All eight Ford NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers participated in media day at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday. RICKY RUDD - No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus IS THE TEAM ALL SETTLED IN THE NEW SHOP? "I think that's more of an Eddie Wood ...
All eight Ford NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers participated in media day at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday.
RICKY RUDD - No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus
IS THE TEAM ALL SETTLED IN THE NEW SHOP? "I think that's more of an Eddie Wood question, but from just observing it looks real organized. When I go in the shop I see guys have their areas that they're working in and I haven't seen where they've really missed a beat at all with the move. Looking at preseason testing, the performance has been very, very good. If we were gonna show a weakness, it would show up on the on-track performance. To the contrary of that we've been very good."
DO YOU HAVE A LOT OF NEW PEOPLE? "We have quite a few new guys. Some of the guys didn't make the move from Stuart and some of the guys did. If you ever wanted to expand the team to two cars, you were really stretched to get people to come to Stuart to begin with. Now all of a sudden you're gonna have double the personnel and you just really could not make that happen in Stuart."
HOW MUCH DOES SHARING WORK? HOW DEEP DOES IT GO? "I'm kind of new to the multi-car team concept. I ran it before with Hendrick years ago and then Yates with the 28 and 88 cars. With the new alliance with Roush, I know we came here for winter testing and we were the best Ford and actually the best race car in winter speeds. That car went back and it went to the Roush camp. It was there for them to look at and diagnose and measure and do whatever they wanted to do, so this time it worked for the Roush camp. A lot of times it will work for us. The Vegas test is a good example. We were out there testing and the other Roush guys were over there and we were exchanging all the computer data between the teams, so we can look at things. We can see how their ride heights work around the race track and if we're off the pace, we can see what we've got to do. That information is flowing both directions, which is the way it should be. It's working pretty good."
HOW MANY ENGINEERS DO YOU NEED? "We just didn't get the engineering support we were supposed to have gotten and there are some reasons for that. I'm not pointing any fingers, but that never materialized. If you don't have that technology - when I had my teams I had one engineer. Like a Roush or Hendrick operation, Hendrick probably has 30-40-50 engineers on staff. So even if you have your one engineer assigned to you that's not enough this day and time. Now you've got guys that are specialists. You've got an aero engineer. You've got a mechanical engineer. Everything has become so specialized and now these guys run off in the various areas they're assigned to and they just come back with more information at a quicker pace and that's really what we're fighting is a technology race off the track as much as we are on the track. What you see on the race track is a result of who is winning the technology game."
YOU EXPECT TO BE MUCH BETTER THIS YEAR? "Oh yeah. Eddie Wood wouldn't have gone through all the trouble to relocate if he didn't see positive things coming from the move. It was not the easy thing to do. It was hard for them to do it, but already we've seen benefits. The proof is sort of in the pudding. Now we've got to go out and prove it to the world that we're a better race team and the way you do that is you go out there and you run up front and win some races -- at least you run consistent top fives and top 10s, which is something we were sporadic in doing last year."
BILL ELLIOTT IS RUNNING A LIMITED SCHEDULE THIS YEAR. IS THAT SOMETHING YOU WOULD LIKE TO DO? "I don't know. I'm gonna sit back and see how this goes for Bill and see how this works out. I see Bill kind of taking the role as more of a driver development guy - a trainer who will probably work the radio on race day to help the young guys and basically do a lot of thinking for them. A lot of the young guys go fast when they first come on board, but they don't have the years and years of savvy that comes with a lot of time on the race track. I see Bill probably moving into that role for Kasey Kahne, so there is probably a group of us sitting back watching to see how it works out for Bill and if he's happy doing that. The biggest thing is doing something you enjoy doing and we'll have to wait and see how it works for Bill."
WERE YOU IN THE 1979 DAYTONA 500? "Yeah."
HOW DID IT WORK OUT? "We broke. I remember we broke somewhere and I was on the way home when the big fight broke out. I didn't see it. It sounded like a wrestling match was going on, but it was pretty big. I know a lot of people still talk about it. They don't remember who won the race, but they remember the fight."
DO YOU GET JUST AS FIRED UP FOR THIS DAYTONA 500 AS THAT ONE IN 1979? "Believe or not that's what really motivates me coming back. If I didn't have that desire, I wouldn't be here standing. I would have quit a long time ago. It certainly gets a little bit tougher with the demands on your schedule, but I still get just as excited - not just for the Daytona 500 but for each and every race I go in to. I get pretty excited. The butterflies are flying every morning and it really hasn't changed. To me, I think I get just as nervous and excited about racing today. Even though I've been in this thing for probably 25 years at the 500, I still get just as excited about it."
ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT ALL THESE CHANGES? "The way I look at it, it's not affecting us right now today, so my tendency is to sort of block it out. I can't control it. I look at the things I can control and that's on-track performance. I have something to do with that. What happens with the television schedule, what happens with the point system, I can't control it so I've learned over the years not to worry about that. The chips are gonna fall as they will. I do think that we need to look at it a little bit differently. I think we need to look at it as if it's a 26-race schedule to begin with and if you get to the final 10, approach the final 10 when you get there. The key is you've got to get in position in the first 26, so I think people will tend to treat it that way and I don't think we'll be by ourselves in that area."
WHAT ABOUT THE ARGUMENT THAT IT DOESN'T GO TO CERTAIN KINDS OF TRACKS IN THE FINAL 10? "I'm not gonna concern myself with that because it is what it is and we'll just deal with it. I'm sure some people will be happy at the end of the day and some people will be upset. Will there be more people upset than before when they didn't get in the top 10 at the end of the points year? I don't know. We'll just have to wait and see. It is different, but I'm gonna go into very optimistic instead of with a defeated attitude and see how it plays out."