Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 28 Havoline Taurus, was part of the Winston Breakfast Club press conference earlier today at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Rudd talked about this weekend's race and also updated his status for next season. RICKY...
Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 28 Havoline Taurus, was part of the Winston Breakfast Club press conference earlier today at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Rudd talked about this weekend's race and also updated his status for next season.
RICKY RUDD --28-- Havoline Taurus
ARE YOU AND YOUR TEAMMATE PRETTY STOUT THIS WEEKEND?
"We had a good test here. The Havoline team had a real good test and I know Dale had a good test. I'm not sure about Jeff, but he runs good everywhere. Don't tell me that we're coming to Indianapolis and Jeff Gordon is an underdog. There's something wrong with that story. I'm not quite sure, something seems wrong with that. But, no, we had a good test. I think the big variable this weekend is this is a different Indy track that we've run on in the past. I know the Indy cars ran here and it probably wasn't much of a big deal for them, but the surface of this race track has been ground. I think they call it diamond grinding and it presented a few problems when we first got here for the Cup cars, but what I did notice was we made several runs on race setup and the track didn't seem to be that much different in the heat of the day from the coolness of the morning. The track was pretty fast all day long. I think it's gonna make for -- not to mention the grip which is gonna make for, hopefully, we won't hear a whole lot about the aero push being as bad as it has been here in the past. I think the track has given the cars better grip. I think the result of that is gonna be a better race that you'll see here on Sunday."
WITH THE HISTORY OF THIS TRACK, IS IT BIGGER THAN GOING TO DAYTONA?
"I think stock car racing, obviously, Daytona carries a lot of weight for me. I've never been fortunate enough to be able to compare the two of them. I've been fortunate enough to have won a Brickyard 400 but never a Daytona 500, so I think Dale and Jeff could probably answer that better than I could. It's a big event -- not only for the competitors but for the crew members. They get real excited about Indy. There's no holding back. You've got your favorite best car that you've saved for this race I know that."
WILL EXPERIENCE HELP HERE WITH THE SAFER BARRIER?
"I think the retaining wall, obviously coming here to the speedway a lot of people have been talking about soft wall technology. This is the first speedway that has actually put it in place, so you have to commend the guys for doing that, and also NASCAR. They've got a very extensive program researching these walls. I wasn't aware that there was that much technically involved to build a soft wall until, I guess when we were here testing about a month ago. We were briefed on all the different safety things NASCAR's got going on right now and one of them is the soft wall technology. It's a pretty involved process. What works here might not necessarily work at New Hampshire. The shape of the wall, everything makes quite a bit of difference, but what they do know from here is that these walls have been tested with the Indy cars. I think they had to go back, if I'm not mistaken, and actually change some of the things that were part of the wall process from Indy cars to stock cars because of the weight difference in the cars. So, to answer your question, it's nice to know that you have a little added safety if you happen to have a problem. If it doesn't hold up or doesn't work, the worst case scenario is that it's back to the hard wall that we would have hit here in the past. It's nice to know you've got a little bit of a security blanket here."
IS THIS PLACE TOUGHER AS FAR AS PIT STRATEGY THAN OTHER PLACES? "I think Bobby pretty much covered it other than the fact that this year the tires have been so good that it's really more about fuel strategy than it is about getting tires to make your car handle better. New tires and old tires, there's no real advantage or disadvantage with the tires because track position becomes more important. I think you'll see a continuation of that on Sunday. I think once you get into a window where you can get your car full of fuel and make it the distance to the end of the race, I don't think you'll see anybody hardly hit pit road with the way it's been. Track position is the determining factor more than anything else."
CAN YOU UPDATE YOUR SITUATION?
"I wouldn't say it changes daily, but it's under construction as we speak. It's not a done deal by any means. Nothing has been signed. We're marching forward trying to get things worked out for next year and, hopefully, we can give you guys an answer so you can get your stories written and be done with it."
ANY SURPRISES THIS SEASON?
"Everything has been kind of predictable with the exception of probably a couple deals. One of them is the Jimmie Johnson situation. I figured he'd run good, but here it is halfway through the season and he's still up there in the championship points, so he's been a surprise. Certainly I figured they would run good, but you kind of figured they wouldn't be there for the long haul, but a couple of those guys are still right up there in points. So I'd say those are probably the two surprises this season."
AT WHAT POINT DO YOU THINK THINGS WILL BE RESOLVED?
"Hopefully by five o'clock. No, things are in the works as we speak. I'll be glad to talk to you guys one-on-one. I don't want to hold these guys up because this could go on forever, but a lot of this is out of my control. It's a pretty complicated situation. Hopefully when all the smoke clears, maybe you'll say, 'Man, I understand why it took so long to get things worked out.' I'll be glad to talk to you guys one-on-one."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE BIGGER GREENHOUSE CAR IDEA?
"I think certainly you could make the greenhouse bigger. It's gonna help the guys that are big. I know Michael Waltrip and Steve Park -- he had a pretty hard time getting out of his race car and he's a pretty big boy, so as the cars become more modern, it seems like they've gotten smaller and smaller meaning the cockpit area of the car. So I think, obviously, you could build a big greenhouse car so guys can get in and out of the window better, but what's it gonna do for racing? I don't know."
ONE-ON-ONE SESSION -- CAN YOU EXPAND ON YOUR CURRENT SITUATION?
"It's not done. It's not a done deal. I would say it's far from being a done deal, but it's not a done deal. Of course, before you can sign anything you've got to have some papers to sign. I know there have been some conversations trying to get the details worked out, but it may or may not happen. First of all, you've got to look at where I'm at with Yates. If the Yates deal didn't work out, where do I go? Well, to be honest with you, the Yates deal has never really been an option for me since probably late May. As much as I was trying to hold onto the fact, seeing how the pieces of the puzzle are coming together now, I don't think that was ever an option for me. So, I'm having to look at the best opportunity I can go to with the best team situation I can go to so we can hopefully come out of the box and be competitive right away. That's what I've done. I've looked at all the opportunities out there."
COULD THE TEXACO SPONSORSHIP GO TO GANASSI?
"I'm not gonna comment on that because I don't control that. I don't steer that. Unfortunately, I guess there's nobody here from Texaco to fill you in on what's going on there. It's my understanding that Texaco had another year with Robert Yates Racing." WERE YOU JOKING WHEN YOU LOOKED AT YOUR WATCH? IS THERE A CHANCE WE COULD HEAR SOMETHING TODAY?
"I probably shouldn't have said that, but let me say this. It's been an ongoing negotiation process -- not negotiation but call it kicking the tires if you will. I've been to a lot of different race teams looking at what they've got going on and, I guess, somewhat out of greed or self concern is what operation is the best operation I could possibly go to -- that I could come out of the box and win races and, hopefully, challenge for a championship right out in year one. There's a lot of great opportunities out there and it's been a very tough process to sort of go through and figure out which one you think would be the best. I don't know that there's an exact right answer for that because there are a lot of good teams out there."
DOES ALL THIS UNCERTAINTY TAKE YOU OUT OF THE CHAMPIONSHIP HUNT?
"I think we're still there. I think you've got to look at our team performance. Up until last week at Pocono, since all of this has gotten going -- other than a win at Sears Point -- our performance obviously hasn't been up to the par that it was prior to all this. That's another reason for trying to keep this thing as clean as possible.
"Certainly, I'm not real happy with what's gone on within the team that I'm in, but the bottom line story is that my obligation with the Texaco Havoline race team or Robert Yates race team -- my contract was gonna be ending at the end of this year. So, technically, from that standpoint, Robert Yates didn't really owe me anything. It would have been nice to have had a clear-cut understanding or explanation of what his intentions were, but I'm hearing sort of a series of half-truths from Robert and I'm having to really piece this thing together from the media pieces that I've been reading about what's going on. I think what we do know is that Robert or some family member -- a cousin of Robert's -- probably signed Elliott Sadler as far back as late May as I suspected. What I didn't understand fully is if Robert was gonna run three teams or two teams. I didn't really understand that clearly until about probably a week to two weeks ago that it was only gonna be a two-team effort."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'RE BEING SHOWN THE OR?
"Well, my contract is ending and it's not gonna be renewed there at Yates Racing. So, again, as far as any obligations from that standpoint, Robert technically didn't owe me anything other than why are you breaking up a team that's successful on the race track. I felt like at least an off-the-record explanation of why is he destroying this race team. Again, I think he wanted to make it look like I was gonna walk and I was gonna leave. I held in there until the latest possible time I could and it's pretty obvious now that Yates Racing will only consist of two teams next year."
HAVE YOU BEEN GIVEN AN EXPLANATION ON WHY HE WOULD BREAK THE TEAM UP?
"It doesn't make sense to me, but, again, it's out of my control. I don't have any say-so over it. The thing that I've gotten tired of reading is all the distractionary bullcrap that's been said about this race team -- that he's destroying this race team. All Robert has to do is keep his mouth shut and let us go out there and run this race team the rest of year and try to win him a championship. But all this stuff about distraction -- the crew chief is fighting with the driver -- it's all nonsense. It's all nonsense to take the heat off him. He has another year on his contract with Texaco Havoline racing, it's his call. I can't speak for the sponsor, but there is no option year. Havoline has another year on their contract. I don't know the legalities, but I think a lot of this is dancing legal issues. That's what it's about." CAN WE ELIMINATE RETIREMENT AS AN OPTION?
"No, and the reason I say that is when you sort through all these teams that are out there, all of them have a tremendous amount of potential for success. The trouble with me is that I've got to go with a team that can come out of the box right away. I don't have three years. When I say building, I'm not building it by myself, but the team effort that it takes to get a team to the point where it can be competitive for a championship, you're talking about two or three years in most cases. If that could be short-cut and come out of the box in year one and be competitive, I'll look seriously at doing that. If it's gonna be a two or three year buildup process even though everybody means well, I don't have two or three years left in me to get it to that point and then step aside and give it to somebody. It's sort of like the situation we've got going now with where I'm at."
WHAT ABOUT THE PETREE-JERRY JONES DEAL?
"That's a team that's out there and needs a driver and that's obviously a team that I've talked with. As far as getting to the point of signing, I've looked at these teams and the more I look the more confused I get."
ARE YOU STILL SET ON ONE-YEAR CONTRACTS?
"That's never really been a hold up. With all the people I've been looking at and talked to, their philosophy is they would love to have me for a year. That is not a hold up."
IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT?
"Yeah, that's pretty much where I'm coming from I think. But, again, of all the teams that are available for next year, and there are five, six, seven of them -- of all the ones we've talked to, none of them are having any hang-ups with number one, money and number two, length and term of contract. The ball has really pretty much been in my court and to make up my mind on which one of these teams is the best one that I could come out of the box with. There's really been no issues on what we can agree or not agree on."