RICKY RUDD - No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus (Finished 3rd) HOW DO YOU FEEL? "I'm real happy that we've got this race under out belt and behind us. You've got to remember the big picture. This is mainly a qualifying race. It's an important race, but...
RICKY RUDD - No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus (Finished 3rd)
HOW DO YOU FEEL? "I'm real happy that we've got this race under out belt and behind us. You've got to remember the big picture. This is mainly a qualifying race. It's an important race, but it's a qualifying race for us. I think by virtue of our speed, fifth-fastest on the time chart the other day coming into the 500, we were pretty much guaranteed a locked-in spot, so our goal was to stick to the gameplan and try to tag along there. We saw the right opportunity to try to go for the win, but that opportunity never came up. But I'm real pleased with this finish today."
HOW DID THE PIT STOP AFFECT THE RACE? "I don't think it was a major factor. We were lucky that we came in and our guys had a good stop. We came back out on the race track about where we pitted. We came back out in that same position. I think we came in third and went out third, so our guys hit their stop really good. I can't speak for the rest of the field, but it really didn't change our outcome any. We debated about getting tires or no tires and right before the race started we decided to put on two tires regardless, just mainly to let a couple of the new guys working in get used to going over the wall together. They had a real good stop. I don't know what it was, but we maintained position and that was really good."
WHAT ABOUT COMING OFF PIT ROAD WITH THE 31? "It really wasn't so much Robby, I guess it was Jeff Green. I guess he wanted to get lined up with his teammate really, really bad. I noticed it put a mark on our car and marked his car up a little bit. It was probably a little more aggressive of a move that maybe needed to take place. We didn't need our fenders knocked off and he didn't either. We broke away. It was all gonna sort itself out. I was gonna let the fast guys pull us around there because the main objective at that time was not racing each other, it was racing that pack behind us. That was the main purpose of working together like that. I'm not really sure. That was not a real smart move on his part, but everything else, everybody worked really good together. I think his adrenaline must have been going really, really high. We were sort of on cruise control at that point and it wasn't time to get too excited. But it ended up not being a factor."
DID IT HURT YOUR CAR? "No, it didn't hurt it. I thought it might have because it hit pretty good. I thought it might have caved the fender in, but he also had a chance to hurt his fender too. I don't really understand it, but it all worked out and ended up not being a factor."
DID YOU PIT SOONER THAN EXPECTED? "I think we talked before the race. I think we could have gone a little bit farther. I think Pat may have worked it out with some of the other Roush cars that were gonna pit around the same time. You wanted to be careful and not pit by yourself. You needed some guys to run with. That was a little early, but the key there was not pitting by yourself and you also didn't really want to pit with 15 guys tripping over each other trying to get into pit road. So that was not a factor for us. But that was set before the race, that number. I guess anywhere after lap 15 or so you could have pitted, but a couple of them got together and decided about lap 32."
WHAT ABOUT THE GREEN FLAG RACING WITH THE SMALLER TANK? "It looks right now like it's here to stay. I guess it can be a factor. You guys saw it, I didn't. Did anybody have a problem or get left behind? It still looked like the same big pack that was there the time before. It does tend to put pressure on the pit crew. I kind of like the format, especially in the 125. Will it be a factor in the 500? Will it change things? It's really surprising me that we've been able to put two tires on these cars and have the cars still handle well. I really figured when we came in with the small fuel cell that guys would be putting on four tires at a time. At Talladega, everybody did two tires just as we have seen at Daytona. If the track continues to get greasier like it normally does by the time the 500 gets here, you might see four-tire stops. I don't think the small fuel cells seem to be breaking the fields up like maybe everyone anticipated, unless we go to four-tire stops. That's yet to be determined. Right now, the track has got good grip and we haven't seen a need for it. Sunday might be a different story. If your car is not handling, you've got to put four tires on, but nobody can afford to it now because they'll get a half-lap behind. It hasn't changed things a lot yet, but it may still be a factor in the 500."
WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO RUN WITH DEI AND RCR ON SUNDAY? "I think there are two DEI and three Childress cars, so I guess we probably need five cars to break down so we can win. They all seem to be pretty good. I'm sure they've worked hard. They've come up with some kind of a combination that works. Their cars are really racy. They look like they drive good and they're definitely fast in the straightaway. We haven't seen Michael run yet, but I think he'll be a carbon copy of how good Dale, Jr's. car is. Gordon's car, he doesn't seem to be the powerhouse that he's been in years past. That's what maybe surprises me a little bit. I don't think we've seen a whole lot of Jimmie Johnson just yet. Terry Labonte looked pretty strong in the shootout, but it seems like the dominant cars are the DEI cars and the Childress cars."
DO THE CHEVYS HAVE AN EDGE? "To be honest with you, I'm just so tickled to finish and to be running like we are down here this week. I had my fill of controversy last year. I'm gonna leave this up to Dale Jarrett or somebody and let them argue that point a little bit. The results are what they are. Is it because they're Chevrolets or is it because those teams have hit on something? At this point, I don't know. I'd be real interested to see what Dale Jarrett or Jeff Burton had to say."
WERE PIT STOPS PRE-DETERMINED? "Like I said, our guys kind of got together and I think it's like, 'If we're running out there together, let's pick some lap that we're gonna pit on.' Like I said, our number was set before the race - 32. I don't know if we knew half the field was gonna pit about two laps later. I don't know if we knew that or not, but it worked out pretty good. It kept pit road from being too busy. If it worked like that on a plan, it went awfully smooth, but I don't think it was planned. I think everybody set some number."
IS IT HARD TO PASS? "I pretty much played defense. I didn't really get a big chance to make an offensive run - maybe twice that whole run did I have that chance. I think the biggest thing you saw was the outside line did not move forward when cars tried to pass on the outside. That tended to keep the race more single-file. I think it has something to do with that tremendous wind down the backstretch. I think it's a pretty big headwind. If anybody got in that outside lane, it looked like they went backwards. We'll see. It really was a strange race. It was a lot different than I expected. I thought it would be three-wide and two-wide. It got like that at times, but this race is kind of tricky. You've got a short period of time, you've got that transfer spot in mind, and you look in your mirror and you've got 12-14 cars all running together. If you make a move, you go back to 14th and nobody wanted to do that. I think it kept people more in line today than in year's past."