part of your long term goals?
Crocker: I was never really sure which direction I wanted to go. I knew I wanted to be successful, and I knew I wanted to make it to the top. I definitely, at one point, said I wanted to go open-wheel racing. But, in the last few years, I've gone to a lot of NASCAR races, and I've gone to a lot of open-wheel races. And, quite frankly, all of my heroes growing up, Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon, and people I used to watch run USAC races, came from the NASCAR world. So I feel like if I want to run with the best, and I really want to be on top of the sport, then this is where I want to be.
Question: What are your thoughts about women in racing?
Crocker: I wouldn't necessarily consider them heroes, but I certainly watched what they did and tried to learn from it. And I give them a lot of credit, people like Lyn St. James, Janet Guthrie and Sarah Fisher herself, have opened people's eyes to the possibility of a female being successful in this sport. So I definitely have followed them, and I've admired what they've done, and I've tried to learn from what they've done.
Question: As a dirt racer, will the transition to pavement be difficult?
Crocker: I think I'll keep just as busy of a schedule. I might be a little bit more in one area. But I think that I'll have enough things going on between spending time at the shop and testing, and the races I'm going to run. Hopefully, I'll get to do some midget sprint car stuff as well. I think I'll keep myself just as busy, maybe not as much time on the road, but that could be a good thing. That's definitely going to be a big learning curve. I've run a little bit of pavement in the past, and it's a lot different. I think that running a sprint car teaches you so much about car control that once I get the feel of these bigger, heavier cars, I'm confident it will go well. I'm sure I'm going to have a lot to learn, and it's going to be quite the process, but I'm ready for the challenge.
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