Indianapolis: Ford - Ricky Rudd interview

<B>Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 21 Keep It Genuine Taurus, won the Brickyard 400 in 1997 - the only time that an owner/driver has won the prestigious event. He later won the pole while driving for Robert Yates Racing (in 2000). Rudd met...

<B>Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 21 Keep It Genuine Taurus, won the Brickyard 400 in 1997 - the only time that an owner/driver has won the prestigious event. He later won the pole while driving for Robert Yates Racing (in 2000). Rudd met with the media this afternoon as part of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's Champion Chat.

RICKY RUDD - No. 21 Keep It Genuine Taurus

HAS YOUR APPRECIATION FOR YOUR VICTORY HERE CHANGED OVER THE YEARS? "I would say it's probably grown a little bit. When you win it is a big deal, don't get me wrong, but then you don't gate a chance to enjoy it, I think we were testing the next day somewhere else, so you don't get a chance to let it soak in and enjoy it. As time goes on, I think the win is always going to mean a lot to me as a driver, but another thing I never really considered is there's not a whole lot of owners in this garage area that has won this race before, so that's something I'm probably, as time goes on, I'm even more proud of."

WHERE DO YOU HAVE THE BRICK? "Where's the brick? I'm not sure where the brick is. I know where the trophy is. We had a flood in our basement the other week and our trophy is pretty much destroyed right now, so I'm going to have to get it re-built."

AND THE CHECK IS LONG GONE? "The check has been spent. The check bought the house that destroyed the trophy."

AS YOUR CAREER WINDS DOWN, IS THE VICTORY HERE SOMETHING YOU CAN HANG YOUR HAT ON? "Like I say, my career's definitely on the winding down process, and when you do retire and you look back and you see tat some races are going to carry more importance than others. I would say this race definitely carries a lot of importance. It's one of the biggest races I ever won. But, it's weird the way it works. In my mind, in 1971 I won the national championship go-kart race down the street. That rates up there pretty close to this. Again, obviously there wasn't a check that day, there was just a trophy, but my early career in go-kart racing was to try and win the big one and we were able to do that. The biggest race, obviously, in Cup racing that I've won to this point has been the Brickyard, and that will always mean something special in that way."

HOW ABOUT AS THE SPORT CHANGES? YOU'RE LOSING THE SOUTHERN 500, WHICH WAS ALWAYS A BIG ONE. THERE SEEMS TO BE FEWER OPPORTUNITIES. "This race, people rate it differently as far as importance. It was important to me because, my background, I thought I was going to go Indy Car racing, and it ended up not going that direction., so to come here to the Speedway and race stock cars and then eventually win here, it means a little more importance to me than maybe it would be a guy that grew up racing circle tracks all his life."

THIS IS SUCH AN IMPORTANT RACE AND TRACK POSITION IS SO IPORTANT, BUT THE QUALIFYING SITUATION IS SO MUCH THE LUCK OF THE DRAW, AND WEATHER. WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THAT QUALIFYING PROCESS HERE CHANGED SOMEHOW? "It definitely is not fair for everybody. The perfect condition would be the temperature doesn't change, it stays overcast and everybody has an even chance. But, moving it to 10 o'clock in the morning, I'm not sure exactly how many years ago they did that. We won a pole, but I'm not sure if it was at the 10 o'clock starting point or not. This race pays very little to win the pole. There's not very much importance on winning the pole other than the prestige side of it. But, there's some guys that will go home that won't qualify that had they gotten a draw earlier in the day they might've had a chance to make it - they're right there on the fence. The only way to make it fair is

to run qualifying from 6 to 8 or run it from 8 to 10. That's about the only fair way you could ever do it here. I'm sure that not able to work it out for all the radio broadcasts and stuff, but the time that they start it is probably about the fairest that they can do."

SOMETHING LIKE SEVEN OF THE LAST 10 HAVE WON FROM INSIDE THE 10TH STARTING POSITION... "I'm not really sure of the stats - you guys are probably good at researching that. We came here one time and qualified on the pole with the Yates car and another time we qualified fifth. We had a bad draw, we should've had a shot at the pole, but we didn't get it, we qualified fifth, and we went on to run good that day. But, the luck of the draw can make you or break you here."

AS YOU LOOK BACK AT YOUR CAREER, YOU HAD THE WIN AT THE BRICKYARD, YOU HAD A WIN A YEAR FOR MANY, MANY YEARS. HOW DOES THIS WIN RATE? "Sixteen years, but who's really keeping track of that? The Brickyard win is definitely the biggest - other than your first win at a Cup circuit many years ago at Riverside, California. I remember that because we struggled for a long time to get that first victory. But the win at the Brickyard, it's a big event. It's just a real big event. The pay is awfully good, but the paycheck, that thought process didn't even enter into it until Monday or Tuesday. It was all about prestige and history of this place - which means a lot."

YOU SAID EARLIER THAT YOU HAD A FLOOD IN YOUR BASEMENT. HOW MUCH GOT DESTROYED? "I lost some stuff that's hard to replace - some old photos, trophies and the Brickyard trophy. I'm sure it can be re-built, but it's pretty sorry looking now. It's kind of crumbled in a few pieces, so hopefully we need to get a replacement, or get that one rebuilt."

THERE HAD TO BE A LOT OF MEMORIES. YOU PROBABLY WALKED DOWN THERE AND WENT, 'OH, MAN.' "Well, it shouldn't have been in the basement in the closet to begin with. It should've been out on display someplace. That's where it was until we got a chance to figure what we were going to do with it. This life we live is so fast-paced, it sat there while we going to find a place for it where we'd really like for it to sit, and we never did."

WHEN YOU STARTED IN THIS SPORT, THE OWNERS, REALLY THE WOOD BROTHERS ARE THE ONLY ONES LEFT. WHY HAVE THEY BEEN ABLE TO SURVIVE OVER THE YEARS WHILE OTHERS HAVE FALLEN BY THE WAYSIDE? "They're awfully smart people. Leonard was an engineer in this business before engineers really showed up. They're very smart, first of all. They're good business people. And, they're learned to adapt. The partnership with Roush that they've built up over the years has helped keep them stable. They've been able to adapt with the teams, where maybe some of the car owners in the past maybe were a little not as able to adapt to the change in times that these guys were. They've been flexible. You know, moving from Stuart, Virginia, was a tough decision, but it was the right business decision for them to do, so they let all their feelings aside and they made the right business decision for the team. And that's it's all about survival and these guys have done a good job of being survivors in a tough sport."

DO YOU FEEL LIKE THEY'RE CLOSE TO RETURNING TO VICTORY LANE WITH YOU IN THE CAR. "We haven't had a very good year, for sure. It hasn't been as competitive as we had liked to. They haven't given up - you wouldn't know that from track results, but we saw some encouragement last week at Pocono, which is a good tune-up before you come to Indy. We finished 12th, which normally you would hang your head and say, 'That was a bad run,' but we saw progress. We could've very easily finished fifth to 15th - we were in a group of cars that was running together. So, a 12th-place finish with some stuff that they had been doing differently to the cars had showed up with some good progress at Pocono. Hopefully, we'll build on that for Indy."

WHAT IS IT SPECIFICALLY ABOUT THE AURA OF THIS TRACK? "I think it's different for everybody. To me, it's real special because I came here as a kid racing go-karts down the street at Raceway Park and our registration was right here at the Brickyard Crossing Hotel. We got a chance to tour the race track at that time. When I first started racing at Indy, the national championships - I was 11 years old and finally won the national championship when I was 13 years old - but going to the Brickyard Crossing Hotel, and looking over and seeing the big speedway. I had never seen anything like this. I never was exposed to the Daytona facility, but this was the biggest race track I had ever seen in my life, and thinking the way we race go-karts that generally led yu down the path to race at Indy someday. I knew at that time I wanted to come back and race here. I didn't really make the career choice, it just sort of worked out that stock cars was the right thing for me to do, and no regrets, but I never would've had a chance to race here. So, the reason is special for me because I came here as a young child, saw the facility, saw the museum, saw the history and I wanted to be a part of someday."

WHAT, BESIDES THE SIZE, IMPRESSED YOU MOST ABOUT THIS TRACK WHEN YOU WERE A KID? "At that time we came in there were old garages, they looked like horse stables. And taking the tour through here and seeing, 'Hey, there's where A.J. Foyt's car, that's where they parked the last race,' and over there was, gosh, all the famous guys that have raced here over the years and seeing their garage stalls with their names on the wall and stuff. That was pretty cool. And I've never seen a race track this big. I'm not sure if the bricks were there or not, but just to see a race rack that was, to me, was like a modern facility. I had been used to seeing sort of rundown race tracks as a kid, and seeing a facility kept up this nice, the grass looking perfect. It was just a neat-looking race track."

WHAT WAS IT LIKE DRIVING INTO TURN ONE IN '94, WITH FANS ON BOTH SIDES? "That's what's unique about Indy - coming down the front straightaway and having fans on both sides, that's pretty unique, and I think that's what makes it special here, to see the crownds on both sides. But, you know, we were one of only four or five of us came here, must've been late '80s or early '90s and they called it a Goodyear tire test, it was more or less an experiment to see if the Cup cars could adapt to this race track. To me, the novelty of it, we experienced it earlier than a lot of competitors did, by being one of those selected four or five and being able to come in a test it. I remember going through some of those emotions the first time sailing off down in those corners. At that time it seemed like, I think we ran a lap time of somewhere around 55 seconds. Now were running in the 49-, 48-second bracket, but even at 55 seconds I remember going down into the corner and thinking we're 190, 195 miles an hour down the straightaway, 'These corners look awfully sharp.' They looked pretty intimidating. When we first got here."

WHAT'S THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF DRIVING AT THIS RACE TRACK? "I think adjusting to the temperature changes, the flat corners. Even when you're handling good, the cars tend to slip and slide here quite a bit. Just trying to find a set-up here, it's really difficult to try and find a set-up that works good and works good for an entire gas run. It's not easy to do. You find a set-up that'll work good for a couple of laps and then it seems like your car falls off more than the guy who is the guy to beat that day. So, you got to work on longevity and it's not an easy thing to accomplish here."

-ford racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Robert Yates , A.J. Foyt