RICKY RUDD --28-- Havoline Taurus (Finished 3rd) YOU SPUN EARLY AND CAME BACK. "We had a very fast race car. These guys built us a new car to come to Martinsville. We planned on testing a couple of weeks earlier, but that didn't work out, so...
RICKY RUDD --28-- Havoline Taurus (Finished 3rd)
YOU SPUN EARLY AND CAME BACK. "We had a very fast race car. These guys built us a new car to come to Martinsville. We planned on testing a couple of weeks earlier, but that didn't work out, so it was basically an unproven race car. It was very, very good. Early in the race, like lap four or five, I was working the high groove and he was on the bottom and he didn't give me a lot of room down the straightaway and he squeezed into me a little bit. I think his right-front fender cut the sidewall of my left-front tire and it was two laps down automatically right there. We had our work cut out for us. I was really surprised we were able to come back. We had a very, very fast race car to come from two laps down at Martinsville."
ANY CHANGES AT THAT POINT? "We didn't really make any changes. We didn't run long enough to know if we needed any changes because it was like lap four or five. It was really uncalled for. It wasn't on purpose, it was just hard racing and nobody was giving anybody room even that early in the race. But we came back and then we could get a break. We got boxed in several times in the pits and lost about eight or nine spots on pit road and that killed us. Then the last 80 laps on top of that, we had an alternator failure and had to turn all the brake blowers off and everything else on the car was turned off. We were just lucky to make it to the end of the race. I didn't think we were gonna see the checkered flag."
WHAT HAPPENED WITH THE ALTERNATOR? "The alternator really becomes more important here than any other track we go to other than maybe the road courses, but it recharges the battery. You've got a big drain here because we've got all these blower fans blowing on your brakes, you've got to blow air across your rear-end cooler and it draws a lot of amplage. So if you start losing an alternator, the car eventually won't run and the battery will go dead. The only way I caught it was that the car started skipping and popping about the middle of the straightaway. It sounded like it was hitting the rev limiter and I got to looking over there. I said, 'Wait a minute, we shouldn't be hitting the rev limiter,' so I flipped to the other ignition box and it still missed and popped. I looked over at the alternator and it was only sitting on about 10 volts and it should be sitting on about 13, so we were in trouble then. We just sort of shut down everything we could afford to shut down and really didn't know if we'd make it to the end of the race because the gear temperatures and everything were getting very hot. At the very end, my rear brakes were starting to fade a little bit, so it wasn't a real good finish. The car was very fast at the end, we just needed track position."
WOULD YOU RUN ON THE TRACK NEXT YEAR THE WAY IT IS NOW? "I think Clay went from a zero to a hero it looks like. I think everyone when they walked into this race track and looked at it they said, 'Why in the world did they mess with this track when we didnt' have any problems with it before?' Certainly there are other tracks on the circuit that could use a facelift, but Martinsville wasn't one you would include on that list.
"I'll be honest, I didn't expect the race to be like it was today. What it did was it took grip away from the bottom lane. It made the cars very slippery down there, so it made the top lane come in. So what it did was it evened the gap between the bottom lane and the top lane, so it probably made for better racing. Again, you couldn't get any acceleration or grip off the corner, so that forced you to start looking at the high road after about 15-20-30 laps. You wanted to run the high road to go easy on the tires, so I guess to sum it all up, the race track actually turned out to be very good for racing."
WOULD YOU HAVE HAD ANYTHING FOR KURT AT THE END? "We actually rebounded from the cut tire. We got those two laps back pretty quick, so I can't really blame the outcome of the race on that tire situation. We had poor track position and that was pretty much directly accountable for the pit stall that we had. We kept getting boxed in and had to put it in reverse and back up. When you have to back up in the pit stall, all of a sudden eight or nine of them go by you. That's what really got us in a hole, but, as far as overall fast cars, I don't think there was anything faster than what we had on the race track. Heck, we're pleased to get back to finish third. I would have liked to have seen another caution come out and had one more chance to restart, but the race ended. We raced Johnny early in the race and we ran pretty good with Johnny, but congratulations to Kurt. He won the race and we finished third and I'm kind of happy to end up third with all the troubles we had."
IS IT SURPRISING TO SEE A DRIVER WIN FROM 36TH? "It doesn't really surprise me. If you go back and look at the history of this race, you'd probably see that nobody had won from that far back on the starting grid, but this race is pretty famous for getting the fenders torn off of something early in the race and the guys goes all the way back to dead last and comes back to win the race. I've seen it happen several times, but looking at the actual starting grip and looking at where people finish, I guess results speak for themselves. Your pit strategy, somewhere along that line you have to take a gamble -- stay out or change rights only. There has to be some gamble move in there in that sequence to get you track position because I don't think you can race on the track all the way from the back to the front no matter how fast you are. You've got to have some kind of a break, some kind of a good strategy call to get you back up front."
DID YOU PASS INSIDE OR OUTSIDE? "We went both sides. The track was pretty good for that. You could pick an inside corner or outside, but it seemed like after we ran a while everybody moved to the top of the race track and I was kind of happy because our car went extremely good on the bottom. It was like they moved out of your way and it was two different race tracks. I was racing on the bottom and they were racing on the top. We passed a lot of cars today, but most of them were in the second groove. You didn't have to work that hard coming through traffic like maybe you would have in the past."
WHAT HELPED YOU GET THOSE TWO LAPS BACK? "Getting cautions right early in the race when you needed them. Our car was extremely fast. We checked out and had about a straightaway lead on the leader. We couldn't have done it had we not had a fast race car, but, again, having the caution flags fall at the right time early in the race to get us back into the race without having to wait until the end. We were able to make them up within 100 laps."