Atlanta II: Ricky Rudd preview

Ricky Rudd: "Everything we do now is about 20 miles an hour faster average speed than what it was when I first came into racing." At the spring race in Atlanta it looked like Ricky Rudd and his ...

Ricky Rudd: "Everything we do now is about 20 miles an hour faster average speed than what it was when I first came into racing."

At the spring race in Atlanta it looked like Ricky Rudd and his #21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts team were headed for a top-five finish until a wheel bearing went putting him out of contention. Since finishing second at Sonoma in June, Ricky has accumulated more points than any other driver not involved in the Chase, and is 10th among all drivers since that race. This week the Virginia driver answers a variety of questions from his fans, including what track he would put back on the Cup schedule if he could make that choice.

RICKY RUDD -- #21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus - Are you doing anything different with the wheel bearings or engine for this Atlanta race? "We had a great engine for the first race, but we had a wheel bearing go out. We were passing Carl Edwards for third, we were inside of him and had a wheel bearing go out. I'd never had that happen. But, I understand now, that if you are going to have something like that happen, it usually shows up at Atlanta. The teams don't pack those any more. That is a package deal that is provided to the teams now. There is a company that provides that for them. It is not a simple wheel bearing like people tend to think. It is pretty complex, and it is a sealed item. We don't know how they are built. We use them, put so many miles on them, send them back and they service them and send them back to the teams. Most of the top teams do this. Nobody had had any issues with them until I had that problem. I don't know all the ins and outs there, other than it was kind of a freakish deal."

Which car are you taking to Atlanta? "That is up to Fatback. I believe it might be the car we ran at Charlotte, but I'm not sure."

I am curious about your thoughts on the condition of the track at Atlanta Motor Speedway - do you know if the tornado damaged the track surface in such a way as to impact your car's handling? "From what I understand there were no issues with the track surface. What it did was rip up were suites and stuff like that, but it didn't do anything to the track. There have been teams testing there, and if it wasn't good we would have heard about it."

If you could put one track back on the schedule that has been taken off over the years, which would it be? "It would either be Wilkesboro or Rockingham. I think the racing was good at both. Wilkesboro was a short track, obviously, and drives like a short track. And Rockingham was sort of an animal all its own. Both are in a neat part of the country and close to home. Rockingham was a neat track. You could run at the bottom and you could run at the top. It was pretty good for the fans. I miss them."

What was the highest speed that your car could go in your first NASCAR race? "I really haven't got a clue. I'd be guessing. It would be about 20 miles an hour slower than the last time we ran at Rockingham in the Cup cars. Everything we do now is about 20 miles an hour faster average speed than what it was when I first came into racing."

How much difference has the Yates/Roush engine program made for your team, or is the improvement all Fatback? "The engine program - we are the benefactors on that. They have really gotten better. I think you see that with all of the Roush teams. Not that what they had was bad, but when we're not running it's not a horsepower issue. It's usually an aero issue. You can pretty much rule out a horsepower issue now if we're not running when we get to the track. There are two or three major variables in that equation, and it is nice to be able to rule out the engines, so I've been real pleased with that program. I think it is pretty obvious what Fatback has brought to the program. In all fairness to Pat Tryson, he's done a great job. He is challenging for the Championship this year. But Pat went to Stuart [Va.] to work. Don't get me wrong, the Woods had great people up there. They just didn't have enough good people. By having the shop in Charlotte, Fatback has been able to add people. Some of the people from Stuart elected to make the move and some of them didn't. He has been able to strengthen the depth of the program than what there used to be. There are a lot of major things that are different now from an organizational standpoint, so it is a combination."

I recently saw you at my school (McClintock Middle in Charlotte) and I wanted to ask a question but sadly I didn't get chosen to ask, so I came here. I was wondering where you think the NASCAR Hall of Fame should be? "I don't really have an answer for that because I don't have any control over it. It seems like it should be somewhere in the South - Richmond, Charlotte, Atlanta or Daytona, for that matter. No disrespect to the Kansas people because they have really supported us well out there. It needs to go where the most people will be able to enjoy it. Maybe the numbers would support Kansas, but it seems like it should be in the South."

Do you have all 23 winners' trophies at your house?  "They are scattered
about.  A lot of my go-kart trophies, about a hundred of them, were at my
father's house.  The rest are around, either at my dad's house or
somewhere, but we do have them.  I just don't know where they all are.
We don't have a lot of trophies sitting out on display.  We never have."

Can you tell me what the colored tape on the tires is for? Is this so the tire changer can figure out what direction the tires go on? "I think it has something to do with the indexing of the wheel, but that's a Gary Smith question. It's a good question. I think it has something to do with how the tire carrier puts the tire on the wheel up on the hub. Indexing - you've got five studs on the hub and you've got five holes in the wheel and the pit crew doesn't have time to rotate the tire to put it on. If you watch, the carrier will take that tire - it looks like with one hand - and reach up there and slam it on. When they do that they don't have time to line it up." Gary Smith - pit crew coach for Wood Brothers Racing: "You have the five holes where you glue the lug nuts on, and there is a spot on the wheel where the piece of metal on the wheel lines directly up with that piece of tape. It is a hand mark for the tire carriers. That is the spot where they need to grab the tire off the wall with their hand so that it can index as easy as possible on the pit stop."


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Carl Edwards , Gary Smith