Martinsville II: Ricky Rudd preview

RICKY RUDD: "What we found out was that what we had last time was pretty good. We think we might be a little bit better when we come back." Forty-three percent of Ricky Rudd's 870 career starts have resulted in top-10 finishes; 20 of his...

RICKY RUDD:  "What we found out was that what we had last time was pretty
good.  We think we might be a little bit better when we come back."

Forty-three percent of Ricky Rudd's 870 career starts have resulted in top-10 finishes; 20 of his 373 career top-10s have occurred at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, site of Sunday's Subway 500. Rudd has three victories and four poles at the difficult paperclip-shaped track, and finished seventh there in April. He heads into this weekend's race with back-to-back top-10s at Charlotte (ninth) and Kansas (ninth). This week the Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus driver talks about the team's early October tire test at Martinsville, the 10 tracks in the Nextel Chase for the Championship, the possibility of foreign car makes in NASCAR, and the "car of tomorrow."

RICKY RUDD - No. 21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus - You participated in a tire test at Martinsville the first of this month. How did that go? "We did a lot of laps, I think nearly 700 laps in two days. It's not the same as having a private test. But I think it was helpful. We took the car back that we ran seventh in there earlier this year with a very similar setup to what we had in the spring. That was a good solid run. It wasn't a winning car, but it was a good top-10 car or an outside chance for a top-five. When you run a test for Goodyear, you basically get to the track and have about 30 minutes to get your car dialed in where you are happy with it and can run consistent laps. And then Goodyear begins the test. You run a lot of laps, mainly looking for stuff on the tires for next year to see if they are better than what we have now. So we ran many, many laps. The downside is the test went right into the late afternoon. At the end we did make some short runs on our own. So we got a chance to sort of tweak the setup just a little bit. What we found out was that what we had last time was pretty good. We think we might be a little bit better when we come back. I can tell you where every crack and bump is at Martinsville now."

If you could choose, what 10 tracks would you want to go to for the Chase for the Championship? "I never really thought about. I guess I never looked at it like that because I don't have a vote in choosing them. I'd hate to think that if I was in the top-10 and had to go run Talladega. That would be a nightmare for me with the current rule situation and the way everyone is grouped together. You can't control what happens there. You can't control your destiny at all, where you have some say at other tracks. I don't think a road course is in that mix. I would definitely put one road course into the final 10."

What do you think about the foreign car makes coming into NASCAR? "I don't know. I guess I grew up when it wasn't even a consideration. We thought we'd never see a foreign car in our series. But, on the other side of that, the owners are very hungry for money. These cars eat large sums of money. I don't know enough about what Toyota has done in truck racing, but I do know that the bar will be raised. A certain amount of teams will be funded much more heavily than they are now, and it will put pressure on General Motors, Dodge and Ford to step up to the plate. If not, I see them losing good teams. I think eventually it will bring money into the sport. It could turn things upside down. There is one thing about this sport that you don't see in others. There is a very strong sanctioning body. If you look at what has happened in other series, and I don't know if there is a direct relationship to the manufacturers, but all of those other series are in trouble to a certain extent. I think NASCAR learned a big lesson years ago, long before I came along, when factories were the main form of support and then they pulled out. The sport nearly disintegrated when that happened. I think the Frances made a decision right then that they would never let the manufacturers get that strong again. They weren't going to allow them to have that kind of control again because it nearly devastated the sport when they pulled out."

What about the "car of tomorrow"? "I know there has been a lot of work on it. It is concept that is being worked on, and a few of the things I've heard about are good. I'm sure a lot of good things will come out of it. I guess I think about it from my car owner days and how expensive it is when you have to start throwing things into the trashcan and starting all over again. But, I think there are major things going into that car that I don't know about."

-wbr-

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Series NASCAR Sprint Cup