Q&A: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Driver Jake Crum

Marshall Gabell Featured, MidSouth, NASCAR, Southeast 0 Comments

BRISTOL, TN – Story by Race Chaser Online Mid-Atlantic Correspondent Marshall Gabell – Kevin Cox/Getty Images Photo – Like the famous adage goes: no matter what happens, a bird always returns to it’s nest – and that statement holds true for NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) driver Jake Crum, who returns to Bristol Motor Speedway (his home track) for an attempt at double duty in Thunder Valley.

Marshall Gabell: Setting aside the difficulties from Charlotte earlier this season, the 2014 season has seen you debut in the NASCAR Nationwide Series – where you finished 27th at Kentucky and 31stat Loudon – can you talk about how those opportunities formed and then what the emotions were like after both successful appearances?

Jake Crum: I received a call from Tom Legeman and Scott DeWare at DRG Motorsports asking if I was interested in driving their BUBBA Burger Chevrolet at Kentucky and of course (I accepted). Scott wanted a driver who wasn’t afraid to get up on the wheel and drive with passion. The guys at DRG Motorsports had noticed my hard work and accomplishments in the family-owned equipment. BUBBA Burger wanted a young, talented driver to promote their brand and I’m thankful that they picked me out of the crowd.

As far as emotions are concerned, it felt good to actually finish a couple races without coming home with a wrecked race car. You know that last couple of years in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, we have had nothing but bad luck. I have been in the wrong place at the wrong time a few times, like Charlotte 2013 when Ron Hornaday blew a tire right in front of us. In 2012, I was running 8th at Bristol with 14 laps to go when another truck just flat ran over me and I was credited with a 29th place finish.

I’ve also been guilty of getting impatient and making a stupid move like Kentucky in 2012. There have also been a couple races where I put myself into a bad position and ended up with a wrecked truck. So to finish a couple races in one piece has felt great.

MG: I’ve seen on your Twitter page that your next scheduled event – unless something else has been added – is at Bristol Motor Speedway where you’ll pilot your family-owned machine in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event and then back in the Nationwide Series with the No. 80 squad. Initially, is that still the plan and then what other races are on your schedule this season?

JC: Yeah, my next race will be in the family-owned truck at Bristol. I’m really excited about that race weekend as well, because I’ll be pulling my first double duty. My Freedom Smokes is coming on board for both the NCWTS in my No.01 Chevrolet Silverado, as well as the No.86 DRG Motorsports team which will be running a Ford Mustang for this event. This was not one of BUBBA Burger’s originally planned races, but we have been gelling so well with the No.86 team that we decided to add Bristol to our schedule with the help of Chris Yelton from MFS and our friends at BUBBA Burger.

A lot of things really started coming together when My Freedom Smokes came to us with the possibility of running both the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series events at Bristol. I’m really excited about pulling my first double-duty weekend and our friends at BUBBA Burger will also join us in the 2-race effort. It been awesome to have fans tweet me pictures of themselves with BUBBA Burger products. I think it’s been a real win-win partnership for all parties involved.

After the Bristol race weekend, we’ll all sit down and determine what our next steps will be in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. We’ve been working on a way to run the tail end of the 2014 schedule, but we haven’t determined how many races that will be yet. I know that Richmond is looking like a possibility and it’s another one of those NASCAR short track staples that I would love to run because of all its history.

MG: I know Bristol’s short track holds much more meaning for the Crum family then any other racetrack, can you talk about your relationship with the speedway and just educate fans on the Crums’ familiarity with the Bristol, Tennessee area.

JC: I’m originally from Newport, Tennessee so of course being able to race at Bristol is a blessing. All of my hometown friends and family can come watch me in action, plus we have a good relationship with the local media here. It’s one of the few events on the schedule where I feel like I can receive good media coverage. The local newspapers and television stations in the Tri-Cities area have been really good to me over the years, as well as Lisa Johnson with Food City Family Race Night. I’ve been a part of their program since I was racing go-karts.

From a performance standpoint, I feel like Bristol owes me one. I think that we raced here five times in a late model with the UARA-Stars Series. I performed really well in those races and have led well over 150 laps at Bristol, but only have one 2nd place finish to show for it. Three other times, I suffered a mechanical failure or tire failure while running 1st or 2nd. I won’t be happy with my career until I win a race at Bristol, I’ve just had too many races slip away from me at that track.

MG: Your organization – a family-owned team – works from a storage area in Statesville, North Carolina, can you talk about the struggles for a little team when racing against multi-millon dollar companies, and then explain what keeps you enduring more racing and not giving up.

JC: You just have to take the cards you are dealt and do the best you can with what you have, and just try to get better and better every time you go to the race track. The reason that I don’t give up is because I have a huge passion for racing and nothing will ever make me quit trying my best to get to the top, unless I get hurt or just don’t have the ability to do it anymore.

This will be my 5th NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at the Bristol Motor Speedway and i feel like we’ll have a stronger effort than ever this time around. We’ve always been so stretched thin by last-minute sponsorship deals and limited time to plan in previous years, but My Freedom Smokes agreed to come on board back in May right after the Charlotte race. It’s been a relief to have a full 3 months to put everything together the right way, instead of having to haphazardly throw things together once a deal has been put into place.

It’s just one of those things where having committed sponsors like BUBBA Burger and My Freedom Smokes allows us to put together a good product both on the track and off. There’s a lot of marketing that goes into these deals and a lot of people involved. I’ve really enjoyed being able to spend time with the fine people at BUBBA Burgers and My Freedom Smokes, because that’s allowed us to build a good off-track relationship together. That’s how careers are made, by being good both on the track and away from the track. DRG Motorsports took a chance on me and they’ve been pleased with the results so far.

MG: For fans who are unfamiliar with the name Jake Crum outside controversy, talk about how you got involved in the racing deal and then discuss how your career was formed through late models and other short track divisions.

JC: Dad used to race late models and got in a really bad wreck. When that happened, he bought me a go-kart and I took over racing in the family. We progressively moved up the ranks through all levels of karting, Bandolero, Allison Legacy, Legends, and up to Late Models. I started running Late Models when I was 13 and we ended up winning the UARA-Stars Championship in 2008 using the same car and motor all season.

Then we took that same car and won the 2009 Bailey’s 300 at the historic Martinsville Speedway. In 2010, we found success in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East on a limited schedule, running as high as 5th at Greenville-Pickens and leading 17 laps at Martinsville before making a pit stop right before the rains came.

My expectations moving up to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series were really high until I realized the money that we were up against at that level. We were showing up at the track with a truck that Marc Davis raced at Homestead in 2009 that we had to rebuild from the ground up and using a motor that was way down on horsepower. It’s a David versus Goliath situation in terms of funding, but over the years we’ve learned a few things that have helped to close that gap a little.

The run we made at Bristol in 2012 was remarkable. With 14 laps to go, I was in the 8th position on the lead lap and closing in on Brendan Gaughan for 7th place. Unfortunately, another truck slid up the track and took us out of the race. I’ll be bringing that same truck back to Bristol for the August 2014 race and my expectations are really high. My Freedom Smokes will be back on board and we plan on making a big statement.

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