June 17, 2001 Pocono Raceway Ford's Ricky Rudd Gains First Victory With Robert Yates Racing Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 28 Texaco Havoline Taurus, passed Dale Jarrett with 24 laps remaining to gain his first victory since joining Robert ...
June 17, 2001 Pocono Raceway
Ford's Ricky Rudd Gains First Victory With Robert Yates Racing
Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 28 Texaco Havoline Taurus, passed Dale Jarrett with 24 laps remaining to gain his first victory since joining Robert Yates Racing just prior to the 2000 season.
Rudd, who recorded the 21st victory of his NASCAR Winston Cup career, last won on Sept. 27, 1998 at Martinsville (88 races ago) when he was the owner/driver of the No. 10 Tide Taurus. The win was Ford's seventh of the 2001 season, which ties Chevrolet for the most victories this season. In addition, it marked the 49th all-time victory for the Taurus, which made its debut in 1998, and 519th overall for Ford -- most of any manufacturer.
Press Conference with:
Ricky Rudd, Driver --28-- Texaco Havoline Taurus
Michael McSwain, Crew Chief --28-- Texaco Havoline Taurus
HOW NICE WILL IT BE NOT TO HEAR ABOUT THE WINLESS STREAK?
RR: "It definitely feels good. The best thing about winning is that don't have to explain to people why you ran second or third or finished last. It just makes the phone call conversations a lot easier on Monday morning. It was just a tremendous day for not only myself, but we've got a lot of tremendous Ricky Rudd supporters and Robert Yates/Texaco supporters and to be able to do my part and contribute to help get this 28 team back to victory lane is just a great day for Yates racing."
TALK ABOUT THE WINNING PASS.
RR: "Junior took off there and was running pretty fast on that restart, but then he started slowing up and was sort of holding us up and was holding Dale up. What happens, is it doesn't look like your holding somebody up, but when you're following somebody it makes your car push and you can't get through the corner quite as good. It actually worked out pretty good for me. I had not been that good on restarts and with Junior up there sort of holding Dale up, it allowed Jarrett not to get too far away from me. If you noticed the run before that, Dale got through traffic better and we had a gap of maybe one-and-a-half or two seconds. I couldn't close and he couldn't open that gap, it just sort of stayed that way. But Earnhardt, Jr. was probably a key by holding Jarrett up a little bit and holding us both up. But I caught them side-by-side. They had a heck of a race going, but when two cars -- just like Daytona sort of made me look like a hero -- but those two cars, when they got side-by-side, aerodynamically, they slowed up probably 15 or 20 miles an hour, so I was able to get a run at 'em and slingshot 'em and get the momentum going and drive down on the inside.
RR: "Generally the inside guy, that's where you want to be going through the tunnel turn. If you try to race somebody that's in the middle or the outside, nine times out of 10 the inside guy is gonna win every time. There would be a wreck if nobody gave, but the inside man is usually gonna come out of there smelling good. So, I caught them in the right situation. Then when I got out front, I had good, clean air to my race car, which was worth maybe a tenth or two-tenths of a second to our race car to have good, clean air."
WHAT ABOUT WINNING FOR MICHAEL MCSWAIN?
RR: "It's kind of not your normal victory. We've got something like 20 and they've all been great, but when you've got a situation like we had with Fatback McSwain, when he came on board he was a good, young, crew chief that had a lot of talent but he needed and deserved a shot with a top race team. I know Robert Yates has trusted him with his prized possessions and it's nice to see him mature as a crew chief. I knew he could do it all along. He had the talent and still had some stuff to learn, but he couldn't work at a better place than to come on board with Robert Yates win. It was good to see him win. It was good to see Robert Yates. Don't get me wrong, the 88 team has won a championship and that's a great race team for him, but sentimentally this 28 team is what he started with. This is what he stuck his neck on the line for and left his comfortable job to become a car owner. His goal has been to get this 28 team back to where it was and, not only that, but not sacrificing the 88 team and they're still a very strong team. So now he's got two strong teams. It was just a great day. Texaco has hung in there. It's been, I don't know, four years maybe since this team has won a race. They're a great sponsor. They stepped up and have given Robert some support financially to do the job, so there are a lot of rewards that were paybacks today and it was just good to see the win, not only for myself but a lot of people."
WHAT ABOUT TRYING TO SAVE FUEL?
RR: "There really wasn't much saving the race car. We had a third-place car, maybe fourth at the worst, but about a third-place car. We were loose all day. We were loose yesterday in practice. It was cool and overcast yesterday morning and we were fast. When it got hot, we were a little reluctant to tighten the car up because usually the front ends start pushing here, so, in hindsight, we probably started this race a little bit looser than we should have. Every stop there were major adjustments going on. We never really found anything that worked. We found some things that hurt it. About two or three stops from the end, they made some adjustments on the chassis and the tires. I was sort of reserved to the fact we were gonna finish third or fourth and, all of a sudden, I said, 'Man, this thing is really stuck in the corner now,' and I saw we could run. I would say that it was about 50 laps to go before we actually thought we could win this race. As far as the end of the race and fuel mileage, the only thing I knew about fuel mileage was when we were riding under cautions I was told not to work the accelerator pump on the carburetor. Just leave it in one gear. They were pretty confident that fuel mileage wasn't a major issue, just don't do anything stupid with the accelerator to use a lot of gas. As long as I drove it the way I had been driving it, it wasn't a major issue to me. They were concerned, but it wasn't a major deal."
WHAT ABOUT YOUR TOUGH LUCK PRIOR TO TODAY?
RR: "Really, to me, the breaks haven't been that tough against us this year as they were last year. Martinsville, Virginia was really our race to win there at the end of the race. The strategy played its hand out, but that was the day Goodyear had a great tire and everybody stayed on four tires a long, long time. Our teammate Dale Jarrett, we had passed him and moved on and he was basically gonna finish as the last car on the lead lap. On one of the later cautions, they came in and pitted and put on four tires because they had nothing to lose. He had nothing to lose because he was gonna finish last on the lead lap. Everybody thought that was his day and it was over with, but, sure enough, they got a couple sequences of cautions and, all of a sudden, I'm sitting there with worn out tires and he's sitting there with fresh tires and there was only like one car between me and him. We were sort of doomed. That was probably just a bad break. That wasn't a pit strategy situation at all, it just sort of played its hand that way. Then Michigan last week, it made us look like we were really stout.
RR: "We were a good car, don't get me wrong, but Jeff sort of had the car. Jeff made a mistake on the white flag lap and got his car pushing and that was the reason I was able to get up beside him and lead that white flag lap. I drove into turn one, he gathered himself back up and he blew by me on the outside. I don't call that tough luck, I just call that a tough race that we lost and ended up running second. So this year hasn't been a thing of frustration. We had just about two mechanical failures in a row early in the season and we sort of said, 'Man, there goes the points championship.' We basically wrote it off after about four races in...I think think we moved into third in the points, so all of a sudden we're back in the points battle. We could go on and on about last year, but that was a tough season. We were so close so many times inside 15 laps to go. We got in wrecks, cautions would come out, we would pit and they wouldn't pit and vice versa, and, all of a sudden, we didn't win. That was a tougher year. Today sort of went for us today."
ANY CONCERNS TODAY?
RR: "To be honest with you, we broke a transmission late in the race. Everybody says, 'You hear gremlins and stuff,' well, I didn't hear 'em I actually broke a transmission. I went down into turn one and went to downshift into third and when I went to put it in third gear it wasn't there. I couldn't find it and that's a bad place to miss a gear. I couldn't believe I missed a gear, but that's what it acted like. I couldn't find third gear. I slowed way up. I had a comfortable lead and those guys were catching me pretty big-time. I couldn't find the gear in the gear box. I said, 'Man, that's pretty typical. That's the way our season is going, leading, out front,' that's just typical Ricky Rudd luck I guess. But I pulled it back in high gear and then I finally messed around and got it in third gear, then I was afraid to take it out. I was turning a lot of RPM at the end of that race. I wasn't shifting into high gear at the end of that race. The Doug Yates and Robert Yates motors held up, but that really and truly could have been our day right there. I told the guys on the radio after it was over, I said, 'Man, I want to do a doughnut. I don't know if I can do one because the last win I got they weren't doing that.' So I came down the front straightaway, I put it in first gear and I popped the clutch and there was nothing there. I said, 'Man, I know everybody thinks I'm an idiot now because I can't even do a doughnut,' but there was no first gear there. It was gone, so I put it back in second gear. I know I tore the clutch and everything out of it trying to do a second-gear doughnut, but I finally got it to spin around. I'm curious, though, to see what happened with the gear box because that very well should have knocked us out of the race. That was with about 10-15 laps to go. It was just about inside 10 laps to go and I couldn't believe it. I said, 'Man, this is just unbelieveable,' but it all worked out for a change."
HOW SATISFYING IS THIS?
MM: "It's been a lot of years, a lot of headaches, a lot of heartaches and a lot of hard work. Me and Ricky both have done a lot of stuff people said we weren't supposed to do. We came up to Pocono this weekend and we whupped 'em all weekend -- qualifying, the race. We got behind a little bit in the race, but we've got some really smart guys and Ricky is good at communicating to us. We figured out something on the next-to-last pit stop and that took us to victory lane."
RR: "I don't know, it's kind of tough. It really hasn't sunk in. Emotionally, I tuned myself out that we were winning the race so bad. When I crossed the checkered flag, I mean, it still didn't seem like we won -- I guess because I couldn't afford anymore letdowns like we've had some last year. I think, emotionally, I'm not getting any younger. We're not getting any younger to be able to go out there and beat some of the young guys today and beat some of the old guys. I don't have a tremendous amount of time left in my career and it's nice to go back and get back to victory lane. I want to go out, when I do go out, with a bunch of wins."
DID VICTORY LANE FEEL THE SAME AS YOUR LAST WIN
RR: "Actually, I thought it was more fun today. For some reason, we were able to pop the champagne cork and wet everybody down -- do a lot of stuff before we actually had to do all the hat dance stuff and that was great. We had some time to really enjoy the emotions of the race team. We've got a lot of guys that it's their first time to victory lane -- a lot of enthusiastic guys. It was just a neat deal to get back to victory lane and to see it in their faces. You know, you come into victory lane and you see the excitement in everybody's faces. I'm sure it's gonna sink in tonight that we won the race today, but I guess you tune it out so much because you don't want the letdowns. You also don't want to make mistakes on the race track, so I try not to get caught up in the enthusiasm there, but I think the key was just rolling into victory lane and seeing the joy and excitement in their faces. And, a lot of our fans. We stay in close touch with our fans. We've got an internet web page. We kind of get on there and look around. There are probably a lot of ladies locked up today because it had gone on so long without a win that their deal on the internet was that they were gonna be dancing in the streets naked if we won, so there are a lot of locked up women across this country if they do what they say they were gonna do."
WHERE ON THE TRACK WAS THE CAR WORKING BEST?
RR: "Turn one was a really good turn for us. Even when we were loose early in the race, I could still get through turn one and could make up a lot of daylight there and actually could get a run at these guys. That helped contribute to the eventual pass is that I was getting a run at Dale Jarrett and the 8 car. I was getting a run at 'em off that corner because we handled so good off that corner and that allowed me to get a little more momentum on 'em, plus I caught 'em side-by-side. I would say turn one was the best corner. We were okay in turn two -- the tunnel -- and turn three, that was kind of odd, because we were best there in qualifying and really shined there in practice and it was probably our worst corner today. These guys, they kept working on tires and changing the wedge. And the good corners tended to shift around a little bit. We sort of gave up a little bit in turn one, but we helped all the other corners. I guess they all added up. I'm trying to think where we were actually beating Dale late in the race. It just seemed I could get my car maybe turned a little bit and could get back in the gas a little bit -- carry just a little bit more momentum. It was all about momentum here today, and clean air, that didn't hurt matters any at the end of the race."
ON THE CAR TODAY.
MM: "Like I said earlier, we had a good car qualifying and we had a good car at the start of the race. But as it got hot and it got slick, we definitely went the wrong direction on our setup, but we were able to adjust the car back to the way the track was and that says a lot about our team and how far we've come the last couple of years. When Ricky and me first got together, that would have ruined our day. For us to be able to adjust and get our car back into winning form, that says a lot for our team and says a lot for our driver."
WHAT ABOUT BEING A CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDER?
RR: "If you talk to everybody over the winter, everybody says they're gonna win the championship and they rightfully mean that. They come into this thing with a lot of heart and soul and they know their teams are better than they were a year ago, so everyone is gonna win the championship. Then you start the season and, all of a sudden, you see a few guys that look like they're the dominant cars and you pick and choose who you think is really gonna win the championship. We were not a winning, dominant car when the season started, but these guys kept plugging away and we've gotten stronger a little bit each week. But with the points situation, knowing as close as it is. I guess the reason we threw that championship idea away after four races, I think Bobby Labonte is somebody who can help me with that. I think he ran something like all but one lap last year.
RR: "It was some kind of great team effort that he completed just about every lap and here we were missing something like 200 laps early in the season. I knew that at this day and time, you can't give up anything and still battle for a championship, but then a lot of other guys had some troubles too. The slate kind of got erased and we started over again. It's been since 1991 that I seriously challenged for a championship and I was driving for Rick Hendrick. It was 1991 and we were up against Dale Earnhardt. We had a real good chance to win the championship that year, but we were not strong on the superspeedway, we were not strong on the mile-and-a-half tracks, we had some weaknesses and we simply beat ourselves that year. This year, this team is strong everywhere. We've been everywhere but a road course and I feel good about our road course effort we're going out there with, but this team runs good at speedways, it runs good short tracks, it's good everywhere. You still have to stay on top of that. I'm sure Fatback lays awake at night trying to think about how to stay one step ahead, but I truly think it's a championship effort team. There are no guarantees that we can beat Gordon or beat our teammate Dale Jarrett, but I think we're definitely gonna be in the thick of things for a while. We hope we have no crazy failures. That would be the only thing to knock us out."
WHAT ABOUT THE POINTS AND WHAT DID ROBERT SAY IN VICTORY LANE?
RR: "As far as Jeff and the points situation, he's been a very dominant car week-in and week-out. The last couple of weeks, we've been able to sort of run with him today. We just put ourselves in a position to beat him. He was coming pretty hard at the end of the race, but, again, the points situation didn't change a lot. I think this thing, as it always is decided, it's gonna be more decided by the mistakes that you make along the way. Hopefully, we'll make less mistakes than they will. You look at our teammate, DJ, he had a pretty big lead and, all of a sudden, he gets banged up and his rib cage is sore and that team loses some serious points in a hurry. To me, that's what the championship hunt is all about is not to give up those big point gaps. There's no doubt about it that if Jeff runs like he is every race, mathematically, if he's only losing two or three points or breaking even, you'll never catch him. It's a long season. We're still in the thick of things. We feel like he can be beat. With a team effort we can beat 'em and they've got to be careful not to beat themselves, so we've got a long way to go yet."
ON ROBERT YATES?
RR: "I didn't get a chance to see Robert too much. I was up there with the champagne flying and he was in the background. He came up there and congratulated Fatback and told me 'great race.' He was real excited about it. You usually don't see Robert too emotional, but he was pretty choked up about it today."
ON THE TRANSMISSION PROBLEMS.
RR: "There are four speeds in that gear box. When we come off this last corner in third gear, we get about to the start-finish line and pull it back into high gear. Before you sail off into turn one, you put it back in third gear. I had done that for about 185 laps and everything was perfect, but when I went to put it back in third gear there was nothing there. It was grinding and raising Cain and I nearly wrecked the race car. If you go back and see it on tape, you'll probably see the car bobble a little bit because you have to go into that corner with power to the rear wheels. Usually if somebody wrecks down there, it's usually because something happened in the gear box or they found a neutral spot in the gear box. I couldn't find third gear and I didn't find it that time, so I pulled it back into fourth gear. We probably lost a half-a-second that particular lap. I drove around the race track and finally got enough nerve, maybe the next lap, to put it into third gear and then I was afraid to make the shift again. So I left it in third gear just about the entire race. I got nervous about the RPMs and thought that maybe I better pull it back into high gear so I don't kill the engine and high gear was there. I ran the last 10 laps in high gear. I drove off into turn one and instead of driving off into turn one and putting it in third gear going into the corner, I waited until I was coming up on the straightaway. It was probably costing us a tenth-of-a-second a lap, but I didn't want to find that neutral spot again going into that first turn. I nearly wrecked that last time. When the race was over, I had third, fourth and second, but I didn't have first gear. You'd put it in first gear and there was nothing there.
RR: "When you let the clutch out, it was like neutral. I don't know what broke, but I've never been lucky enough to break something in the gear box like that and still live, so it's gonna be interesting to see what did break."
HOW MUCH DID THE RPMs GO UP?
RR: "It was probably a 300 or 400 RPM difference by having to leave it in third gear for a while and then leaving it in fourth gear for a while. But, again, I was so nervous about trying to take that chance. I probably ran two or three laps and didn't really do a whole lot with it. I just found a gear and left it there. I think those guys, as far as they knew, I think he thought I just had third gear. I didn't want to talk on the radio anymore and jinx us anymore than that. It scared me. We ran down the front straightaway and even trying to take care of it, it was just turning the guts out of that motor. Usually these things break at the end of the race after they've been up there all day. It was kind of like I was darned if I leave it in third gear and darned if I don't, so I finally wandered around and found it back in fourth gear and at least wasn't gonna turn the motor too tight."
THOUGHTS WHEN RICKY STARTED TO PULL AWAY?
MM: "It's an old fact that we've all seen Jeff come back from a big deficit and run a car down, so what we tried to do was keep Ricky informed on what his time gap was. Sometimes he would pick up a tenth, but then we would pick up a tenth on him. We just tried to keep him informed on what the gap was, keep Jeff way back there as far as we could. I didn't really get nervous because we've been so close so many times. I think I finally got nervous when I saw him go through the tunnel turn on TV. I said, 'You know, I think we've finally got one,' and nothing happened and we did."
WHAT ABOUT GETTING OVER THAT HUMP?
MM: "All I can say is I hope it's just like everybody told me it's gonna be. Everybody has always told us that when we win our first one, it's gonna be one right after another. So, maybe we can come in -- the Texaco 28 -- and spoil Jeff Gordon's party this year."
WHAT ABOUT THE COMPETITION CAUTION?
MM: "As you all know, this is a really busy and hectic sport that we're all in. I think that the job that NASCAR does on informing us has always been really good. My particular official had three pits and I saw him tell all three crew chiefs there about the competition caution, so I just took for granted that everyone knew. But it's busy and hectic out there. There probably is a possibility that they missed someone, but you can bet it wasn't on purpose."