Daytona 500: Front row press conference, part 1

RICKY RUDD "It feels really good. To come back and align ourselves -- the Yates teams at Daytona or Talladega, you couldn't pick a better place to come back, but I'm just real fortunate. I've got a great team. I've got guys like Butch Hylton ...

RICKY RUDD

"It feels really good. To come back and align ourselves -- the Yates teams at Daytona or Talladega, you couldn't pick a better place to come back, but I'm just real fortunate. I've got a great team. I've got guys like Butch Hylton turning all the bolts and running the crew and it's just a real good feeling right now. I like what I see with what's going on."

BUTCH HYLTON, Crew Chief -- No. 88 Snickers Ford Fusion

"I think it's a statement about Yates and how hard we've worked over the winter to try to turn this thing around. I'm just real thrilled Ricky decided to come back and drive for us. He makes a big difference with his experience and makes the guys feel like he we can go out there and win every week. If we can keep this up and go to Las Vegas and California and run like we did at the test, I feel really good about it."

Q: WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE CONSIDERED SUCCESS TWO MONTHS AGO?

RICKY RUDD

"I think I measure it more what happened at our Vegas test and things of that nature. I guess I'm a realist. Don't get me wrong, this is great. This is really Butch Hylton's front row and Todd Parrott's front row and all the guys at the shop that worked so hard, and the motor shop. I look at things like Vegas, that's sort of the bread and butter of what's gonna happen next year and I'm more excited about how well we tested out there and how well we raced out there. I'll be honest, I would not have come back to work if I didn't think this team was solid enough to have an opportunity to win some races. I know there are probably a lot of people that don't see that, but I walk through the shop and I've been walking through shops for a long time and it doesn't take long to sort of recognize the talent that's there. You go to the test and kind of sit there as an observer. I like what I see. The team is playing a little bit of catch-up right now, but to sit here and see the success the team has had, I'm not totally shocked by it."

Q: HOW NICE IS TO HAVE TWO TEAMS WORKING AS ONE?

RICKY RUDD

"It's made a tremendous difference. It's a real positive environment to be in. I was at Yates before and obviously had a teammate, but our shops were located in different cities and the cars were built differently from one another, and even if the drivers wanted to compare notes it just didn't work. It was totally different race cars pretty much. When I was at Hendrick it was a similar deal -- the cars were in different cities at that time. Some ran in-house chassis, some were store-bought chassis, so this is the first time really in my career I've had the opportunity to work with somebody and somebody as talented as David that is exceptionally good and gives exceptionally good feedback for being inexperienced on these race tracks. He's just got a tremendous talent to relate what the race car is doing. He keeps talking about me helping him, but he helps me as well. We go out there and we've got two heads in the driver's seat working together. I know Butch came up with some things, our car ran quick. Just to show you how open it is, he runs over and shows Todd, 'Hey, we learned something a while ago that last run, you need to look at this.' Todd makes some changes right before qualifying. That's the kind of teamwork concept that's sort of a dream come true to have that kind of environment, instead of competing against each other. I've been there before where you worked harder to beat your teammate than you did each other and it's not supposed to be that way. I'm really pleased with what we've got going on right now."

Q: WHAT IS IT ABOUT DAVID THAT IMPRESSES YOU?

RICKY RUDD

"I tell you what impressed me the most. We've got a little farm out in the country. He came over the other day and he brought his five-year-old son with him and we were riding dirt bikes and motorcycles and stuff and just having a good time. There must have been 15 of us and I had a couple of motorcycles and four-wheelers in the corner. I told David, 'I don't have time to mess with it but go over there and dust it off and put some air in the tires and gas it up and it's ready to go.' He goes over there and hops on the little four wheeler and he could ride a wheelie the length of this front straightaway on a four-wheeler. I was really impressed with that. I said, 'That's my kind of guy right here.'"

"You've got to remember this guy came here to test never seeing the speedway. He was lost. He couldn't find his way to the tunnel and that was a month ago and now he comes here and sits on the pole. He didn't win the shootout, but he gave Tony a fit and finished second in the shootout. That's pretty amazing and he's not by himself. There are a lot of guys out there that are seeing these race tracks for the first time and it just amazes me how they can pick up on things so quickly."

Q: WHAT KIND OF SHOT IN THE ARM DOES THIS GIVE ROBERT?

RICKY RUDD

"I think it's a boost that these guys deserve. You've got guys like Butch Hylton over here, you've got to remember that this team came together real late. Robert had a completely different team or leadership last year at this time and his intentions, he meant well and tried to build a better organization, but it just didn't work. It didn't click. He had some talented guys, but the chemistry just didn't click and they weren't successful. In comes Butch and then Todd Parrott comes back to the organization and it started coming together, but it happened real late in the season. Sitting there and watching Robert like you guys did, it was probably pretty sad to watch how low the team had gotten. Robert didn't even have a sponsor for the second car and these guys had opportunities and families to take care of and they said, 'Robert, we're gonna stick with you. We've got confidence. I think you're gonna get a sponsor. We're not leaving anywhere. We're gonna wait until the very, very last minute.' And the group that he had today, especially the 88 Snickers team, these guys could have bailed and they didn't and I think that's one reason the chemistry is so good. And I think that's why Robert's got a little bit of a bounce in his step again because he's got a program that's working and it's clicking. Again, I was the last addition. I guess I was the last guy to get hired and really stepped into a pretty darn good race team. I didn't see the race team that they had at the beginning of last year, but what I walked into was a pretty darn good assembled race team."

Q: HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE BACK AND DO YOU REALIZE THERE ARE STILL LONG RACES AHEAD?

RICKY RUDD

"I won't try to think about those yet and the races you're speaking of they've been pretty much my strong suit my whole career (Martinsville), but I didn't sit at home and sit in a rocking chair. I worked hard. I rode dirt bikes. I don't know if you guys ride dirt bikes or not, but it's pretty physical. I rode those quite frequently. I actually went and ran a go-kart race and those things pull four g's in the corner and the average guy out here could probably get about eight laps and they would be done. I purposely would go out and run an hour-long session just to try to get myself built up. So from a conditioning standpoint that's not a concern for me. What was a concern, you take a year off and you start second-guessing yourself. Will I remember how to shift the gears? Will I remember the switches? There's so much that goes on. The first time I hopped in a car to go test I was a little bit rusty for about two laps and then it just comes to you. It's just like riding a bike, I guess. I'm fortunate I still have my health. I'm 50 years old. There are guys that are 50 that can't get around at all and can't hardly get out of the house, and there are guys that are 50 that are big athletes. I'm very lucky that I still have my health. I don't know how old I can go before I start losing skills and ever, but I feel like I'm as good as I was when I was 18 or 20, the difference now is that you've got a lot of guys that are very good also. The level of competition has stepped up, but I'm very fortunate that my skills, however good they originally were, are still there."

Q: WHAT DID YOU TELL JAMES HYLTON BEFORE HE QUALIFIED?

RICKY RUDD

"That's pretty neat. I first came in the sport I was 18 years old and James Harvey Hylton was about the only guy that would talk to me. He hopped in our race car a couple times when I would go to places like Daytona and drive it around there and tell me what we needed to do to set it up. He was a really good chassis guy. He's a good driver, but a good setup guy. It was kind of strange that I'm down on pit road and here comes James Hylton and he's asking me for advice. It's gone full circle. He was like, 'How do you run the top line? When do you pull it down to the bottom? What do you do about the wind?' It was pretty neat to have flashbacks when I was 18 and it was the other way around."

Q: HOW DO YOU LOOK AT PRACTICE AND ALL NOW?

RICKY RUDD

"I'm gonna let Butch answer that, the only thing I'll say from a driver's standpoint, don't get me wrong, third would have been a great opportunity to showcase how well Robert Yates Racing is coming back, but there's a big difference in third and second. I was really sweating that front row. Butch has a plan. He already knows what he's gonna do on different setups."

BUTCH HYLTON

"When you sit on the front row here, it lets you be a little more aggressive in the duels. It's pretty obvious that our car has a little different setup in it than other cars if you watched it on TV, so we'll take that in the 150s, and we'll be able to run that, give it a shot, and see what happens. If the car runs like I think it will, like it did at the test, we'll probably race that in the 500 but it lets us have the option to try different things. If we had got bumped off the front row, we would have had to be a little more conservative with our practice this week, so that's kind of what we're gonna do."

Q: DID YOU TELL DAVID ABOUT THE HOT DOG WRAPPERS AND WHAT WERE YOU THINKING WHEN YOU WENT OUT AND SAW THEM?

RICKY RUDD

"I was looking for the hotdog wrappers and there weren't any out there laying around. That was my problem today and yesterday in practice. I filled David in on all those little things, but there wasn't anything blowing around on the race track today, yet the wind was blowing. As a matter of fact, there was a pretty stiff wind. It was 20 knots and that could have been the difference in our front row spots exchanging with each other. It wasn't an ideal situation, but everybody dealt with the wind. It was different for people at different times. The thing about the hot dog wrappers, when you get a head wind on the backstretch here, there's not much a driver can do with it, but if you get any kind of quartering head wind, sometimes the wind comes across the track and hits that wall. If it's coming from the airport across, you want to hide against the wall and it will basically hide that wind and there's speed there. If it's coming from the infield going across the track, a lot of guys were running the middle of the race track, you can kind of hug more to the right side because you watch the hot dog wrappers and they're not blowing around. You'll see sand blowing, but the hot dog wrappers are still and that's where you want to run."

Q: CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE DRAFTING ASPECT FOR DAVID?

RICKY RUDD

"I think that's a good question. Two cars working together can accomplish a lot of things. It used to take three, four or five cars, but two guys working together can do pretty good things. Our goals are, and this is really Butch's and Todd's department and they're gonna be good at getting us the best cars that we can have for raceday comfort where we can go out there and run with each other. Just watching the other night at the shootout, the guy that wins this thing in the long runs is the guy that will not have to lift the throttle. You heard Tony talking about how the cars are sliding around a lot. That's true but some guys are sliding around more than others and the cars that slide around the least amount will be the guys the go out front, especially in the long run. That's what we'll be working on the next couple of days. I just hope we can get these two cars running equally well where we can work with each other. It's great to have a partner out there, you can't do it by yourself."

Q: WHAT KIND OF ADVICE DID YOU GIVE TO DAVID? YOUR FIRST RACE WAS A YEAR BEFORE HE WAS BORN.

RICKY RUDD

"Yeah, and his dad is like 50 years old and I'm 50. I used to race against his daddy out in California when we would go to the west coast. He was the west coast guy you had to beat when you went out and ran the road courses, but it all gets back to you put your helmet on, put your gear on. Everybody, to me, is the same age, you talk the same language. There's no generation gap when you start talking about race cars. Sometimes you might describe things a little bit differently, but it's neat to work with somebody that has that much enthusiasm. You can see yourself in him from years ago. David kind of came up a little bit unique. He almost didn't get discovered. I put him in the category of a Denny Hamlin. As much talent as he's got, he almost didn't get discovered. These are the guys that work their butts off. They've built race cars and they drove race cars. David set up race cars to make it. He's done it all. It didn't get handed to him by his daddy, who was the west coast champion. He had to learn it the hard way and it's a pleasure to work with somebody like that who is appreciative of everything that you can do for him."

ROBERT YATES , Car Owner -- No. 38 and No 88 Ford Fusions

"This is a good day. This is as good as back in the day or better. It's the best day we've had in a while, so I'm happy to be here."

DAVID GILLILAND

"I couldn't ask for anything more as a rookie coming to Daytona for your first time. It's been an experience. It's been great. We unloaded and the M&M's Ford Fusion was great. To come to a place as a rookie, you've got all of Todd Parrott's experience and all the success he's had here, and Robert and Doug Yates -- not only the power they provide us with -- but all their success and experience they have here. When I first met Robert, I went to dinner with him, and just hearing all the stories and the times that they've been to Daytona and all the success they had. It's just a pleasure to be a part of it and I'm just really, really looking forward to Sunday in the Daytona 500."

TODD PARROTT , Crew Chief -- No. 38 M&M's Ford Fusion

"It's a good day for Robert Yates Racing in general. We come to Daytona. We work hard all winter. Doug and his guys in the engine shop work endless hours on the restrictor plate program. Talladega, back in October, the last restrictor plate race it was an all-Yates front row, so we came to Daytona to repeat that. All the guys in the shop work so hard on our restrictor plate cars. The whole program. David is doing a great job. We came down here and had a great test. The job he did last night in the Bud Shootout was phenomenal. I thought for a rookie to come to Daytona and drive as hard as he did and do the job that he did I thought was great. It's an exciting week. I've been fortunate enough to be with Robert Yates Racing since 1996 and I've had a lot of success here in Daytona. I've won a couple of Daytona 500s and a couple poles and I love this place. Other than my house in Mooresville, this is my second-favorite house. I love this place."

Continued in part 2

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers James Hylton , Robert Yates , Denny Hamlin
Teams Yates Racing