Indianapolis: Ricky Rudd preview

Ricky Rudd: "It's really amazing that stock cars can go as deeply as they can in the corners (at Indianapolis) and still be able to get turned." Ricky Rudd, Michael McSwain, and Eddie Wood, driver, crew chief and co-owner, respectively, of...

Ricky Rudd: "It's really amazing that stock cars can go as deeply as they can in the corners (at Indianapolis) and still be able to get turned."

Ricky Rudd, Michael McSwain, and Eddie Wood, driver, crew chief and co-owner, respectively, of the #21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus, answer fans' questions this week about Indianapolis, car set-up and possible expansion of Wood Brothers Racing.

How did the test go at Indy? Ricky Rudd: "Well, there were only three of us the first day and one of those wrecked. Then we were down to Kurt Busch and ourselves the next day. Kurt's was a pretty good car to gauge off of. We were fast, but you don't really know how good you were, but we just kind of tuned the speeds out to get the car where it was driving good. Fatback had several set-ups he wanted to try, and we had two cars that run off against each other to find which one was going to be the better car for Indy. And we were able to do that. The car that we ended up carrying to Chicago, I think, was the better driving car. We never did do qualifying runs. I was pretty happy with the way the Chicago car drove. How fast was it? Is it competitive? I really don't know. Based off Kurt's speeds we were good. We were as good as he was, if not a tad little better."

You think about drafting at Talladega and Daytona. Can you draft at Indy? Ricky Rudd: "You use every little bit of slip stream you can to try to get going. But Indy is not like Daytona. At Indy you don't really want to be following somebody into the corner. You want to use them down the straightaway and try not to follow them into the corner, and there is not a whole lot of room to mess with because the groove is pretty tight there. Generally, you can move your nose a half a lane, maybe lower. It's hard to move a whole nose under somebody unless the guy in front of you slips up and he leaves a whole lane open for you in the corner. That happens sometimes because they are very tricky corners and you slip a lot there and the cars slide around a lot. The best you can hope for is to get half of your nose into clean air and half of it behind him. The draft will help you in the straightaway, but in the corner you will lose front downforce and you are better off to have clean air than to run behind somebody. The aero-push you hear about - generally, the flatter the race track the more that tends to enter into a problem. The higher-banked the race track -- like a Bristol, Tennessee, or a Richmond, Virginia -- at Bristol, for sure, you could run with the front end off the car and it would run just as well. You start getting into the faster and faster speedways, a lot of your mile-and-a-half tracks depend on aero."

What is the difference between driving flat tracks versus banked tracks - Indianapolis and Daytona, for instance. Ricky Rudd: "Driving them is just a state of mind. You are going very fast at Indy. I think our data was showing over 206, 207 miles per hour in race trim at the end of the front straightaway where you turn into turn one. The straightaway goes on forever and it is kind of uneventful until you get down to the end and then things start happening in a big hurry. And, it is kind of flat for a stock car. The banking doesn't really carry you into the corner. At Daytona, you can pretty much take your hands off the steering wheel and as the bank angle starts to progressively increase it carries the car down into the corner. Whether you steer it or not, it's going to usually head down to the bottom of the race track on entry. Indy won't do that. If you relax your arms at Indy, you are pretty much going to go straight. It's a very quick timing maneuver to get into turn one and turn three (at Indy). Natural instincts are for guys to leave the wall and turn in early, but that's not the fast way around the race track. You have to kind of turn in late and square the corner. It's a split-second turn in. Nothing's happening, nothing's happening, and the all of a sudden you have to put a lot of wheel in it in a short period of time. It's really amazing that stock cars can go as deeply as they can in the corners and still be able to get turned. It's a challenge, but they still go around there pretty good. Set-ups at Indy are nothing like we run at Daytona. I can say that, but I really don't know that because I don't know what springs we run at Indy and what we run at Daytona. The set-ups have changed so much in the last couple of years and they change from race to race, depending on what the NASCAR rules are and what kind of tires we are running. For many years the set -ps wouldn't be even close to one another, but I cannot rule out that they are not the same now."

What are the major differences in the car set-up between Indy, Pocono and Talladega? Michael "Fatback" McSwain: "All three are uniquely different. Indy is smoother than most peoples' floors in their house. Pocono is a real rough race track. And then Talladega is not close, not even the same animal. These may have 12 degrees banking and Talladega has 20-something degrees banking. We take totally different cars to all three tracks."

I know you guys work your tails off managing the airflow over the outside of the car. What, if anything, is done to manage the volume of air that goes through the radiator? Is it channeled somewhere, or just allowed to go under the firewall creating lift? Michael "Fatback" McSwain: "It is ducted from the nose straight to the radiator and then we work on the exterior of the car and underneath the car to help the distribution of the air that is used for cooling. We probably spend as much time on that aerodynamically as we do on anything else we do."

Are there any plans in 2006 for a possible second Wood Brothers' team and a teammate to share information with? Eddie Wood: "Yeah. We're exploring that right now, but I don't see it happening for '06. We're more concerned for the 21 car for '06 right now. But maybe by '07 we'll have a couple. I wouldn't want more than two. Two, I think, is enough to do what you want to do as far as having somebody to compare off of. When it gets down to it, each car goes to the race track, teammates or not. You hear a lot about teammates working together and you hear a lot about teammates not working together. It's all through the garage - both sides of it. But, we would be looking in the next couple of years doing that."


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Series NASCAR Cup
Teams Wood Brothers Racing