Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 28 Havoline Taurus, held an impromptu Q&A session shortly after Thursday's practice session was halted due to rain. RICKY RUDD --28-- Havoline Taurus "I've been out here about a week trying to figure out what I'm...
Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 28 Havoline Taurus, held an impromptu Q&A session shortly after Thursday's practice session was halted due to rain.
RICKY RUDD --28-- Havoline Taurus
"I've been out here about a week trying to figure out what I'm gonna do when I grow up (laughter)."
DID YOU FIGURE ANYTHING OUT? "I think I'm coming up with some ideas of what I want to do. I know what I want to do and I'm gonna see if we can't make it work, that's the trouble. If I stay put, and I've said earlier that I wanted to do one-year contracts, that may present some problems for car owners. I don't know yet, we're kind of waiting to see. I guess their timing issue, I wouldn't say it's totally on hold, it really depends on if we can work things back out on the 28 team. I still don't know if that's a 100 percent option just yet."
DID YOU TALK TO ROBERT DURING THIS OFF WEEK? "As a matter of fact, today we talked a little bit. We still don't really have anything resolved. There are a lot of what- if scenarios. 'What happens if this went this way and this went that way, what do you think?' I really don't have an answer to give you because I don't really have an answer."
WHAT HAS THIS WEEK OFF DONE FOR YOU? "If anything, it just allowed me to clear my head a little bit and just kind of relax. You know, you get caught up in the day to day grind of the schedule worrying about transportation or worrying about this or worrying about that. It just gave me a chance, with a clear head, to kind of go over the options I'm looking at."
IT SEEMS YOU GET CLOSER TO RULING OUT RETIREMENT. "I wouldn't rule out the retirement thing, but, again, this is my number one priority. If I can get Robert to agree to like a one-year agreement, then the retirement probably would not happen this year. But, again, one-year contracts -- as simple as they sound, they can create problems because you're right into a new season and you're already looking at 'what are you gonna do for a driver if this driver leaves?' So you're never really out of that driver seek-and-hunt situation, but for some, there are some car owners that called me and said, 'Hey, a one-year deal would work fine with me. As a matter of fact, we would prefer that.' So, what doesn't work for some people works for others."
HAS RETIREMENT SLID DOWN TO THE THIRD OPTION OR SO NOW? "As far as retirement being a number one priority, I'd say it's been moved aside a little bit. I guess I've been spoiled by such good runs here recently. The car has been good, it's been competitive and that's why I went racing in the first place -- not just being here riding in circles. I've done that probably more than my share of times. I've put in a lot of time that we weren't all that competitive and now to be with a team that is so competitive, that certainly weighs in on the decision process, at least maybe a delayed process on the retirement just a little bit."
WHAT DOES DAN DAVIS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT ALL OF THIS? "We've had some conversations, but I think it was more or less, 'if we can keep you with Robert, if we can't, then we'd like to keep you in the Ford camp.' Dan's doing what he needs to do. He's protecting Ford's interest. I think we were the highest finishing Ford team in the points last year for them and won some races, so, naturally, Dan wants to keep his arms around it and keep everything together. Where we sit with Robert? I wouldn't say I totally don't know. Up until today, I really didn't know. I know a little bit more now than I knew, but it's not 100 percent done deal that this seat would be available next year."
WOULD YOU SAY YOU MADE PRETTY GOOD GROUND TODAY WITH ROBERT? "I think I maybe have a little bit better understanding of where he's coming from."
DID HE TELL YOU HE HASN'T SIGNED ANOTHER DRIVER FOR YOUR CAR? "Well, that's sort of the same thing I said. I'm not gonna get into some of the ins and outs, but I think I can honestly say, that I think Robert can honestly say that he did not sign another driver and he can say that with a clear conscious."
BUT OTHER PEOPLE MIGHT BELIEVE SOMETHING DIFFERENT OR SOMEBODY ELSE IN HIS ORGANIZATION MIGHT HAVE SIGNED SOMEBODY. "Well, I'm not going there."
WHEN ARE YOU LOOKING AT MAKING A DECISION NOW? "I think we originally said July 15, which is like next Monday or so. We're testing at Indy, but as close to that timeline as I can expect. I mean, I don't think it can go much farther than that and I don't think it's gonna happen before that."
IS THERE AN OFFER ON THE TABLE RIGHT NOW? "To be honest with you, there are like three or four offers on the table. It's not like you're playing one against the other. My number one goal is to keep this team intact. It's an awfully good race team that can win races and win championships. I don't want to lose this. That would be my number one goal once you rule out the retirement issue is to keep this together. Can we keep it together? I don't know. I can't answer that. I know there are some things and some commitments from the sponsor. I guess there are some things that Robert and the sponsor have to talk about, but if that doesn't work out, then I might not be here next year."
WOULD YOU DRIVE FOR A THIRD RYR TEAM THAT WASN'T THE 28? "No. I don't want to give up what takes a while to gel. We're only in our third year with this team, but some of these guys I've been together with for probably seven years. You don't want to throw that communication away because it takes time to build and it just clicks. I don't want to throw that away, but, again, I'm not the one totally in the driver's seat."
THESE OFFERS YOU HAVE ON THE TABLE, ARE THESE VIABLE TEAMS? "Yeah, some of them are strong enough that I felt they could come out and win races, and some of them are race winners. Some of them are not totally new teams. Some of them are restructuring teams."
ARE ANY GM OPERATIONS? "Actually, there's a Dodge, a GM and a Ford, so there are three different manufacturer's."
WHAT ARE FORD AND TEXACO SAYING? "They're like me, they want to keep this thing together. There are some things that I don't know -- car owner issues with sponsor issues that I don't know all the works and it's probably none of my business, but I guess need to be worked out before this as a group can move forward. I don't really know what all those issues are. I imagine some of them are money related and some of them might be linked to time related. 'How long does this contract go?' Things of that nature, but, again, you need to talk to someone with Chevron, Texaco or Robert."
DO YOU THINK ROBERT WILL OFFER YOU SOMETHING BY THE 15TH? "If not, then I've got to move on. Basically, I've got to move on. The thing is, I want to stay, but my other opportunities would be gone."
IS HIS HANG UP THE ONE YEAR CONTRACT? "I think that might be part of it, but it's not all of it. I think every owner in this business wants financial support equal to the best deals in racing. If you don't, I mean, I made that mistake as a car owner. I got way under-financed. I was trying to do this thing for four million dollars. No matter how hard you work, you can't make it work. So, I think there are some issues there that, as this contract goes down the road, is it keeping up with the pace that the other sponsors are keeping up at? I think those are some of the issues."