Newburgh’s Ricky Craven has signed a multiyear deal with ESPN to continue as an in-studio analyst for the TV show “NASCAR Now” and also handle prerace and postrace duties for the Sprint Cup series. He will also be a color analyst for five Nationwide Series races.
The 45-year-old Craven, who notched two wins, 17 top-five finishes and 41 top-10s during his 278-race Sprint Cup career, has worked for ESPN since 2008.
Craven didn’t divulge the terms of his contract but said he was “extremely happy” with it.
“When I retired from racing, I didn’t think I could find anything that would match that level of challenge,” Craven said. “This has come very close. I really, really enjoy what I do.
“I appreciate the opportunity I’ve been given with ESPN and I also appreciate that I was able to capitalize on it,” Craven said. “I’m able to use my 25 years behind a steering wheel in a way that keeps me involved in the sport and connected to my fans, my peers and my friends. It keeps me in the game and I enjoy the camaraderie a great deal.”
He will spend most of his time at the ESPN studios in Bristol, Conn., including an eight-day stint leading up to the Sprint Cup series-opening Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 26.
He said he has enjoyed spending time with his family during the hiatus the last few months.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a better place,” he said.
Craven is looking forward to the NASCAR season and feels it will again have its share of intrigue. Last season, Tony Stewart rallied in the last race to edge Carl Edwards for the series title. Edwards held the points lead until the final race. Jimmie Johnson had won the previous five points championships.
“I have tremendous appreciation for what Tony Stewart did last year,” said Craven. “I expect Jimmie Johnson to come back with a vengeance. Jeff Gordon still has some gas left in the tank and it’ll be interesting to see how Kasey Kahne fits in at Hendrick Motorsports. Then you always have the Dale [Earnhardt] Junior watch and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Mark Martin win a race at age 53.”
He is also interested to see how Carl Edwards rebounds after last year’s devastating loss to Stewart in the last race; Danica Patrick’s progress and if the Busch brothers, Kyle and Kurt, can overcome adversity and have good seasons.