Crawford Composites shows continued success
DENVER – When the drivers hit the track last weekend in Daytona, every car on the track was equipped with rear wings made in Denver.
Crawford Composites specializes in carbon fiber parts for the racing industry, including the Rolex 24, a 24-hour race that took place in Daytona, Fla., Jan. 28-29.
“That was great,” Chief Designer Andy Scriven said. “It really means a lot to us.”
While Crawford is the primary wing supplier to the Grand-Am Road Racing Series, they also make carbon fiber parts for the aerospace and marine industries, as well as the military.
Transplanted New Zealand natives Max and Jan Crawford founded the Denver company in 1988 and built it from the ground up. They had to do it that way predominantly because carbon fiber technology wasn’t readily available in the 1980s, according to Jan Crawford.
“It was pretty awful at the beginning,” she said. “There weren’t any books or anything available. But it’s a technology that develops and grows constantly and we’ve just kept refining it over 20 odd years.”
When Scriven came to Crawford in 1999, manufacturing carbon fiber products for teams was one of the goals, but wasn’t the only thing on his mind.
“Max and I decided we wanted to build our own sports car to go down to Daytona to race in the 24-hour down there,” Scriven said. “We designed and built that first car. It took quite a while because the company was smaller then, but we had some success in that car.”
Crawford was the first privately-owned company in America to make a complete carbon car chassis. It had previously only been done in Europe.
Crawford continued running cars in the Grand-Am series and had significant success, winning 11 races over a 10-year period. Some of NASCAR’s best drove in a Crawford car during that time, including Rusty Wallace, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson and defending Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart. Female driver Danica Patrick also drove for Crawford.
But, while they enjoyed tremendous success, Crawford couldn’t ever win the Super Bowl of the Grand-Am series, the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
“In 2004, we had Stewart and Earnhardt Jr. in the car for that race,” Scriven said. “We like to say we won the Daytona 23 and 3/4 that year. Fifteen minutes left out of a 24-hour race and it all went wrong.”
Because every car in the 2012 Rolex 24 had a Crawford wing on it, Scriven and the Denver company technically had a hand in the final outcome, but that doesn’t quite compare to what Scriven’s team almost accomplished in 2004.
“That doesn’t make up for it,” Scriven said. “That would be about like manufacturing the footballs used in football matches.”
The team ran cars in the Grand-Am series until 2009 when the economy went on a downward spiral.
Jan Crawford said her company had once grown to 72 employees, but after the economy tanked, they shut down the racing portion to focus on the composite manufacturing side of things. They now have 35 employees.
“We’re focusing on our core business right now,” Jan Crawford said. “Motor racing is our passion, that’s what we’ve done for the last 40 years.”
Scriven is more than happy designing parts for teams, but also wouldn’t mind fielding a team again.
“We would just have to get the proper funding,” he said. “We want to go there and be capable of winning. If we can’t do that, we don’t want to go and make up the rest of the field.”
For more information on Crawford Composites, call 704-483-4175.