Charlotte: Ricky Rudd preview

RICKY RUDD:  "I think we have a legitimate shot at a top-ten.  We just can't have any more bad luck happen."   Ricky Rudd, driver of the ...

RICKY RUDD:  "I think we have a legitimate shot at a top-ten.  We just can't have any more bad luck happen."   Ricky Rudd, driver of the #21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Ford Taurus discusses the Charlotte paint scheme (Air Force colors), his chances to get into the Chase for the Championship, Busch Series racing, and several other points of interest in response to fans' questions this week.   What paint scheme will you be running at the Coca Cola 600?  "We are running an Air Force paint scheme, and we're always proud to carry those Air Force colors whenever we get the chance.  We do it several times a year.  It doesn't happen very often, but maybe once a year General Jumper is able to attend a race.  It will be nice to have him at a race where we are running the Air Force paint scheme.  We finally got a good race for Rent-A-Center at Texas, and we'd like to do the same for the Air Force.  It would be nice to have a good run any time, but it would be really nice in front of the general with the Air Force colors on the car."   What changes have been made to your 1.5-mile track cars since 2004?  "I don't know where to start.  They've made changes probably from the ground up.  I don't really know the answer to that.  I just know they drive a lot better.  I know it goes beyond springs and shocks and set up.  I don't know if the bodies are making them drive better or if the chassis work is better.  I just know they drive better."   What are the differences between Texas and Lowe's?  "Before this week, it was real easy.  This track has more banking.  Turns three and four at Texas are a lot like three and four at Atlanta.  One and two - there aren't really any similarities there.  They've got new tires and they diamond-ground this race track, and to me the track now drives a lot like Texas, but with more banking.  I like what they've done.  I can't believe the difference just from grinding the race track.  The corners are relatively smooth.  One and two are a little bumpy.  Three and four are still a little bumpy.  But, they took at least 50 percent of the bumps away.  If you rate the bumps on a scale of one to 10, and they used to be a 10, now the bumps are down to around a five.  It is very fast with a lot of grip, like Texas.  The two tracks drive more like each other now than they did before.  When they did the grinding, the level of grip went way up.  They never used to drive the same.  The car, from the center of the corner to the exit, is a lot like Texas.  We have to work on making front grip, and that's something we never had to deal with before"   Do you think you will be able to come back and battle in the top 10 in points this season?  "I really think we are any where between an eighth- and a 14thplace car right now, and I think that is going to get better as we start finishing races.  If you can bring a car back in one piece week in and week out so the guys can adjust on it and have it go to the wind tunnel, it will make it better.  You might develop a pattern where the car is consistently loose or consistently tight.  And the only the way to do that is to finish the race good, bad or indifferent.  And then, if you see a pattern develop, the guys have something to work on, something to fix.  If you have a car that gets swept up in a wreck and the sheet metal is gone, you don't have anything to tweak on.  And you don't know if the car is loose or tight, so you are starting from ground zero again.  We're starting to finish some races, and we're starting to see some patterns and see how the cars progress, so as the season goes on, I think we'll run better.  The thing that we cannot afford to have happen, and we've been good about this, this year, and that's mechanical breakdowns or getting caught up in other people's accidents.  I think we have a legitimate shot at a top-10.  We just can't have any more bad luck happen."   Do you feel that maybe the Woods Brothers running a few Busch Series races might help the team produce better results?  "I don't know.  I've watched it both ways.  I've heard some of those guys say, "man, I wish I didn't have to run that Busch race, but my car owner wants me to do it."  And then some say they can work out the shocks, but that's about it because the cars are different enough aero-wise and motor-wise that about the only thing you can get out of it is the shock package and that helps them a little bit.  We always have somebody down in the Busch pits watching tire pressures, and we get a good report back on what's going on with that, so I don't feel like we're losing out on that end.  I think tweaking and tuning, our guys are pretty close to Jon Wood's team, so it's not like we're not represented there.  As far as the driver, the only advantage I can see is that maybe they're getting some extra test dates."   How do you get through a race without stopping for a bathroom break?  "Usually it's 130 to 140 degrees in the car.  You could sit in a sauna and drink all day long and not go to the bathroom.  That is pretty much what happens with the drivers because you are in such a hot environment.  I can work out all day long at the farm when it's hot and I can drink all day and never have to go to the bathroom.  It's not really heavy physical work going on in the car, but you've got to constantly deal with the G loads and it's kind of like aerobic exercise in the car.  Even if it wasn't hot, you would be working up a sweat and then couple that with the heat, even if you drink plenty of fluids, you dehydrate.  Usually after the race, you are quite a bit lighter just because of the dehydration."   I listened to you on the scanner Saturday at Richmond and you stated twice that something was vibrating or chattering.  What was it?  "Sometimes after a pit stop, if a wheel happens to get left loose it will show up as a small vibration and it can get worse and worse.  All I'm doing is putting the pit crew on alert that there could be a problem.  And the next signal they get is that I'm coming down pit road.  I'm just giving them a heads-up so they are thinking about another pit stop.  Sometimes you get a set of tires or wheels that vibrate a little bit.  We're always trained as a driver to pick up on every little sensitivity that is beyond normal.  They don't know in the pits that it is vibrating, so you are just giving them a message back.  At that point, they can sit and watch lap times.  Sometimes it's hard to figure out that a tire is going flat or not.  Most of the time, a vibration is from a loose wheel.  At Richmond it was a little bit different.  With the tires and the surface, a lot of guys got into chattering their front tires.  Our car was pushing pretty hard all night.  You would go into the corner and turn the wheel and instead of the tires just tracking and sticking to the track, you'd slide across the top of the track.  As it turned out, it was a chatter in the tires."   Why did you come in for tires at Darlington on the last caution?  "I'm not really sure.  That seems like a hundred years ago.  I think at the time, we were only going to lose five spots or less if we pitted.  Sometimes if you've got 18 cars or so in the lead lap, a lot of times the lead cars won't pit and they'll stay out.  I think Kenny Schrader stayed out.  He was ahead of us, and he went to the back so fast.  I think he ended up 18th or 19th and we ended up 11th.  That's a tough decision for a crew chief.  Everyone would love to have tires at Darlington, but you weigh track position and whether you have time to make up spots.  It's a tough decision.  A lot of times it's not right or wrong.  I don't usually get too involved in those decisions.  I think with our particular car, and the way our particular car was handling, it was a good call.  For a guy who can run good on into a run, it wouldn't be a good call.  You can't always watch what everybody else does.  Sometimes they need those four tires and sometimes they can make it work on two tires.  That is a call the crew chief makes."  


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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jon Wood