OXFORD – Losing his brakes prematurely knocked out Ricky Craven in his 2006 racing debut last weekend at Martinsville, but the Maine racer left the door open to a possible return to the Busch Series with the FitzBradshaw team.

It just won’t be this weekend.

Craven’s focus this week is exclusively on Sunday’s TD Banknorth 250, a race he won in 1991 that helped launch his career.

“Armando (Fitz) called and asked me if I had interest,” Craven said during a break from testing Monday. “I told him I’m signing off for a week. It’s all about this race this week.”

The two-time winner on the Nextel Cup circuit spent Monday at Oxford Plains Speedway, turning laps on the three-eighths mile oval for the first time since 1992.

Craven, 40, is teaming up with PASS driver Johnny Clark of Hallowell for this weekend’s 250. Clark finished second last year and started on the pole in 2004.

Without a ride after spending 2005 racing in the Craftsman Truck Series for Jack Roush, Craven agreed to climb back into a race car at Martinsville to shake off some of the rust as he prepares for Oxford.

Saturday was just his second Busch Series start since 2000. Craven is a former Busch rookie of the year with two second-place finishes in the final points standings.

Craven started 40th in the 43-car field and finished 39th after completing 66 of 250 laps.

“Did I run as well (as I wanted) … no,” Craven said. “That will never go away. Unless you win, you’ve had a disappointment. But I measure things a little differently now. I wanted something out of that, and I got that.”

What Craven got was some actual seat time in a race car, something he hadn’t had in more than eight months. He also got his name back out into the racing community. While he had not raced at any level in NASCAR before last weekend, Craven is still hopeful of landing a competitive Nextel Cup ride by 2007.

Craven has no regrets making his debut for the struggling two-car team.

The FitzBradshaw No. 14 car had only competed in 10 of 20 races before last Saturday – with just two top-15 finishes – but the team had recently signed a nine-race sponsorship deal with Family Dollar.

FitzBradshaw turned to the Maine veteran, who became the car’s fourth different driver this year.

After starting near the back of the pack, Craven quickly moved up to 28th before getting spun out before the race was even 25-laps old. Craven said he lost his brakes by lap 40 before the right-front rotor started coming apart.

He conceded that he and the team were not as prepared as they could have been.

“I put myself in that position,” Craven said. “The first time I saw the team or the car was Thursday. You can’t do that anywhere. We’re here the week before this race. Why? Because we’ve got to be.”

Clark and his father built the car Craven will compete in this weekend. Having been away since 1992, Craven spent the morning reacquainting himself with the Oxford oval, while Clark’s crew made modifications to the setup.

“He knows how to get around this place,” Clark said. “After two hours of practice, we’re finally working the bugs out of it.”

There may be no getting the racing bug out of Craven, who has spent much of the year with his family at Moosehead Lake. That could include a return partnership with FitzBradshaw on the Busch circuit.

When asked if he would race again with the Busch team, Craven said, “I may,” without elaborating.

For this week, anyway, only one race matters. Sunday’s TD Banknorth could turn out to be his biggest race of the year … and one of the last of his career.


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