RICKY RUDD: "Where At Michigan, if you get a loose car or tight car, you have the availability there to move your groove around and run pretty fast." Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus, answers questions this...
RICKY RUDD: "Where At Michigan, if you get a loose car or tight car, you have the availability there to move your groove around and run pretty fast."
Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus, answers questions this week about Michigan International Speedway, site of this weekend's NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Batman Begins 400, and about whether racing luck ever evens out. Fans can send questions to Ask Ricky at his website (www.rickyrudd.com).
RICKY RUDD - No. 21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus - A number of drivers like racing at Michigan because it is a multi-groove track. Why is there more than one line at Michigan and not at many other tracks? "I'm not really sure why. I don't have an answer for that. You look at the nature of the race track, it's big, wide, sweeping corners. We run other tracks that have similar type of corners, but they never work out that way, you know? I think part of it, though, is that the asphalt has weathered over the years. But even when Michigan had new asphalt it wasn't a one-groove race track, it was a multi-groove track. But I noticed Atlanta is heading more like Michigan. It used to be a one-groove race track and now it's a multi-groove race track. All it is is the asphalt has weathered and the advantage of the grip on the bottom is the shortest way around, but the advantage sort of goes away. It's gotten bumpier on the bottom, so that's sort of equaled the grooves out. Where at Michigan, if you get a loose car or tight car, you have the availability there to move your groove around and run pretty fast. There's not too many of those race tracks left like that, and that's why I think everybody enjoys running it. It's a big race track, a wide race track, but it races as a big, wide race track. Some tracks are big and wide but they only race as a narrow track."
Will this year's shorter spoiler have any effect on the racing at Michigan? "I think the short spoiler has caught way too much heat for all the wrecks we've had this year. The wrecks I've seen are just over-aggressive driving at the wrong stages of the race and it's triggered chain reactions, and we've been a victim of many of those. I don't blame that on the spoiler, I just blame it on guys not using their heads. No, I don't see that at all at Michigan. The teams have all done a good job of adjusting for that spoiler, and, quite frankly, I can't tell too much of a difference. There's some little subtleties, but nothing major that you can tell, and all these teams seem to have adjusted real well for that spoiler. I'm wondering why all that money was spent to go with this new set of rules, to be honest."
This is a team that has experienced plenty of bad luck on the track this season. Is racing a sport where "luck" balances out at the end of the year? "I don't know. You look at a Kurt Busch last year, he won the championship and it was a good, solid, fast team, and probably deserved to win the championship, but then there were a lot of days that he would have a flat tire and the tire, instead of going flat, would come apart maybe, and when it did, debris would go on the race track and the caution would come out. There's bad luck that turned back around and followed with good luck. This year I've noticed he hasn't had that type of good luck yet. Our team, performance-wise, has been a really solid team and should be in the top 10-to-12 in the points right now. Bad luck is being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Causing wrecks is not bad luck, that's just poor judgment on drivers' parts. But, being swept up in multi-car wrecks - and Bobby Labonte is a good example, he's been in six, seven, eight of 'em, about like us, hasn't caused the first one as well as I know but he's been involved in 'em and that's a similar deal to what we've been involved in - now, that's bad luck. You used to be able to say that if you qualified up front you would eliminate your chances of being in those wrecks, but I don't think you can say that anymore. Some of the guys that have had good luck most of the year, all of a sudden now, are starting to have bad luck. You asked a simple question: Does is run in cycles, does the good wash out the bad and the bad wash out the good? I don't know. It seems like the bad-luck days come on the days when you're having your best performances. The good-luck days are days that you're a top-15, and you finish. I just can't seem to get the good luck to match up on the days that we seem to have a god car."
Along the same lines, is momentum a factor week to week in racing? Can a team carry success to the next race, or is each race its own entity? "What you'll find is that certain teams will shine on different types of tracks, and if you get lined up - right now I feel really good about our banked-track program, our Dover, our Charlotte, Atlanta. All these tracks that have banking to 'em, if those tracks line up right in a row right now, then I see us potentially being a top-five car every week, if we can just stay out of wrecks. If you had a series of flat tracks right now, I'm not saying we're missing our flat-track program, but I don't think we're as good on the flat-track program as we are on our banked-track program, so if you end up having three banked-tracked programs and then a flat-track program, you think you'll be really great for three and then the other one you'll be okay. And that's just the way our team has unfolded this year. It was almost opposite of that a year ago. We were good on flat tracks and not as good on the banked tracks. So, the teams that are championship-caliber teams, the ones that are putting it together, and have a series of runs, and it doesn't matter whether you're at banked tracks, flat tracks, short tracks or road courses, they've got their whole act together."