WHAT IS THAT CAT? Ricky Rudd, Eddie Wood and Michael "Fatback" McSwain, driver, co-owner and crew chief, respectively, of the ...
WHAT IS THAT CAT?
Ricky Rudd, Eddie Wood and Michael "Fatback" McSwain, driver, co-owner and crew chief, respectively, of the #21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Ford, answer questions this week from their fans about cats, car numbers, travel, parts and team ownership.
What kind of cat do you have? Where can you get one? Ricky Rudd: "The cats are what they call a Bengal breed of cat. They actually breed a full-blooded Asian Leopard, which is not a real big leopard - it's a small cat, it's a pretty cat - with a domestic tabby cat. The breed got started about 25 years ago. Our cats are what they call a brown spotted, that's Koda, and the other cat, Cali, is a marble Bengal cat. The marble cat will fetch and bring stuff back to you. Both of them sort of have dog-like personalities the way they act. They are good cats. They're neat cats. They travel well. They don't have the hair of a normal cat. Landon (son) has severe allergies. He is allergic to a regular cat. They don't shed, for one thing, but the hair on them doesn't trigger allergies. So, they are good travel company. They'll get on helicopters and airplanes. Sometimes they are in one bag, and sometimes in two. They are so good that a lot of times, if we have a lot of luggage, I've caught myself starting to put them in the trunk with the other bags, and I have to watch that. They are so quiet that they won't let you know. (Laughing) But, Linda is right there to let me know. Linda found the cats on the internet."
What gives a car its number and how did this team end up with the number 21? Eddie Wood: "To be honest with you I didn't know until Daddy (Glen Wood) told me last week how they came up with the number 21. In 1950, they raced the number 50. Then, on the way home, the axle broke or something and it burned to the ground. So, at that time they were superstitious, I guess, and they decided the number 50 was bad luck. So, the next time they raced it, it was number 16. And the reason that was, they went to a race somewhere, and the hot dog from that particular area was running the number 16. And they decided they would use that because the other guy was doing so well with it. Then, a little later on, the same thing happened. They saw somebody else running well in South Carolina with the number 21. So they decided, 'Let's do that.' And that's where it came from. They used the number 22 because some of the time there were two cars entered, so the teammates ran 21 and 22. Curtis Turner drove a lot of races with my dad, and that's probably when they used the 22, too."
What was the number on your first race car? And what was your first race car? Ricky Rudd: "It was kind of a weird deal. We bought the car from Robert Gee who was Dale Earnhardt Junior's grandfather - a big guy in racing for many, many years. Robert Gee and two other guys owned the car. Bobby Isaac actually drove the race car. It was raced like twice. Bobby Isaac drove it at Atlanta. It was a '75 Chevelle. When we bought it, it had the number 3 on it. So the very first race car for the Cup series had a number 3 on it. And, Richard Childress called. He had been driving the 96 for years and he wanted the 3 number because, I guess, he was a big Junior Johnson fan when Junior drove, and he carried the 3. We actually had the 3, but we didn't have any strings to it, so we gave up that 3 number and Richard Childress got it, and I guess he's still got it today. But, the first car I actually ever drove was car number 10, Bill Champion's car. It was a Ford Torino."
Fatback, with the on-road demand that you have, do you and Ricky travel together, or do you meet at the track? Michael "Fatback" McSwain: "For the most part we don't travel together. He travels with his family on his personal plane, and we travel on a plane that the team leases. But, on occasion we will. It depends on the schedule. Sometimes he needs to ride with us or we need to ride with him, but for mostly, it is separate."
With Motorcraft as your primary sponsor, do you use Motorcraft parts on the 21 car? Eddie Wood: "We use Motorcraft batteries. Our oil filters and air filters, of course, are Motorcraft. And electrical components like solenoids are Motorcraft."
Do you ever see drivers going to the general public and allowing them to purchase shares of a specific car? Eddie Wood: "It's been tried a couple of times. Brett Bodine may have tried it, and Travis Carter explored it a little bit. But, it just never really got off the ground. It sounds like a good idea, but when you really start digging in your pocket to write a check to a race team to own a part of one - I've been a part of one all my life, and they're not exactly what you want (laughing). There's a lot of money that goes through these things. It's kind of like a water hose. A lot of water goes through them, but nothing stays -- and that is kind of the way a race team is."