Darlington: Ricky Rudd preview

RICKY RUDD: "The way the schedule is now, there is no comparing the old with the new." Ricky Rudd, driver of the ...

RICKY RUDD: "The way the schedule is now, there is no comparing the old with the new."

Ricky Rudd, driver of the #21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus, recalls his most memorable race at Darlington Raceway, talks about racing under the lights on the historic track and answers other questions from his fans.

What is your favorite race or memory at Darlington? "We won a spring race there one year and that was pretty memorable. I was with (Rick) Hendrick and Wadell Wilson was the crew chief. But I'd say my most memorable time was way back when we had a family car there. It would be like 1978 - a long time ago. We ran really good. We'd qualified in the top-10 or something like that (note: Rudd started fourth and finished eighth). Early in the race I'd moved into third and I was going to go for the lead and attempt to pass two guys at once. I think it was David Pearson and somebody else. I made it three-wide. I made the pass and got into turn one. I can't remember if it was Pearson or the other guy, but they tapped me in the back and turned me around. It was either Pearson or Bobby Allison. I had actually cleared both of them and thought I was gone, but one of them touched me in the middle of the corner and I spun. I had to go back and start all over again. But, that was really neat because it was a family car and it ran really fast that day."

How is your car for Darlington? "I don't know what is going to Darlington. Our fleet has gotten pretty thin and we didn't test there."

What is your view on losing the traditional Labor Day race at Darlington? "There has been so many changes that I'll be honest. I don't know what tradition is anymore. The way the schedule is now, there is no comparing the old with the new. Everything is new. I personally miss the Labor Day race at Darlington. I think if I had to give one up, I wouldn't give up the Southern 500. We normally go to Darlington in the spring and that is when we are going this year, but we are going to be racing under the lights. That is probably the biggest change that I've seen. I think that is a plus. But not going there on Labor Day is still kind of hard for me to get used to."

Being that you are the IRONMAN of NASCAR, can you get too comfortable with tracks you have been on numerous times? "I guess I've learned over the years not to let that happen. You've got to be on guard at all times. You can have an equipment failure. Anything can go wrong. You've just got to be prepared, have an escape route. I've just not allowed myself to get too complacent in the car. It could happen real easily, but I've always worked hard on staying focused. To me it just kind of comes naturally. The speeds have increased over the years. The cars have gotten faster and faster in the corners. I don't think there is a whole lot of room to get too content."

It seems that there are less Fords racing in the series this year. Any reason for the change? "I don't really have an answer for that. I think it all gets back to motor programs. We're fortunate that we have the Yates/Roush engine program. I'm thinking that is available to anybody that wants to have a Ford team. I think the John Andretti team was a start-up team this year, and they had the Yates/Roush program available to them. I don't know what the Dodge people do and what the Chevrolet people do. A lot of it gets back to engine programs and a lot of it gets back to the fact there aren't that many start-up programs anymore anyway. The ones that are, they are going to go with the best support they can get from a manufacturer, whatever company that happens to be - they have to go with the company that is offering the most wind tunnel time and so on."

Do you know if Ford will switch to the 500 body for next year? "I don't really know. I know they are working on future aero stuff right now, but I don't know any of the details."

I know NASCAR doesn't allow them, but why not airbrakes, the same system your transporter uses? They would be great for short tracks such as Darlington, Richmond, Bristol, Martinsville, Phoenix, Loudon and the road courses. "I don't know anything about them. I can't answer that. I don't know of any form of racing that uses air brakes."


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers John Andretti , Bobby Allison