Rudd smiling after wild ride in Shootout By Bill Frederickson DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 13, 2000) A lot of things have changed for Ricky Rudd since the end of last season. He sold the race team he'd operated for years and joined Robert Yates ...
Rudd smiling after wild ride in Shootout By Bill Frederickson
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 13, 2000) A lot of things have changed for Ricky Rudd since the end of last season. He sold the race team he'd operated for years and joined Robert Yates Racing as driver of the No. 28 Texaco/Havoline Ford. And as Speedweeks continues at Daytona International Speedway, Rudd is already reaping the benefits of his new job.
He'll start the Daytona 500 from the second spot, joining teammate Dale Jarrett for an all-Yates front row. And in Sunday's Bud Shootout, Rudd raced among the leaders, looking like a serious threat for the win.
However, a spectacular last-lap accident relegated him to a 13th-place finish out of 15 cars. Even that, though, couldn't dampen the spirits of the popular Virginia native.
"I do feel bad for the guys who work on this thing," Rudd said. "But it is kind of nice to come down here and not have to worry about paying for a wrecked car."
Rudd was among the lead draft for most of the entire 25-lap, non-points dash for cash. And with the three laps to go, he thought he had a plan. Rudd intended to dive to the inside of Sterling Marlin, who was leading the race. He relayed his plan to the pit, and then to Jarrett.
But things can change quickly at Daytona, where straightaway speeds often reach 200 mph.
"At about the same time I was going to make my move inside, it got really jumbled up," Rudd said.
Marlin was slowed in Turn 2, as Jeff Gordon made a daring move underneath to take the lead. At that time, Marlin was forced up the track, causing Rudd to make his move earlier than expected.
"When I did that, Ken Schrader was behind Dale Jarrett, and things didn't work out like I expected," Rudd said. "So I got shuffled back a bit."
Rudd's plan had fallen apart, and instead of working together with his teammate, they were working against each other.
"The worst place we could be was beside each other," Rudd said. "We couldn't run nose-to-tail to help each other out."
But things quickly got worse for Rudd. As the lead pack entered Turn 4, competitors were slicing and dicing in an effort to reach Victory Lane.
"I was sitting in fourth when I saw a little hole and I thought I was going to squirt through and finish second or third," Rudd said. "I was just starting to relax a bit when all of a sudden I was sideways.
"Somebody got into me from behind. I don't know who or how it happened, but the next thing I know I was upside down."
Rudd climbed from the overturned Taurus and gave a wave to crowd, signaling he was OK. He made a mandatory visit to the infield care center and was greeted by a horde of media. But despite its appearance, Rudd said the wreck wasn't bad.
"It was weird," Rudd said. "I slid on my roof for a long time, and it was really never a hard hit.
"This one really looked bad, but it wasn't really nasty."
His wreck did look bad, but Rudd looked awfully good before his accident.
"The thing ran up front, we were challenging for the win and I couldn't be happier about that," Rudd said.
"I've never had a car run like this at Daytona. And the good thing is we've got another just like it for the 500, maybe even better. We're here to win the Daytona 500. Even though circumstances turned out the way they did, I'm really glad to have a car that can run up front at Daytona. It's been a long time since I've had something going like this."