Homestead: Rudd - Ford Friday interview

Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 88 Snickers Ford Fusion, will be making the 906th -- and final -- start of his NASCAR Nextel Cup Series career on Sunday. Before practice on Friday, the 1977 Rookie of the Year reflected on a career that spanned more...

Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 88 Snickers Ford Fusion, will be making the 906th -- and final -- start of his NASCAR Nextel Cup Series career on Sunday. Before practice on Friday, the 1977 Rookie of the Year reflected on a career that spanned more than 30 years. Rudd, who made his first series start in 1975, did not miss an event from 1981-2005, a span of 788 races -- and an all-time series record.

HOW ARE YOU LOOKING AT THIS WEEKEND? WITH ANTICIPATION? "Trying to get through it, that's how I look at it. No, probably the best way to look at it, it really hasn't sunk in. It's been kind of a crazy year, starting off we were struggling on the race track, and then getting hurt and then sitting out about five weeks and coming back. All of a sudden, the season's over with. Like I said, it's been a little struggle as a team, the last couple, three weeks. The team is getting ready for next year and we're kind of weak in personnel and such. But, anyway, we're kind of looking forward to getting this race done."

FROM A PERSONAL STANDPOINT, AS YOU LOOK BACK OVER THE YEARS, WILL THIS WEEKEND CONJURE UP A LOT OF THOSE MEMORIES? "It depends on how it turns out, I think. If it turns out good, it'll bring some memories. I don't know. As a driver, over the years, I guess, emotion-wise, I've had to sort of turn off the emotion switch and learn how to do that, I guess, and sometimes when you turn it off you kind of get cold-hearted, you don't think about things. But I'm sure that when the checkered flag it'll probably be a few emotions running there. But in the meantime, it's business as normal. I've turned off the emotion switch. I'm kind of numb to what's going to happen afterward."

TWO YEARS AGO, YOU RETIRED BUT YOU LEFT THE DOOR OPEN. DOES THIS TIME SEEM MORE PERMANENT? "The last time I was here in '05 was the last time I raced, I was going to leave the sport. I knew I was going to leave it for a year. I was very careful how I used my words. I never used the word retire, because I didn't really know if I could stay retired, so I never said retire, I said I'm going to take a year off, and I did that. And, as it turns out, I said, 'I think I'm going to give it one more try.' So, this go-round, in my mind when I said I want to take off a year, I was having some battles I was fighting with myself, but I didn't want to look wishy-washy to the public. I'm sure anybody who has had a full career in whatever they do, they battle these same little battles that I was battling. So, at the end of '05 I really wasn't sure, but I was real careful not to say retired. But this time I'm going to use the word retire because I kinow it's the right time. Coming back and running this season and probably having such a tough year probably helped make that decision, but I'm done. Good luck to everybody that's out there still racing, but I'm looking forward to the next chapter."

WHAT WILL YOUR OFF-SEASON LOOK LIKE? "A whole lot of nothing, really. Hanging around. I'm sure there will be a lot of things to do -- the Honey Do list I'm sure is pretty big right now. But, I'm looking forward to not really doing anything. We've got a little trip planned -- our vacation time sort of revolves around Landon and his school vacation time, but when he's out of school we'll be taking off, going somewhere, just enjoying ourselves as a family. But, right now, looking forward to not having to be on a schedule, unlike a driver today, their days are planned pretty much right ahead, not only just their days but down to the hour on their schedule, so I'm looking forward to not have a schedule to deal with."

HOW DO YOU THINK YOU'LL FEEL IN JANUARY WHEN THE CARS ARE TESTING AT DAYTONA? "This has been a major part of my life for 32 years, so to just sit here and say I won't miss it, that's a misstatement because I will miss it. I'll miss a lot of it. I'll miss getting ready for the Daytona 500, as I had done for so many years, but on the other side of the coin, I'm looking forward to not having to be on the schedule what follows the Daytona 500, which is a heck of a grind. When you live that life and you do it, it doesn't seem to be that difficult, but kind of when you step away a bit and you look back and you say, 'Man, I don't know how these guys do it.' Not just drivers, especially crew members. There's so much time spent on the road and before you know it, 30-some years of your life are gone. They're enjoyable years, but I also had 32 years go by, and I don't want to be sitting here and talking to you when I'm 80 years old, saying, 'Man, where did it go?' I'm very aware of that, so I'm going to try to make every day count when I'm retired. I'm not going to hang around and let too much grow under my feet. I'm going to be active, but I just don't know exactly what that's going to be."

DO YOU SEE YOURSELF PARKED ON A RECLINER OR COUCH WATCHING THE RACES ON SUNDAYS OR SATURDAY NIGHTS? "No. Probably TiVo or whatever some of these things, but the daytime is meant to be outdoors doing something, whether you're riding a dirt bike or just out enjoying outdoors. Inside, I'll catch up with them at nighttime somewhere along the way. But I think I probably will purposely stay away from it somewhat because I don't want to get the bug or the itch to come back again."

ANY REGRETS? "No, not really. I gave 120 percent my whole career. That's all anybody can do. We had some good things that came along the way, had a championship slip away from us maybe once or twice, but when it's all said and done with, yeah, it could have been a few things changed a little bit different, but I don't have too much to be non-thankful for because I had a pretty full career, 23, 24 wins, and probably when all the smoke clears -- someone reminded me, 'You were voted into the 50 greatest NASCAR drivers,' and you look back and that's a tremendous honor. I don't care where you go in life, there's always somebody that has done something and accomplished more things than I have. And then the next person can say the same thing about the next person. That never really stops, so I'm happy with the way things turned out."

-credit: ford racing

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Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Teams CIP