Ford Note: Matt Kenseth and Ricky Rudd are not part of the Budweiser Shootout, but they still had plenty to talk about during Thursday's NASCAR Media Day. Kenseth is coming off a second-place finish in last year's standings while Rudd is...
Ford Note: Matt Kenseth and Ricky Rudd are not part of the Budweiser Shootout, but they still had plenty to talk about during Thursday's NASCAR Media Day. Kenseth is coming off a second-place finish in last year's standings while Rudd is returning to Robert Yates Racing after a one-year hiatus.
RICKY RUDD -- No. 88 Snickers Ford Fusion
WHAT DOES DAYTONA MEAN TO YOU? "It's a big event -- always has been. It's a little bit intimidating when you get here for the first time. I don't know if that gets any better. It's still a big place, a big event, a big race, so you know it's a very important race when you get here."
HAVE YOU MISSED THE MEDIA ATTENTION? "That wasn't bad. I missed that a little bit. I don't know about this marathon media deal, that's another issue, but, no, I missed the fans, missed the competition and missed you guys, too."
HOW ARE THINGS AT RYR? "Actually pretty good. I wasn't there and didn't see. They took a big downfall last year and really struggled as everyone knows. I wasn't there during that time, but there's a lot of guys that were there when I was there earlier in my career and a lot of new guys. I'm getting to know everybody's faces, but from what I've seen I'm lucky. I'm stepping in at an opportune time because they did kind of hit the bottom there and now they're rebounding and on the way back up. I'm catching it when it's on the way back up, so I'm pretty lucky about that. I like what I see so far. The teams are good. They work good together. They're good, solid top-10 cars right now."
DO YOU SEE A BIG DIFFERENCE NOW THAT YOU'RE BACK? "I don't really see a huge amount of difference. I'm coming back. It doesn't really seem like it's been a year off. I know there was a skip year there, but it doesn't really seem that way to me. I guess you get to my age and you get into racing, you get to take a year off. You need more time to recharge your batteries, but because we've been so busy -- I've been in a race car quite a bit -- probably six or seven times with all the testing we've been doing -- it really doesn't feel much different. You used to always come to Daytona and it always seemed like, 'OK, we've had a pretty good sized break.' It seems that way, it's just that the break was a little extended."
WHAT DID YOU DO DURING YOUR TIME OFF? "As little as possible. One thing we didn't do was travel much . That's probably the unfortunate downside. I wish if you could change something it would be that we don't have to travel as much as we do, but that's part of it. A lot of guys like it, I've just been more of a homebody, but you sort of take the good and the bad together."
WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE SAID IF SOMEONE SAID YOU'D RACE AGAINST TOYOTA SOME DAY? "I probably would have been pretty shocked because it was always American car companies, but the car industry in general has changed. It's not what it used to be. With all the foreign makes now, and a lot of them being made in the states, it's a lot different than it used to be. Just from a NASCAR standpoint, when I came along it was sort of a good old boy, good old south sport and I would have said you're crazy that we would be racing Toyotas one day."
ANY IDEA HOW THE REAL FORD FAN MIGHT REACT? "I don't know. They might see it as a threat. I guess all of us have parents or grandparents that fought in the war, but even a lot of those guys are driving foreign cars. I don't know. I hear different sides of it. I hear guys that say, 'Hey, since I was a kid I drove foreign cars and it's no big deal to me.' Then on the other side you get guys, 'Well, I'll never go to another race again. They've got foreign cars in that race, I'm not going back,' so I hear both sides of it."
DID YOUR FAMILY HAVE A CAR MAKE? "My dad was a big Ford guy, so I guess there were a lot of Fords in our family. But my dad also would rebuild wrecked cars, so we had a little bit of everything. He wasn't real proud to have one or the other, just whichever one he could build or make money on, so we got a chance to see a lot of different car makes."
KYLE PETTY WAS TALKING ABOUT GUYS GETTING THEIR BREAK IN THEIR LATE TWENTIES OR THIRTIES YEARS AGO. WILL WE EVER SEE THAT AGAIN? "Actually, their real breaks would come when they were way into their mid to late thirties. When I came into the sport in the mid-seventies, there were only a handful of really good cars. You had Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough and Bobby Allison -- a handful of those guys -- but the car owners they drove for -- the cars you could actually get in and win in -- there were probably five or less teams that would fit that bill. I was 18 years old, one of the youngest guys at the time to come in and drive a Cup race, and at that particular time it didn't matter how much talent I had, I wasn't gonna get Richard Petty's ride until Richard Petty decided he was gonna retire. Or you weren't gonna get a David Pearson and the list goes on. You came into the sport driving c-rated equipment. If you showed well enough there, you'd eventually get a shot at b-rated equipment, and then if you could play the waiting game -- maybe many years down the road -- and a-team might open up, but, again, now you've got a whole list of A teams available. It's just a different time and a different era.
"Through that, there's always been very talented 18 year old drivers out there, but they never got a chance to showcase their talent, and if they did get a chance, when they stepped into a Cup team, they didn't have a multiple team background, it was a single-car operation, so now 18 year old drivers when they stepped in their car at 18 they can still go fast, but they didn't have the depth of knowledge it took to get the cars handling, to get the feedback so the crew chiefs could get them adjusted. Now an 18 year old can step into a car that's one of three or four in the fleet, so when he steps in, he doesn't have to learn how to set a car up, he can drive a car that's set up properly to begin with and go out there and do great things with it. He just has to learn one thing and that's how to drive or how to adjust his driving to fit the car, so it's a different era. When I came along at 18, there was talented guys, but they didn't have the knowledge or the background to get the cars handling and that's where they suffered. Again, it's a great opportune time for young guys to come into the sport. I see them coming in younger and a majority of them will probably be done when they're in their mid-thirties. They'll be doing something different."
IT'S GOING TO TAKE ALL AFTERNOON TO QUALIFY ON SUNDAY. HOW MUCH DIFFERENCE IS IT GOING TO BE AS FAR AS CONDITIONS? "At certain race tracks that's not a big deal, but there are going to be other tracks like Charlotte or Indianapolis -- usually they qualify at 10:30 or 11 in the morning and if you get a late draw there now it's bad enough, and now you're gonna be into the hot afternoon. It's gonna make a difference. I don't know what you can do. The only thing you can do to really fix that is to put them all under the lights or put them all early in the morning -- have them go off at nine o'clock or eight o'clock and have them all done by 10 when you don't really see a big temperature shift, but it can be some issues because you've got some really good teams that are gonna be going home this year. It's just terrible that they don't get an even shot at competing. It's gonna be tough under pressure, but to have a car that's capable of making the field get a bad draw and now you miss the field, that's gonna be tough to take."
THAT WON'T MAKE MUCH DIFFERENCE HERE? "I don't think you'll see that at Daytona. The speeds are sort of what they are. What you do have to watch out for is the wind situation. The winds shifts make a bigger difference than the temperature shift at Daytona. Tracks where you really have to handle at, it's more of a temperature-related situation."
SOME BIG NAMES MAY NOT MAKE THE RACE. "Yeah, we sort of saw this -- I guess it was about five or six years ago when you'd have 50-65 cars show up at an event. We've seen this in the past, but we probably have never seen this many good drivers and teams that are not locked into the points situation with a real chance of going home. Somebody is gonna go home. In days in the past the guys that went home would generally, not always, but generally the guys who didn't have the big budgets. Now you're gonna have some big budget teams go home and that's probably the first time in the sport's history you've had the depth of quality teams that are gonna be going home."
DOES THAT MAKE IT MORE INTERESTING OR DOES IT SEEM UNFAIR? "It depends if you're locked into that top 35. If you're not, it can be pretty nerve-wracking. I know a couple of years ago with the Wood Brothers we fell out of the top 35 and I think we had to go to one or two races that we weren't guaranteed a spot. I can remember going to Martinsville, Virginia and it changed my whole perspective on qualifying. We would usually got to Martinsville and shoot for the pole, but then you've really got to be smart and say, 'Wait a minute, if I screw this up, which is easy to do because you're going for a pole and hanging it out and sometimes you make it and sometimes you don't. If I screw up just the least little bit, then I'm going home. I'm not just gonna go start 35th or 40th, I'm gonna go home, so it changes your philosophy on how to attack the race track."
HOW MUCH DOES THAT DYNAMIC FIGURE INTO THE QUALIFYING RACES? "It really could change the outcome. What's really gonna determine that as we get into Speedweeks and get into qualifying, you can still be locked in on your speed. So say you're a new team and with all the big names and such that you've got, there's more pressure to really go out there and cut a fast lap because you can always fall back on that insurance lap. Suppose you run the 150 and you have trouble, you still have another shot, besides the points deal you refer back to the speeds. I'm not sure exactly where that break is, but there's a lot of emphasis on putting up a fast number. I'm sure a lot of the new teams that are here, with the teammate situation and so on, I would imagine there has been swapping of race cars. Guys that are locked into the points might be giving up their faster car to a teammate that doesn't have a fast car in the test down here. I can see that going on quite a bit."
WHY IS THERE ALWAYS CONTROVERSY HERE? IS IT BECAUSE YOU'RE HERE FOR 10 DAYS INSTEAD OF THREE? "No, because I think it sells newspapers and it gets airtime, so I think that's the big reason."
-credit: ford racing