Craven will only drive No. 32 once more

Updated: September 2, 2004, 9:21 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

HICKORY, N.C. -- Bobby Hamilton Jr. will take over the No. 32 PPI Motorsports Ford beginning this weekend in the Pop Secret 500 at California Speedway, the team announced Thursday.

Ricky Craven, who has been with PPI since 2001, will come back to drive the car one last time in the Nextel Cup Series race at New Hampshire International Speedway on Sept. 19.

But after that, the Tide car will be all Hamilton Jr.'s as they get a jump on preparing him for the ride in 2005.

"We are very grateful Ricky Craven chose to allow us the opportunity to get a head start on the 2005 season and let us put Bobby Hamilton, Jr. behind the wheel of the No. 32 car," said owner Cal Wells III.

"This will give Bobby Jr. and the team a chance to work together for the remaining events to build a foundation for next season. We are also very excited to be taking Ricky back to New Hampshire this fall."

Craven sits 34th in the Nextel Cup standings and hasn't finished a race in the top 10 all season. He always will be remembered for his .002-second victory over Kurt Busch in a 2003 race that is the closest finish since NASCAR began using electronic scoring in 1993.

Mike Beam will continue as crew chief for the No. 32 team for the rest of the '04 season, the team said. Harold Holly, who will serve as crew chief for Hamilton Jr. in 2005 for the No. 32 team, will also play a role in his transition with PPI Motorsports this season.

"Harold has already made considerable contributions to next year's program," said Wells. "We had announced previously that Harold and Bobby Jr. would start testing under the PPI Motorsports banner, and Harold has been working on building cars for Bobby Jr. in preparation. We understand Harold has obligations to his current employer and do not want to distract him from his duties. However, Harold will be atop the pit box on race day to acclimate both himself and Bobby Jr. to the organization."

Hamilton Jr. has 20 Nextel Cup starts, including six in the No. 09 car during the 2004 season.