Sonoma: Ricky Rudd preview

Rudd hopes Sears Point test will be key to overdue victory. SONOMA, Calif. Ricky Rudd did something on April 23 and 24 that he had not done in over 10 years. The driver of the No. 28 Havoline Ford tested at the 12-turn, 2.0-mile Sears Point ...

Rudd hopes Sears Point test will be key to overdue victory.

SONOMA, Calif. Ricky Rudd did something on April 23 and 24 that he had not done in over 10 years. The driver of the No. 28 Havoline Ford tested at the 12-turn, 2.0-mile Sears Point Raceway road course at the gateway to the Sonoma Wine Country.

"We've always been very good at Sears Point," Rudd said. "We've brought this Havoline car home in the top five the last two years, but we want to win this year."

In 2000, Rudd's first season with Robert Yates Racing, he started 10th and finished fifth. Last year, he overcame a 22nd-place qualifying effort to finish fourth. Rudd has four pole positions at the track and won the inaugural race there in 1989.

NASCAR Winston Cup Series teams are allowed to test only seven times per season. With 23 tracks on the tour, a variety of factors go into deciding where a team will use its valuable test time. Rudd is known for his road racing abilities and the fact that Sears Point is located across the country were reasons that he had not tested there since the late '80s. However, the track has been reconfigured over the past several years and the team wanted to get a better handle on the new layout.

"I love road racing," Rudd said. "The driver has a lot of control over his race and his communication with the team is important to get the car set up properly. It's challenging getting these heavy Winston Cup cars to run well on road courses. But these guys have given me great cars at virtually every track we've raced at this year."

For Rudd, the 2002 season has been marked with strong performance and some disappointing finishes. In May, Rudd was leading late in the race at Richmond when a lapped car cut a tire and wrecked him. Two weeks ago at Pocono, Rudd looked to be on his way to his first win of the season once again, when a slow leak in his tire forced him to give up the lead with less than 10 laps remaining.

"In the last six weeks, we've learned how hard it is to win," Rudd said. "I'm glad we're going to Sears Point with a car that I think is capable of winning the race. Maybe we can jump from the top five to Victory Lane."

-ryr-

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