Rudd tries to summon Sears Point magic By Shawn A. Akers SONOMA, Calif. (June 24, 1998) Sears Point Raceway has been a magical place in the past for Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 10 Tide Ford. Rudd will once again try to...
Rudd tries to summon Sears Point magic By Shawn A. Akers SONOMA, Calif. (June 24, 1998)
Sears Point Raceway has been a magical place in the past for Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 10 Tide Ford.
Rudd will once again try to draw upon those "mystical powers" this weekend in the Save Mart/Kragen 350 at the 1.95-mile road course to help pull him out of a season-long slump in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.
Rudd sits an uncharacteristic 25th in the series point standings midway through the season. He's managed only one top-10 finish in 1998, a sixth-place performance at Dover Downs in the MBNA 400.
At nine career starts at Sears Point, however, he has four Bud Poles, one victory (1989), and six top-five finishes.
"I think the key out there is to get a good starting position," said Rudd, who won Bud Poles for this race in 1990, '91, '92 and '95. "We've sat on a lot of poles out there and a lot of front row starting spots that help with the traffic situations. It's a slippery little tight race track, and you've just gotta drive it hard all day.
"We've been fortunate over the years to have a good car and good equipment and be able to keep it up front all day. It gets a little harder each time we go out. A lot of guys, you run that same track and, through repetition, you end up learning how to drive the track, so the competition gets a little keener each year we go out there."
Rudd didn't even see a road course in his first six years of NASCAR Winston Cup Series competition. It wasn't until 1981 that he drove his first road race. He qualified third in that race, and was running third behind Bobby Allison in the last eight laps when his engine failed.
Since then, however, he's become an accomplished road course racer.
"I think my background as a kid racing go-karts on big road courses just like Riverside and tracks like a Sears Point probably helped, but you didn't have a gear box to deal with, but you did have left-right corners," Rudd said. "Then, in motorcycles later on when I raced on dirt, that taught you how to change your line a little bit and you had to deal with your gear box a little bit there. I guess it was preparing me for the cars, and I didn't even know it."
Prior to driving his first road course race 16 years ago, Rudd, like many others before and after him, took a road course driving course at the Bob Bondurant Driving School in Phoenix.
Rudd said he hasn't seen the new layout at Sears Point Raceway, which in effect has reduced the road course by a half-mile and by one turn, but that he's talked with drivers that have tested there.
"It's gonna be a little bit different, but I don't think a lot of practice will help you for it," said Rudd, who will try to rebound from finishes of 37th and 41st in his last two starts. "I think it's gonna make the track a lot easier. It took out some harder sections of the race track. I used to make a lot of time from Turn 1 to the point you came out on that carousel on the drag strip. I used to really make a lot of time through that section, so it's changed that quite a bit now."
Source: NASCAR Online