NASCAR announced plans for 2005 realignment Friday morning at Richmond International Raceway. Ford drivers reacted to the news that Rockingham will no longer host a Nextel Cup date and Darlington will lose one of its two races. Texas and...
NASCAR announced plans for 2005 realignment Friday morning at Richmond International Raceway. Ford drivers reacted to the news that Rockingham will no longer host a Nextel Cup date and Darlington will lose one of its two races. Texas and Phoenix will now have two races each next season.
RICKY RUDD - No. 21 Rent-A-Center Taurus
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE CHANGES? "I'm not really super-concerned because we have no say-so over the schedule. The schedule has changed many times over the years I've been racing and it really doesn't seem to make a big difference for the competitors. I know it does for the fans and it's gonna be different. Darlington once a year under the lights and I guess we'll go out to the west coast a few more times, but we'll see. There's not a whole lot we can do about it. NASCAR has a plan and I guess if they said, 'let's go to China and race,' we'd all be there."
WILL YOU MISS THE RACING AT DARLINGTON AND ROCKINGHAM? "Darlington will still be there, so I guess even once a year is not bad as a competitor. I think as a competitor you probably just enjoy running all these tracks once. Running them twice, unless you've got a really favorite track, you go back to it and enjoy that, but Darlington is still there. I'm gonna miss Rockingham. Rockingham was a fun race track. It was sort of a driver's track. The cars never handled perfect there the whole race. They would slip and slide and you'd have to go to the top of the race track in three and four and run on the bottom in one and two, and you could pass each other without getting an aero-push. That track will be missed, but, by the same token, Phoenix is the type of race track that is a good race track for the Cup cars. They run good at Phoenix. They handle good. Usually, you can see a good, exciting race there. So you've got one exciting race track that's replaced by another."
SO IT'S A FAIR TRADE OFF? "I'm gonna miss Rockingham. I wish there were more tracks on the circuit like Rockingham, but that's not gonna happen. Again, I'm not gonna get too caught up in it and worry about it. I sort of live these races an event at a time. It's tougher on the crews because there's a lot of planning that goes into this months and months ahead of time, but from a driver's standpoint, he doesn't have to worry about all those logistics. He just gets his schedule and make his plans around that. If you get caught up in it too much, you'll stress yourself out and worry about things you can't control. I'm trying to worry about things we can control."
JEFF BURTON - No. 99 Roundup Taurus
MOVING OUT WEST HAS BEEN A TREND AND IT'S CONTINUING. "I've said for several years now that I thought it was in the best interest of our sport to be in as many places as possible. Getting to Phoenix twice and California twice and Texas twice, all of that makes a lot of sense because it spreads us out around the country. It's disappointing to lose Rockingham for sure. Rockingham is one of the most fun places for drivers, but what's in the best interest of the sport isn't necessarily in the best interests of the driver at times and I think this is one of those occasions. I also hate to see North Carolina lose another race, but, again, we go back to long-term benefit for the sport and it's best served by being in as many regions around the country as possible."
YOU KNOW THIS HISTORY OF THIS SPORT, SO IT MUST BE SAD TO SEE SOME OF THESE TRADITIONAL TRACKS LOSE DATES. "Yeah, I mean Rockingham was the first big race track I ever ran on. I can remember riding through the tunnel at Rockingham thinking, 'Oh my God, look how big this place is.' It was a thrill to go there. I've raced an awful lot there. It's one of my favorite tracks as well as one of the garage's favorite tracks, so it's disappointing to lose Rockingham but those things happen. I hate to say leaving North Carolina is good for the sport, but certainly being in other places is good for the sport. We need to keep our count down. We don't need to keep adding races because I think that de-values the sport by having too many races. So I'm in total favor of keeping the race numbers down by going to as many different regions as possible."
DALE JARRETT - No. 88 UPS Taurus
IS MOVING DATES JUST A SIGN OF THE TIMES? "Yeah, it's just a product of what we've built here. I guess we always knew that as the sport grew there was a chance that things like this would be changing and here we are. It's something different for us. You can't say it's a bad thing because we're probably gonna be giving our sponsors more for their dollar in bigger market areas. On the other side of it, we had some great races at both Rockingham and Darlington. Hopefully, those can be duplicated going to these other places for a second time. You can't argue with the success they've had at Texas and them getting a second race. I think the one that probably surprised me a little bit was Phoenix getting a second race, but it's a great place and they have great crowds there. That should be beneficial to us, also."
THEY'VE ALSO MADE A COUPLE MORE SATURDAY NIGHT RACES. "I think in doing this they've tried to give the fans and drivers and crews an opportunity for things to be a little bit better with their schedules. Over the years, even though we've questioned some of the decisions NASCAR has made, I think if you look back they've made the right ones a whole lot more times than they've made the wrong ones. I think this is something else that they've looked at and feel this is the direction we need to go and this is what's gonna be best for our teams, for our sponsors, and for our sport."
MATT KENSETH - No. 17 DEWALT Tools Taurus
YOU'VE HAD SO MUCH SUCCESS AT ROCKINGHAM. YOUR THOUGHTS ON THAT TRACK COMING OFF THE SCHEDULE. "I think it's always sad to see some of the race tracks that created the heritage of this sport disappear from the schedule, but, on the other hand, NASCAR has done a great job over the years growing the sport and getting us to different cities and different venues, where they can get more exposure for the sponsors and the sport. I understand the change, but I still would have liked to see one race a year there and maybe not give two to some of the other tracks and keep at least one there. Yet, I understand the change and understand progress."
HOW GOOD WAS THE RACING THERE? "It was great racing, they just couldn't get the people in the stands. Being in the southeast and with the time of year that we raced there, the weather had chances of not being good and we just couldn't get the people in there to make the sponsors happy and make everybody happy to be able to pay the bills. The racing was great. It's too bad they couldn't have picked that race track up and moved it to a market where they could have gotten 100,000 people in there because racing there is definitely great."
YOU WERE THE LAST WINSTON CUP CHAMPION. THE LAST CHAMPION UNDER THE PREVIOUS POINT SYSTEM AND NOW YOU MAY BE THE LAST RACE WINNER AT ROCKINGHAM. "It's pretty neat to be the last winner at Rockingham because I'm sure that once they take a race away from somewhere I'm sure they're never, ever gonna give it back. So it's cool to be the last winner at that track. I've really enjoyed it in the past. We used to struggle there with our Cup car, but the last few times we've run pretty good there. We wrapped up our championship there and won our first Busch race there, so it's a really special place for me. I'm really proud that our team was the last winner of that race. I remember when they took North Wilkesboro away and Gordon was the last winner. That was kind of a big deal, so I think it's pretty cool."
KURT BUSCH - No. 97 Sharpie/IRWIN Taurus
YOU'VE SPENT SOME TIME IN ARIZONA, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE SCHEDULE CHANGES? "I really haven't seen too much. I did notice that there was no Darlington race in the fall and that's a bit disappointing not to have a Southern 500. But with the way that our sport is changing and the continued growth, they're making big leaps now and not just small steps. I think what they're doing is positive and we're following their lead. We're race car drivers and we'll race on the tracks they provide us to race on, so it's just a continued effort for change."
AS A GUY WHO GREW UP OUT WEST, IS IT NICE TO SEE MORE RACES OUT THERE? "It's almost a resource that has been untapped with one race a year in Phoenix or one race in Vegas. Now we've got two in California. Now we're gonna have two in Texas. Now we're gonna have two in Phoenix. We're just continuing the trend of more and more races on the west coast because the fans out there want to see more racing."