Â RICKY RUDD, COMPARING CALIFORNIA AND MICHIGAN: "THEY LOOK THE SAME, BUT THEY DON'T DRIVE THE SAME." Â Ricky Rudd, driver of the ...
RICKY RUDD, COMPARING CALIFORNIA AND MICHIGAN: "THEY LOOK THE SAME, BUT THEY DON'T DRIVE THE SAME."
Ricky Rudd, driver of the #21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus, has qualified in the top 10 in four of the last five races heading into Sunday's night's Southern California 500 at California Speedway. Two weekends ago, at Michigan, a track that is very similar to California, he started ninth and finished 19th, despite getting caught up in a wreck and running out of fuel on the last lap. Rudd, who followed that up with a fourth-place finish in last Saturday night's Sharpie 500 at Bristol, is now in a season's best 23rd place in the standings. This week, he answers questions from his fans concerning the differences between California Speedway and Michigan International Speedway, how weather affects a track, and a famous relative.
RICKY RUDD - #21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus
DO YOU HAVE INPUT ON WHICH CARS GET CHOSEN TO RACE AT A PARTICULAR TRACK, OR IS THAT 100 PERCENT THE CREW CHIEF'S CALL?
"Nowadays, as they've been working on the cars and the quality control is getting a lot better, there's not a really a big difference. The cars are built specifically for different types of race tracks, whether it's a high-travel track or low-travel track, and that's what they go by. They go by data. It's past me, way beyond me now. But as far as me saying I've got a favorite car, they're getting stuff more consistent. I don't really see that anymore. They all seem to run about the same - unless they're purposely trying to make one differently, which they can do very easily."
What's the difference between Michigan International Speedway and California Speedway?
"They look the same, but they don't drive the same. Michigan is faster. The corners, especially turns one and two at California, it's a pretty flat corner. In qualifying, the differences aren't as noticeable as they are in race trim when you need to stay on the bottom of the track in one and two, and if you can't handle it you move up the race track - similar to Michigan in that respect. But, the rpm drop, the speed in mile-per-hour and the rpm drop, is more at California than it is at Michigan. You lose more corner speed during the race than you do at Michigan, and that changes a lot of things."
HOW MUCH DO THE WEATHER DIFFERENCES AT CALIFORNIA AND MICHIGAN AFFECT THOSE TWO TRACKS?
"What generally makes speed are cool track temperatures. Cool and overcast skies. Most race tracks, other than concrete tracks, are blacktop, so even if it's fairly cool outside and sunny, the track's like a solar blanket, it's black, and on a winter day and the sun's out, it's going to be 20 to 30 degrees hotter than the ambient air temperature. Yet, in the summertime races, track surface, it's not unusual to see 120- or 130-degree asphalt temperatures. That does two things. The biggest thing is that it makes the cars lose grip. They don't corner as well, they tend to slide more. The asphalt mixture is made up of oil, and when the sun's out, it's baking and the oils have a tendency to rise to the top of the surface and make the tracks slippery. So the biggest difference in race tracks, comparing one to the other, is ambient temperature means something, but overcast skies where the sun is not directly beating down on the race track, makes a big difference, also. That's why you hear teams holler, 'Man, I hope we get this cloud,' during qualifying. It's not just a myth. They're not dreaming that up. They know it doesn't take very long if a cloud cover stays out on a hot day, it'll shield that sun and that track temperature will go down. That's what they want: to lower the track temperature - to a degree. In summertime races, the cooler the track temperature, the faster you go. At Indianapolis Motor Speedway, in qualifying, the way they do the early morning qualifying session, can make as much as a three- or four-mile-an-hour difference in your draw."
WHAT ABOUT THE OFFSEASON WEATHER?
"What winters do to a race track, for example, Pocono had a real rough winter. We knew that from all the trees that were down and the locals were talking about all the ice storms that they had. What gets the race track is all these tracks have some type of surface cracks in the asphalt. It's no different than a highway: water gets in it, freezes, and starts causing bigger cracks or potholes and so on. No difference. The race tracks up north, they have a harsher environment. But what's odd about that is Michigan International Speedway, and I don't know if it's because of the type of asphalt they have there or what, but they just don't seem to have a problem like they do, for example, at Pocono. I'm not really sure what the differences are. It could be on-site drainage. It's above my head, but some tracks seem to weather worse during the winter than others. It's not all about being up north, either."
If you had a choice would you ask for more road course races or more restrictor plate races?
"For certain, I wouldn't ask for restrictor-plates, I'd ask for road courses or short tracks or intermediates - anything but restrictor-plates."
I have noticed that you have answered some personal questions, so I am hopeful you will consider another one. How is Skeet Ulrich related to you?
"He is my sister's son, so he's my nephew."