All-Star: Ricky Rudd preview

RICKY RUDD: "You won't do anything totally outright stupid, but you'll be pretty aggressive, probably more so than you would normally be." This weekend marks the 21st running of the NEXTEL All-Star Challenge. Ricky Rudd, driver of the ...

RICKY RUDD: "You won't do anything totally outright stupid, but you'll be pretty aggressive, probably more so than you would normally be."

This weekend marks the 21st running of the NEXTEL All-Star Challenge. Ricky Rudd, driver of the #21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Ford Taurus, has participated every year since the event began in 1985 - 17 years in the Challenge and three in the Open. His best finish was third in the 1995 version of the Challenge.

Wood Brothers Racing made history on May 18, 1996, when then-driver Michael Waltrip claimed the final transfer spot (fifth) from the Open event into the Challenge, and then went on to win the Challenge over 19 of NASCAR's best.

This week, Ricky answers his fan's questions about the All-Star races, scoring, motors, and safety.

Being that the Nextel All- Star challenge is a non-points race, how much more aggressive will you be to try and win? "We've got to get in it first. We'll have to run the Open first to try to get in it. We'll try pretty hard. It's not a points race. You won't do anything totally outright stupid, but you'll be pretty aggressive, probably more so than you would normally be. I think we are taking a brand-new car. It's not something that has ever been raced. It just went together. We're going to find out if it runs well this weekend and decide if that's the car we'll carry back for the 600. Or, do we carry a car back that ran at Atlanta so well? We'll find out the answer to that question."

Is the setup on the car at Charlotte similar to Atlanta and Kansas? "Kansas is probably a little more unique to itself. Atlanta - I don't even know how to distinguish any more what car goes where, but a lot of it has to do with how much suspension travel the cars get on different race tracks. You can't take a car that has a lot of suspension travel and take it to a flat track like Vegas and expect to do very well with it. Different race tracks make the car travel vertically on the suspension differently than other tracks, and it can vary as much as an inch difference in travel. And there are a lot of issues like ground clearance and things like that. I don't have all those answers, but I don't think a car you would run at Atlanta would be one you would carry to Kansas." What about Texas? "Maybe at Texas and Kansas you could run the same car because the corners are relatively flat and it doesn't get a lot of vertical movement. You could probably run the same car at Texas and Vegas and Kansas."

Do you think the All-Star race should be held at different venues each year or stay at Charlotte? "I don't know. It's always been at Charlotte except for one year when they tried it at Atlanta. And I'd bet there weren't 5,000 in the stands when they did it. It didn't work. It wasn't a hot commodity at the time. At Charlotte they invested the time and money to build it what into what it is today. I guess in this sport nobody owes anybody anything, but it seems like there ought to be a little bit of loyalty to keeping it in Charlotte because those are the guys who really built it."

When you are involved in the big wreck at Talladega, how do they determine who comes back in what order when there was just a big mess of cars? I think you came out 41st? "That's a good question. I'm thinking there must have been a pile of 15 cars and I sat just about in the middle of them. And it took a while to peel all those cars out of the way by the time they could get to my car. It probably wasn't such a big issue because it was red flag situation, but if it had been under a yellow it could have made a huge difference. I don't know how they do it, but to me I think it ought to be a hot topic with NASCAR on how they handle that. First of all, I know the rescue people will go to a car where the driver's window net has not been let down first. But, as far as how they determine who gets hooked up to the tow truck first, I don't have an answer for that. It could make or break a point championship."

Instead of restrictor plates, why not just reduce the cubic inches? Going from the big block to small block didn't hurt racing -- maybe less cubic inches again would be the ticket.What do you think? "I don't know enough about the motors to know what that's going to do, but I don't think that is the answer. I think the answer is to make the drivers have to lift on the accelerators going into the corners. And, the only way to make them have to lift is to either increase the speeds of the car, decrease the tire grip or make the cars aero-loose enough that you have to lift going in the corner or cut about 10 to 15 degrees of banking out of the race track. That's not a real popular subject with NASCAR, but I feel the car owners have spent enough money trying to fix this."

Are roof hatches a good idea? "I think they're a good idea. I don't think it is an access you would use frequently, but if a driver gets pinned up against the wall on the driver's side it would be pretty hard to get out the right hand side the way the cars are designed now. It is another potential escape for the driver, and the way the seats are mounted in these cars it is virtually impossible for the driver to get out on the right side. I run a net configuration that comes off my headrest that goes to the dashboard next to my right shoulder. It has a quick release on it, and I can move that net, but it would still be difficult to get out the passenger side. I think Michael Waltrip was experimenting with it for a while, but I don't know if anybody is running them this year or not."

Do you share any test information with others when they test? Do you share wind tunnel test info, track info etc.? "Not that I'm aware of . I don't know for sure what these guys talk about with each other, but I don't think so."

If you were not a Nextel cup driver, just a fan, who would you root for? "I'd root for an underdog."

Do you think there will ever be a Cup race at the Kentucky Speedway? "My opinion is that if NASCAR ever ends up with ownership of it, there will be a better chance."


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Michael Waltrip
Teams Wood Brothers Racing