Ford Racing - Ricky Rudd interview

Ford Indy Test July 15, 2002 Indianapolis Motor Speedway Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 28 Havoline Taurus, and team owner Robert Yates provided an update on where things stand as far as contract negotiations for next season. Rudd had said he...

Ford Indy Test
July 15, 2002
Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 28 Havoline Taurus, and team owner Robert Yates provided an update on where things stand as far as contract negotiations for next season. Rudd had said he hoped a decision could be reached by today, July 15.

RICKY RUDD --28-- Havoline Taurus:

IS THERE ANYTHING NEW?

"I'm working as hard as I can trying to get things worked out."

HAVE YOU ELIMINATED ANY OPTIONS?

"I'm getting close. I think that's what I'm coming down to is being able to eliminate some options. I really feel like this week we'll probably have something to tell you about that. I was hoping I could wrap everything up and have some answers, but it's not working out that way. A lot of it is timing and details."

IS IT DRIVING YOU NUTS?

"Oh yeah, it is -- without question. Again, it'll all unfold and then I can give you the low-down, but it's getting pretty intense and pretty nerve-wracking."

A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE BEEN SAYING THAT IT'S A CASE OF WHEN YOU MAKE A DECISION, BUT IS THAT REALLY THE CASE?

"You'll understand when we get done that a lot of it's not my decision. I'm not sitting here holding everybody up. A lot of things that are going on is not my decision to make and when it all comes out, it'll make sense. But right now it's a lot more complicated then maybe you can realize. It's a two part deal -- where I stand with Yates Racing and then what are your options if Yates Racing doesn't work out and a lot of the things that go on at Yates Racing are beyond my control. One thing I can lay to rest -- it's real simple -- at Yates Racing, regardless of what you read it's not a money issue and what I will say about that is I wasn't getting answers that I needed to have. Right after Dover I said, 'Well, let me put it on paper and I'll give it to Robert,' so he's had that now for over a month. There are some issues in the contract that, when it came to money, we worked through the issues. Just so you know, when I came in and took the ride at the 28 I took rookie pay. I never complained about a dollar. I made my deal and we lived by it, but it was to get my foot back in the door in good equipment. Money was never an issue there then. We get to the end of a three-year contract and I said, 'Robert, now is the time to catch up. I feel like I deserve top-five pay. We've been in the top five every year. We've won races. We got the team back on winner's circle.' But I said that I'm not asking for top-five pay, pay me top-10 pay and that became a sticking point for a while. Sponsors have stepped in to try to make that work out, but there's another key issue in there that is a stumbling point and that is that I want to make sure that if I come back to the 28 that it is indeed the 28 team as we know it today and not all the people have been moved off my team to a third team. So that's a sticking point."

HOW IS THE COMMUNICATION WITH ROBERT?

"Well, to be honest with you, we never really have a lot of conversations. Since I've been there we've talked maybe once every one and a half months. We probably talked more in the last week or so than we have in quite a while, but, again, regardless of what someone says about the money issue, we have actually worked through that issue. The stumbling block is that if I'm gonna come back and start with a brand new team again, it might be time to look around. I don't even know who the people are who are gonna be working on the car next year, so how can I agree to sign when I don't know who the people are gonna be working on the car. And that's what it's about -- it's about people. Again, there's a third team that's gonna be started at Yates Racing. I do know the crew chief is gone (Michael McSwain). I identified key people who I felt was the heart of Yates Racing in my paperwork and Robert said, 'I cannot agree to the terms of that. I can't guarantee that you're gonna have those people.'"

SO YOUR CREW CHIEF WON'T BE BACK WITH THE 28 NEXT YEAR?

"The crew chief will not be with the Texaco 28 team next year, if I stayed."

WILL THERE BE A THIRD TEAM?

"I don't know. If I move on, there probably won't be a third team. If I stay, there will be a third team."

SO YOU LOOK AT A CREW CHIEF CHANGE NEXT YEAR.

"I'm looking at not only a crew chief change, but I could be looking at a car chief, I could be looking at a whole new structure, which, again to me, doesn't make any sense when you've got a team that potentially could have won four races to this point and is seventh in the points. I'm a racer. I don't understand why you would sacrifice one when it's the best performing team that they have in the camp right now week in and week out. The other team is, I don't know, 11th or 12th in the points. I don't understand why you would sacrifice one. Maybe Robert can answer some of those questions, but that's what I mean when I say a lot of these things are beyond my control. It's not like, 'Hey Ricky, re-up with the 28 and go on.' It's not that deal at all."

DOES IT COME DOWN TO ALL THE GUYS OR ONLY A CERTAIN NUMBER?

"We haven't gotten into that part of it. I think it's telling me that when there are no guarantees that the 28 team will be intact, that sort of tells me where Robert's heart is and if the car owner's heart isn't in having the 28 be successful, then I can't do anything to change it. I don't own the team. I don't think it's right, but I can't control it. All I can do is put it in my agreement and I think, quite frankly, it surprised him when that showed up in my agreement -- that the 28 team needs to stay intact as it is today."

IS THIS RELATIONSHIP STARTING TO CRACK WHERE IT MIGHT MAKE SENSE NOT TO BE BACK NEXT YEAR?

"I don't know. Robert's issues always seem to come up about money. I think Robert has a hard time dealing with, in his opinion, that Texaco underfunds the team and he's got another team that is paying six million dollars more a year. He wants two that pay that kind of money. That seems to come up quite a bit and I can't control that. Are there cracks? I don't know. I think it's about money for Robert. If the money appeared some kind of way, then things would be back together and go on."

WHAT ABOUT BETWEEN YOU AND HIM?

"Let me just say that a certain amount of respect that I've had for where I'm at is not quite there anymore."

DO YOU ALMOST FEEL LIKE A LAWYER WITH ALL OF THESE BACKDOOR POSSIBILITIES?

"First of all, we had that retirement issue and that was not just a made-up tactic to get more money, regardless of what Darrell Waltrip will say. He'll always be controversial and try to stir things up, just because he likes stirring stuff up. But that's a possibility that still hasn't been eliminated. If all the chips fall and I end up with a team that can't win races right out of the box, then I'm not ruling out retirement. I'm not playing it like, 'if I don't get what I want I'm leaving.' It's simply that I don't have time. This team that we've got today has been under construction since probably the middle of '95-'96 and a lot of those key people that have been identified are the ones that basically came with me over to this team. So, it's not like, 'Hey, you built this thing in a year.' It took a long time and that's why I'm not willing to bail out on it and I'm kind of working it right up to the very end. But if you have to go somewhere and start over again with all new people, I feel like I was a big contributing factor. Robert said I was the guy that got this team where it is today and I said, 'No, wait a minute, we got here together as a group.' But I don't know if I have that in me again -- to get a team under three years or so -- to get it to where it can compete as a championship team. I don't mean me by myself, but my contributing part. I hand-picked a lot of people and I think we're seeing a team that's very strong and how well our recruiting did. I don't know if I could go through another several years of building up again. It takes a while to reap the benefits once you start over. So, again, as far as that retirement card -- it's not some wild card contrary to what Darrell is saying. I'm facing real possibilities here."

CAN THE RESPECT FACTOR BE REPAIRED?

"I don't know. Just so you, many of these multi-car teams you have one that's a lot heavier funded than the other one, but the money goes in a pot and it all works out at the end. The two teams thrive off each other and it really contributes to the whole overall success. I'm a racer. I don't understand. OK, one is making a lot of money and one is breaking even. I guess I don't quite understand the greed factor when you've got two successful teams. I can't comprehend that -- why you would sacrifice the chance of a performance downgrade by making the changes. I respect people that race to win and not about money. I don't understand it, but, again, Robert has been in this sport 15 years longer than I have. Maybe when you get to a certain point you start looking at, 'Hey, I'm x-amount of years old. Maybe it's time to put a little bit in the bank.' There will be cutbacks in the 28 team, if it stays as it is -- I know that. That's another thing. You can't afford cutbacks. You need to be going the other way."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Robert Yates
Teams Yates Racing