Daytona II: Ford - Ricky Rudd interview

Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus, is the all-time active leader in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series starts at Daytona International Speedway with 55. In addition, he is one of six drivers to compete in every restrictor plate race since...

Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus, is the all-time active leader in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series starts at Daytona International Speedway with 55. In addition, he is one of six drivers to compete in every restrictor plate race since 1988. Rudd, who qualified third for tomorrow night's Pepsi 400, spoke about trying to win for the first time at DIS.

RICKY RUDD - No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus

"We've got a really good race car. I qualified fifth-fastest against the clock here in February and then it was number one at Talladega and number three last night. It hasn't really raced that good, though. I haven't been real happy with the way it's raced. It pushes a lot in the front end, but I think that's part of the reason it goes fast. I think they sacrificed maybe a little bit of speed this time to get it to drive better, so I think it's gonna race pretty good."

EVERYBODY POINTS TO DEI. DO YOU FEEL THE GAP IS CLOSING? "I think obviously in qualifying it has, but qualifying is one thing and racing is another. I know I was real disappointed when we went to Talladega. We sat on the pole and went from being a pole-speed car to about a 20th-place car. That's about all we had on the watch in happy hour and I was real disappointed with that. That's what we've got to work on. I think the qualifying thing has worked out pretty good, but we've got to make sure it races good. That's the main thing. We haven't been able to do that yet, but hopefully it will be different tomorrow night. They saw some things when they had the car in the wind tunnel the other day, so that should make it better."

IS IT BETTER FOR THE DRIVER RACING AT NIGHT IN JULY HERE OR IN THE MORNING WHEN IT USED TO BE RUN BEFORE LIGHTS? "It's definitely better at night. We used to come here and the good thing about it was you raced early in the morning. I think it was 10 or 11 o'clock when you raced and even though it was hot it was much more bearable to get the race done. Sometimes you'd be done by noon and you could be at the beach at 1 o'clock. There wasn't a whole lot of traffic because for the July race there just wasn't anybody here, but now there are record crowds for the night race. So racing at night has been better not only for the drivers, but I think the fans enjoy it better too because they have to sit up there in those stands and tolerate that heat. At night it cools off pretty good here."

YOU'RE STILL LOOKING FOR THAT FIRST RESTRICTOR PLATE WIN, ALONG WITH RUSTY. DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT AT ALL OR ONLY WHEN PEOPLE BRING IT UP? "I think you've got to go back and look at the teams you've been with because some teams run good at restrictor plate tracks and some don't. Rusty's in a little different situation because he's been at the Penske deal pretty much most of his career, whereas I have tended to move around quite a bit more. With some of those teams we ran good on the restrictor plate tracks and some of them we did not. I really thought our best shot at winning a race was when I was at Yates. The first year I came in we really could have been a factor. We got wrecked in the 125 while we were running second, so we've had a couple of good runs here. It ebbs and flows. If you plotted them on a graph, these teams have peaks and then go down the other side and then they'll come back up again. I just didn't time the peaks right because I'd like to change that number."

DO YOU HAVE A PHILOSOPHY THAT YOU'LL APPLY TO THE RACE? "If the field breaks up into packs, like we saw in the 500, I think you're gonna be racing to stay in that front pack. I think the race will probably break up into packs and handling is gonna be the deciding issue that causes them to break up, so our big goal is to get this C2 Taurus cranked up and handling well. If it handles well, you drive a more aggressive race. You've got to sometimes put it in there two-wide and three-wide to make sure that you're in a situation where the pack doesn't split when you're in the second pack. That's probably the biggest goal early in the race is to make sure that if the packs start to break up, you stay in the front pack. Talladega is just one big pack, but here it's gonna break up."

-ford-

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Series NASCAR Cup