RICKY RUDD - No. 21 - Keep It Genuine Taurus (Qualified 1st) Part 1 of 2 Ricky Rudd Pole-Winning Interview "It's just a great day for the Wood Brothers. I can't say enough about it. The Yates-Roush motor combination and all the guys on the...
RICKY RUDD - No. 21 - Keep It Genuine Taurus (Qualified 1st)
Part 1 of 2
Ricky Rudd Pole-Winning Interview
"It's just a great day for the Wood Brothers. I can't say enough about it. The Yates-Roush motor combination and all the guys on the Motorcraft team have been working really hard trying to put this together and it paid off and today was the day. We've got the old retro paint scheme, so this couldn't be a better day for the Wood Brothers."
THIS IS THE FIRST POLE FOR THE WOOD BROTHERS SINCE BUDDY BAKER AT ATLANTA IN 1984.
"That's a pretty amazing stat. I remember coming up in the sport and when you went to Charlotte, it was a given that the Wood Brothers and David Pearson were gonna sit on the pole. Later, Neil Bonnett tookover that and it was a given. Now to come here, it's been so long. It's hard to believe it's been that long since the Wood Brothers won a pole, but the best thing about the whole weekend is I get to watch Eddie Wood walk around in a pink hat the rest of the week. That's part of a bet he had with Judi (Moritz), one of our sponsors (Motorcraft), so I get to see that all week."
Ricky Rudd Press Conference
"I knew we were fast. It really starts back in winter testing. We had a car that was very fast during winter testing. We led winter testing. We went to Daytona and qualified fifth-fastest and were within a tenth of the pole speed there. We brought the same car back and the guys took it back home and worked on it and massaged on it and made it a little bit better yet. They got it driving better, which it didn't do real good at Daytona, and it's driving good here. Before we got here I felt like we had a shot at it and a top five was within reason, but you try to not get too excited about it and get caught up in it because it's a long fall if you're sitting here thinking you've got this pole. We did watch pretty hard in the transporter. After we made our run we watched everybody run. Obviously, Earnhardt, Jr. was probably our biggest concern and sort of dodged that bullet."
DID YOU FEEL IT WAS A POTENTIAL POLE WINNING RUN?
"I think a lot of people were sort of watching us because we were the fastest going into qualifying, but anyone I talked to I told them not to go by that because we got help when we made our attempted qualifying run. It wasn't on purpose, but it was just the way the traffic jam ended up being, so we didn't know how fast we could go. We were pretty close to duplicating. We actually ran a little bit better than we did at practice. I wouldn't say I was surprised about it, I'm very happy for it, but I figured we'd run a .10 and we ran a flat."
IT'S BEEN 20 YEARS SINCE THE WOODS WON A POLE.
"First of all, I'm surprised. When I started racing David Pearson, especially when we went to Charlotte, he sat on every pole there ever was there. I just remember that team being associated with a lot of poles. I was really surprised when I heard it was 20 years. Certainly somewhere along the way I thought they had one since then, but I'm just glad to be a part of it. I didn't have a whole lot to do with it, I just happened to be the lucky guy that sat behind the wheel today and held onto the steering wheel. Ben Leslie and all the guys on the Motorcraft team did an excellent job preparing this car, and I have to thank Ford Motor Company. We had some wind tunnel time thrown our way and donated our way. Bernie (Marcus) from Ford was instrumental in helping this thing run and I just happened to be sitting in the right place at the right time. But it's sort of amazing it's been that long."
DOES THE POLE MEAN LESS AT THIS TRACK THAN ANY OTHER AND CAN THIS POSE A THREAT TO DEI?
"I'd say if you go back a couple years when you were allowed to change motors and transmissions that you would probably say it makes no bearing whatsoever on the outcome of the race. When NASCAR mandated that you run the same motor, that sort of changed things a little bit. It put a little more value in the guy that sits on the pole is maybe gonna be a factor in the race. I would say probably taking your analogy is that we can be leading this thing on one lap and we could be running dead last the next lap and will probably do so sometime during the day - as even the DEI cars will probably do during the day, which have been so dominant here. There is no guarantee here. I've come here the last couple of years - three years, four years, whatever that number is - the DEI cars have definitely been the cars to beat. They've been the cars to beat in qualifying and they've been the cars to beat in the race. We were fortunate that we were able to outrun a couple of them today, so we've got part A right. We've just got to do part B right and that's the big one - race day. To sit here and tell you that we're the greatest car to come here in many years and we're gonna blow those guys away, I guess if I wanted to get a little hype going and stir up some controversy I'd say that, but I think the real world is a question mark. Somewhere along the line, whether it's this weekend or three years from now or five years from now that dominance will stop and somebody else is gonna win the race that day. Are we the guys to do that? I can't answer that. But somewhere along the way it will change and, hopefully, it's this weekend."
ARE WE SEEING A VETERAN REVIVAL?
"You mean the old guys are getting it done this last couple of weeks (laughing). I sat there and watched Rusty in his interviews last week and that was a pretty neat deal. He won that race hands-down. He ran good. His hair isn't as white as mine, but I noticed he doesn't have quite as much hair on the top of his head that he used to have. So, anyway, for the old guys it's a pretty neat seven day period. It would be nice to pull it off on race day. Hopefully, we can do it. I don't think age has anything to do with last week or this week, but it's pretty neat to see some of the older guys doing something."
HOW DO YOU LIKE RESTRICTOR PLATE RACING?
"I don't. I'd prefer to have the plates gone and race without the plates. The only reason I say that is I came and ran down here for years without the plates and I've tasted it both ways. I understand the need for it, don't get me wrong, and I don't have a better solution than what we're running right now. But what I liked about the non-plate days is we ran speeds where handling became a huge issue in the race and the field did get separated and it was separated by the cars that handled good, which is pretty much what we see week in and week out at any race - they get separated by handling. The restrictor plates today, it doesn't really separate the field by handling, it's more about how fast you are in the straightaway. From that aspect, I kind of miss the old days but understand the necessity of having the restrictor plates today. But to answer the question, I like the old days better, but you can't look back."
HOW DOES THIS HELP THE TEAM?
"It's definitely a positive thing to happen for the team, which there haven't been a whole lot of positives all year long really. I think you go back to Daytona, I think we qualified fifth on the clock and we led our 125 race for about half the race and ended up finishing sixth or eighth or something like that. That's probably been the highlight. It's been way back at Daytona since we had anything positive happen at all. We have seen some improvements. Last week at Martinsville we were shaping up to have a good solid top 10. We were 13th with about 180 laps to go and Kasey Kahne and I got together and I had a flat tire and that just killed our day. We were able to make one of the laps up on the race track by passing the leader and the caution came out, but, anyway, I look at the results and they sort of speak for themselves. You don't really see a whole lot of positive coming out of that, other than the fact the guys that work on the car saw the car actually go up front, pass the leader and get out in front of the pack, which is the first time all year we've been fast. We've come to Talladega and we're fast down here. I don't think this has a huge bearing on the outcome of the race, but it's definitely a positive and a shot of confidence in the arm for the guys that spend so many hours back at the shop and haven't had anything good happen. So now all of a sudden we have some good things going on."
WERE THERE ANY SUPERSTITIONS IN THE TRUCK?
"We were sitting in the hauler watching qualifying and as it was winding down, it was overcrowded inside the transporter watching the TV. A couple of them got up and were gonna make room and Eddie said, 'Sit back down. You're not leaving here. You're not gonna jinx us now. You're gonna sit right down there until this thing is over with.' The most enjoyment I'm gonna get out of this pole all week long is watching Eddie Wood where a pink hat until Sunday evening. He's got to wear a pink hat on a bet - if we qualified in the top five he was gonna wear this pink hat, so he's sporting a nice pink hat all weekend."
WILL THIS RACE BE LIKE DAYTONA?
"They did get spread out at Daytona. I know the Goodyear tire got a lot of the blame for breaking up the packs and people were complaining a little bit about front ends pushing down there. But the real deal is the spoiler change on the cars shifted the aero-balance more to a tight situation. I think what you'll see here, you're not gonna see the packs break up like you did at Daytona. You're gonna see everybody hang together as a group because the arc of the corner is not as sharp here and aero-push is not something you're gonna hear about at Talladega. You're gonna have drivers not having to crack the throttle because they're gonna hit the front end on the wall coming off the corner. That won't be an issue here at Talladega, so I think it's gonna re-group the cars. It's gonna bunch 'em up kind of like typical Talladega racing."