Phoenix Joe Ruttman Interview

Tuesday, October 20, 1998 NASCAR Craftsman Truck JOE RUTTMAN, WHO HAS RUN THIRD IN THE POINTS MOST OF THE NASCAR CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES SEASON, TALKS ABOUT THE POINTS, HIS YEAR WITH A NEW CREW CHIEF AND THE FUTURE. JOE RUTTMAN -90- EXIDE ...

Tuesday, October 20, 1998 NASCAR Craftsman Truck

JOE RUTTMAN, WHO HAS RUN THIRD IN THE POINTS MOST OF THE NASCAR CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES SEASON, TALKS ABOUT THE POINTS, HIS YEAR WITH A NEW CREW CHIEF AND THE FUTURE.

JOE RUTTMAN -90- EXIDE BATTERIES FORD F-150 -- "You realize to make an advancement (in the points), it will be like the Cup races. They're (Jack Sprague and Ron Hornaday) going to have some kind of a problem, and I'm going to have to have a good race to make up for the point deficit. You get behind by them having good races, and them having bad ones. There is a possibility that could happen. I think it wasn't anybody else's fault. We made a few mistakes and errors, and a couple of mechanical things that got us behind. That is the reason we are third in points instead of in the lead where we need to be. The guys haven given 110%, and I'm giving 100%. There's no question that it would be a long shot, but there is still a possibility that we could pull the thing out."

YOU STARTED THE SEASON WITH A NEW CREW CHIEF, MATT CHAMBERS. HOW HAS IT GONE? "I think it's neat. Initially, everybody was apprehensive because Matt is so much younger. He could be my son. Old and young sometimes mix about like oil and water. But it's neat. You see the enthusiasm in Matt, and he's like a sponge, and we're learning. We're learning as a team, so I think it was probably a plus. It wasn't a negative to us. It's fun to see him learn. I think his enthusiasm rubs off on me, and I just give that much more saying I'm not young, but I'm going to give 100 percent just like you are. I think that's been our key to success. He's a tremendous crew chief right now, and all he can do is just get better."

DO YOU HAVE MORE INPUT WITH THE TEAM NOW BECAUSE MATT IS YOUNG AND LEARNING? "Not really because even when Randy (Goss) was here we were growing as a team. (Randy Goss is now the crew chief for the second Roush truck driven by Greg Biffle.) Everyone says that as you get older your reactions go bad or your eyesight goes bad, and that is why you have to retire. But I think that one of the things I've seen over the year is that when an old guy starts living in the past that is when he needs to retire. In other words, if when I come to Bakersfield I remember using a 'blue spring in the right front and a yellow one in the back', or whatever it might be, you are reverting back to when you were successful. I've always said that when that time comes, that is when I want to quit. And having young guys on the team, they are wanting to go forward and be on the cutting edge all the time. Consequently, I'm thinking that's good, because whenever I stop wanting to try things that means it is time for me to quit. We've tried some cutting edge stuff this year, and twice we got bit with it. Once was at my own request at Portland, and we got hurt in the points. I considered going testing, and we didn't. We fired off with it, and ran poorly. At Martinsville I tried something trick in qualifying, and it backfired on me and we started in the back of the pack, and then got excited about coming to the front and crashed there. But when I look back, I think we're trying some new stuff, and we're not just sitting back and thinking about running second at Martinsville or winning at Martinsville. I'm trying to get better. And that's one thing about Matt. He's not just sitting. Again, the sponge is not full yet. It's still filling up, and going hey, that's a good idea. So the two of us are, at this point, just humming right along."

HAS THE TWO-TRUCK TEAM BEEN AN ADVANTAGE? "This year it has. I don't know if it is what Greg has wanted to do. Maybe they have forced him to a point to run the way we run. There is far more overlap this year. Chuck's (Bown - Ruttman's teammate during the 1997 season) driving style was 100 percent different than mine, and the overlap just wasn't there. Hopefully we've gleaned some from him (Biffle), and he's gleaned some from us. In retrospect I believe we've both gotten an advantage from it."

THE TEAMS ARE UNDER THE SAME ROOF IN LIVONIA, MICHIGAN, SO ONE WOULD EXPECT THEY SHARE INFORMATION AND WORK TOGETHER. DO YOU WORK BACK AND FORTH WITH GREG? "You don't try to force anything. Greg has had a lot of success, and I'm sure he's in here not wanting any geezer telling me what to do. But he struggled a little bit at Bakersfield, and he came over and talked to me some, and at two or three other race tracks. I don't want to force my knowledge on me. If he comes over and asks me, I'll answer the question. I found out last year sometimes young guys aren't hankering to take a lot of information from you, so it's just easier to sit back. If they want to inquire I'll give them the answer. But I'm not going to offer the answer. I think his team has rallied around him. He had some problems early in the year, but he seems to be hitting on all eight cylinders now. There is no question that he will become a great race driver. As long as your crew backs you, you are in good shape and you are going to succeed. It appears to me they are behind him 100 percent."

WHAT ABOUT NEXT YEAR? "That's a good question. Verbally, I deal with Geoff Smith at Roush, and he says everything is looking good. As we're speaking right now, my contract runs though the end of the year, and that's it. And that is at my own request. Occasionally you get a five year contract or something, and you can lay down and be lazy. But this way, I know this game is a performance sport, and if you don't perform you're out. Hopefully, we're performing to the level that whoever within Roush that is making that final decision is seeing that we are performing to 100 percent, and we need him back next year. If not, it's been a great ride, and hopefully I can land something else."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Greg Biffle , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Jack Sprague , Joe Ruttman