Dover: Ricky Rudd preview

RICKY RUDD: "Simple question, simple answer: the team's just more solid." Ricky Rudd, driver of the ...

RICKY RUDD: "Simple question, simple answer: the team's just more solid."

Ricky Rudd, driver of the #21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus, answers questions from fans this week regarding this weekend's race at Dover International Speedway, the growth of the 21 team, and some the trials that smaller race teams go through.

Have you tested at Dover? "No."

Will you be taking your Martinsville car to Dover, or does the team have a new car they plan to bring? "To be honest with you, I'm not really sure. I couldn't tell you. We've torn up a lot of cars as the year's gone on and have been in a lot of wrecks - other than the last couple weeks, which have been good. But, they're constantly building and re-building cars. Even if we don't wreck, that's kind of Fatback's nature, he keeps cars under construction at all times. I don't really know what car we're carrying."

Did you like Dover better before it was concrete or as it is now? "Dover has done such a good job on that concrete. When they first put concrete on it, I definitely liked it better than when it was blacktop. Then we ran it for a couple years when it was concrete, and I just didn't like it when I did when it was blacktop. Then, before they had an IRL race, they came in and surface-ground the race track, took a lot of the little bumps out of it, and made it a pretty good race track. It still can be a little treacherous sometimes. The entrance to the corner if you're running two-wide, especially early in the race before the track really takes rubber and turns black, you have to be a little careful running on the outside going into the corner on the outside of somebody. But it does take rubber, unlike most concrete tracks, and, sort of, is the closest thing to asphalt without being asphalt."

With all the rule changes on cars each year, if you are behind other teams engine- and aero-wise, is it possible to catch up in that upcoming race year or is it slowly killing off the smaller, less-funded teams? "I'm not really sure why this last set of changes took place. When all the smoke clears, the same teams seem to rise to the top, but it has cost a lot of car owners a lot of money to get running with the new rules structure. Again, I'm not sure why. It seems like it keeps everybody off-balance. The smaller teams are going to be playing catch-up the hardest because they've got one team. They don't have the testing advantages that a multi-car team has. Like our team, when we go to a race track, we have like five or six tests, total, for the year, that's all we have. With the multi-car teams, they go to a test and every time they come to a race track they have test data from one of their team's that's tested. And they work together as a group, so all of that data gets shared, and a lot of time you get personnel that's shared. I think NASCAR has been trying to work on that, where not only a team couldn't send all of its engineers to go to one test. I think NASCAR's been working on that. Anytime you have a new rule - major rule change, like the new spoilers - and a major tire change like we've had, there's a sorting out process. I thought our guys have done a great job of doing that. We need to stay out of other people's wrecks to be able to run enough laps on these tracks to find out Are we loose? Are we tight? You've got to develop a pattern and that pattern these guys can tweak on it in the wind tunnel. But you've got to bring that same car home week-in and week-out, massage it, massage it, massage it until you've got a good piece. And, when you tear it up, now you're back to square one again."

Looking back from your first year with the Wood Brothers, how much better has this team gotten from then until the 2005 season? "The team had some good cars and it had good people. Three major changes took place. The motor program is more solid now than when I first came onboard. The addition of Fatback is sort of a before and an after, the way I look at it, before Fatback and after Fatback. Pat Tryson did a great job, but he was living in Charlotte, driving up to Stuart (Va.), and he was putting in like two days a week. He worked his butt off, but he still wasn't there on a daily basis. And it takes that, the leader has got to be in the shop and with that group all the time. Pat's deal was that he was going to work long distance. Not that he did a bad job, but it could've been even better if Pat had been able to be there more. Now, the team moves to Charlotte, now they've got a crew chief in the shop that's there fulltime. You know, they lost some good people back when they made the move, but they've also added some good people. Number-wise, they probably have got more depth when they did when they were in Stuart, really, setting up for the big picture when they can add an additional team, and I think that is part of the plan process by moving to Charlotte. Simple question, simple answer: the team's just more solid."

Ricky, in all the years you've been racing, who was the toughest driver you ever faced on the track? I know from interviews many say you are one of the toughest drivers, yet one of the most respected. "I don't know how to answer that. There's a lot of good drivers out here today. They're all good drivers that we run against. Some of them are a little smarter and work with each other a little bit better than other ones do, but it would be hard to single out a particularly driver. I think everyone's great on a given day depending on equipment."

-wb-

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Series NASCAR Cup