Ricky Rudd will start fourth in Sunday's Virginia 500 at Martinsville Speedway. From 1979 to '86, Rudd collected 13 consecutive top-10 starts and 10 top-10 finishes. His last NASCAR Winston Cup victory occurred at Martinsville in 1998. On...
Ricky Rudd will start fourth in Sunday's Virginia 500 at Martinsville Speedway. From 1979 to '86, Rudd collected 13 consecutive top-10 starts and 10 top-10 finishes. His last NASCAR Winston Cup victory occurred at Martinsville in 1998. On Saturday, he talked about why he likes racing here.
RICKY RUDD - 28 - Texaco/Havoline Taurus
FROM 1979 TO 1986, YOU MADE 13 CONSECUTIVE TOP-10 STARTS AND COLLECTED 10
TOP-10 FINISHES. TOMORROW, YOU'LL START FOURTH. YOU LEARNED YOUR WAY AROUND
THIS TRACK PRETTY QUICKLY, DIDN'T YOU?
"It's been one of those race tracks that the first time I could ever remember coming here, we ran well right away. I really don't have an answer for it, because I never grew up on short tracks, I came up - my first car race was Winston Cup, so I don't really have a recollection of this track reminding me of something else. I always enjoyed it at Martinsville, I'm really not sure why we have success here, it's just a good track for us."
DOES IT FOLLOW THAT IF YOU HAVE SUCCESS AT A TRACK, YOU ENJOY RACING AT THAT
TRACK - OR DO YOU JUST HAPPEN TO LIKE IT HERE?
"Sometimes you can have success at a place and you don't really enjoy it, but Martinsville is a track that I've always enjoyed racing on. It used to be a little more demanding than it is now, the equipment has gotten so much better. A couple of years back you really had to take care of your brakes. The brake systems weren't as good as they are today, so if you use brakes too hard you wouldn't have brakes at the end. So it was really more of a thinking race than it is today. RPM is still a little bit of a concern today with the gear ratio's we have to pull. But, probably the toughest thing I had to do is when we came here in the mid-'80s running Fords, which did not have a big win record on tight short tracks like this, and we were successful with it and ran well, but it took a lot of discipline because of the gear ratio you had to pull. The motor wouldn't live unless you really took care of the rpm, and then the car would get to the corner and it wouldn't slow down because all of the internal parts in the Ford motor at that time were heavier than a GM car so the motor wouldn't slow down, so it definitely was an effort to be able to keep brakes on a Ford back in the mid-'80s. And I think that was probably a good education for me, if I could get that to work good than to this day and time with the equipment we've got is so much better that durability is not the problem like it used to be."
MANY TRACK HAVE SPECIAL CHARACTERISTICS. THIS ONE HAS CONCRETE IN THE
CORNERS AND ASPHALT ON THE STRAIGHTAWAYS. DOES THAT POSE ANY PARTICULAR
"I wouldn't say that it really causes any problems - I mean it's a little bit greasy at times, especially when we first get here until the rubber can get down into that concrete. One thing I've seen about this race track over the years, it's been more consistent than almost any race track we've ever run, and I think it's due directly to the concrete corners. You know, you hear people talk about concrete race tracks you don't really here them mention Martinsville, because normally when you mention concrete it's not usually in a favorable tone, it's more of a negative situation. But Martinsville's always been concrete corners and you never hear anybody complain about it. What I like about Martinsville is that it's very, very crowded out there, especially now with 43 cars on the race track, but it doesn't take long, maybe 20, 30 laps, 40 laps, and then that second groove starts coming in. And, even though it's not the fast way around, you can still pass cars up there and it gives you two good lanes of racing - even though it is a tight half mile, because it is two grooves wide, it drives like it's a little bit bigger track in some respects."
YOUR LAST VICTORY WAS HERE IN 1998. CONSIDERING THE STREAK THAT YOU HAD -
ONE WIN IN 16 CONSECUTIVE SEASONS - DOES THAT SEEM LIKE A LONG TIME AGO?
"It doesn't seem like that long ago, really, to me. Even when I started in the mid-'70s, it's gone by so quickly. But, that particular race that day, we had a good car, we were the best car there late in the race and carried on through all the troubles with the cool suit and stuff. It was a good win. I look at our '99 season, we had some good runs in '99, but not that many of them. That's when we were phasing our team out, financially we got behind the money curve, and just weren't that competitive in '99. In 2000 we were very competitive, we had some good races here - especially the second race - but we weren't able to win it. As far as that streak going and the last win coming at Martinsville, there's no, really, 'I can't wait to get back to Martinsville, because that's where we last won at,' there's really none of that. We really take every race track individually and sort of get reared up for each one."
NOW THAT YOU'RE NO LONGER AN OWNER, AT THE TRACK, WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE
BETWEEN YOU THEN AND YOU NOW?
"I'd say the biggest difference is never, really, once I got to the race track it never really affected me as far as me being an owner and a driver and having to take care of the equipment. I never thought about that, it never entered my mind. The biggest difference is coming here and not having to worry about raising the money, doing all the financial stuff, to go out and to make sure we got enough money to have tires all day and to have good engines. All of that responsibility has been lifted. Really, actually, when I used to get to the race track, as far as feeling any different, feeling any more pressure then than I do now, there's really not a great deal of difference. The ownership role was really more of burden for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, but not so much on the weekend."
THERE IS NO RACE NEXT WEEKEND. WITH THE EXPANDED SCHEDULE, DO YOU POINT TO
THOSE FEWER DAYS OFF AND PLAN SOMETHING SPECIAL?
"You try as hard as you can to block some time out. Even though we got a weekend off, the way the schedule ends up working out, it seems like if you're not careful all your p.r. schedule will get loaded up heavily during that time so it seems like you've never had any time off at all. And, we've worked really hard on the schedule to try to schedule things so we get at least seven days off, and that's gonna be like a vacation. Now, technically, it's 10, 11, 12 days before we have to be at the next race track, but the p.r. schedule and the test schedule has picked up after that Easter weekend pretty heavily. We're gonna get seven days and a lot of people are going on vacation, going somewhere. We're just going to enjoy not doing anything, just kinda hanging around the house and not having to be anywhere and that's what we're looking forward to."