SONOMA, Calif. - Could NASCAR Winston Cup have a new and exciting contest for the championship on its hands? Two drivers have battled for the win the past two races: Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 28 Texaco/Havoline Ford who is currently third in points, and Jeff Gordon, the current NASCAR Winston Cup Series points leader.
Rudd was edged out for the win by Gordon in a close finish in Michigan when Rudd and Gordon ran neck and neck during the last seven laps. But Rudd came back strong last Friday at Pocono Raceway where he won the pole, finishing 1.69 m.p.h. faster than the second place qualifier.
Then, last Sunday, Rudd placed Robert Yates' 28 car back in victory lane with Gordon finishing second. The win was Rudd's first in 88 races and was the first time Yates' Texaco/Havoline has been in victory lane since June 15, 1997, when Ernie Irvan won at Michigan International Speedway.
With the Texaco team traveling to Sears Point feeling confidence, elation and optimism after an exciting first win at Pocono, Gordon has a serious new championship contender in Ricky Rudd--especially considering that Rudd is only 130 points behind.
"At this point, we're thinking about winning the championship every day," said crew chief Michael "Fatback" McSwain. "We felt so good going into Pocono because we knew we had an awesome car. We feel even more confident this weekend. Ricky is one of the best road course drivers and that is definitely in our favor."
Not only does the Texaco team have an exceptional road course driver, they also have an exceptional car for Sears Point. Extensive testing has the team very optimistic going into Sunday's race.
"We've tested the car twice in Kershaw, S.C., and it's a great car," Rudd said. "Last weekend at Pocono, I had a really good feeling about the car we used. I feel even better about the car we're taking to Sears Point. I think we learned a lot through our testing and should be very good.
"In my opinion, a big key to road racing is attitude. I can honestly say I love the challenge of road course racing and think that's why I've had the success I've had on them. With this Texaco/Havoline team gelling like we are--and with the car we've built--I really am looking forward to Sunday's race."
A good car, a good road course driver and a good attitude may be the exact formula the No. 28 team needs for a win at Sears Point. The members of the team aren't going to be satisfied with one win. They will enter Sears Point Raceway with smiles on their faces and a hunger to experience their second win--and get even closer to taking over the points lead.
The team leads the Winston Cup Series with 11 top-10 finishes. Rudd's Sears Point Raceway achievements include winning the inaugural race in 1989, seven top-10's and four poles.
As the team looks forward to this weekend's race in sunny California, they see nothing but blue skies and checkered flags.