RICKY RUDD - No. 21 Keep it Genuine/Motorcraft Taurus (Finished 2nd) WHAT ABOUT THE LAST TWO LAPS? "Really, you have to go back to about three restarts before that, but, anyway, the end of the race was pretty neat. We got hung out on ...
RICKY RUDD - No. 21 Keep it Genuine/Motorcraft Taurus (Finished 2nd)
WHAT ABOUT THE LAST TWO LAPS?
"Really, you have to go back to about three restarts before that, but, anyway, the end of the race was pretty neat. We got hung out on the restart because we fell back to third because of what happened a couple restarts earlier and we had a lot of ground to make up. I got hung up on the outside. My car would work really good on the bottom and it wouldn't work on the outside. I got hung up beside, I guess, the 23 car was trying to get laps back and we got hung on the outside. The 38, Sadler, and Joe just sort of drove away. They got a half-a-straightaway ahead on us by the time I broke out of the traffic. I didn't think we could catch them, but we were able to catch Elliott. I said, 'Gosh, we're running out of time. I don't think we can get to Joe,' and all of a sudden, here we are. We were right there on his bumper. Our car never faded and Joe's was fading away. Had we run four, five, six laps, there's no question, I think Joe's car was fading pretty hard at that time. We caught him and I got underneath him, but when I caught him, I got there and got to his door, but my car was in a little slip. When you throttle up when you're slipping, you're gonna spin out and that would have taken out me and the guy beside me. Joe and I, neither one, needed that type of ending to a great day for both of us. There's next week, but I'm just tickled to death that the Motorcraft Taurus is tuned up. Fatback McSwain, Hoyt Overbagh, and all the Wood Brothers had us running today. It was fun."
COMMENT ON YOUR TEAM'S REACTION AND ABOUT THE ARMY, AIR FORCE AND NATIONAL GUARD FINISHING 1-2-3.
"First of all, this team has been through a lot of struggles. The Wood Brothers are the greatest people in the world and probably some of the greatest people in this garage area here. They deserve better and we just weren't getting results. We tried with the team up in Stuart (Va.) and tried with the team down in Charlotte. The alliance with the Roush organization, I certainly thought that was gonna bring good results and moving the team to Charlotte and it just didn't work out. I'm not really sure why the Roush engineering shared support didn't work, but it didn't work. We didn't plan on that leaving when Fatback McSwain came on board, and that's the key right there - Fatback McSwain coming on board, which goes back to when Bobby Labonte's team decided to let Fatback goes his separate ways. That's really when our team started to run better is the day that happened and the gears got turning. The telephones were ringing off the hook trying to get Fatback to come on board and I don't know if he's the greatest crew chief in the garage area, but the combination with me and him just seems to work. When he came back we saw instant results with him stepping into cars that were already built - not built to his liking, but already built - and having to step in and take what you've got and make it go good three-quarters of the way through a season. I think it's remarkable, so we've seen results. We haven't necessarily seen it in the finishing results, but we've seen it in practice and qualifying. We're in the top 15 in qualifying every week. In happy hour practice we were fourth yesterday, so we're seeing results that we haven't seen since I've been with the Wood Brothers and it looks like it's only gonna get stronger. I'm just really pleased. I think that's one reason, maybe running second doesn't hurt as bad knowing how far we've come from way back. I think that's really cool about the armed forces. It would have been nice if the Air Force was out front leading the way. They usually lead the way when we go to war. They do all the bombing and stuff like that, so it's unfortunate the Army beat us today, but they had a good car. I think it's a lot of fun and I think it's kind of ironic, really, that it's settled between the armed forces."
WOULD YOU HAVE PUSHED IT FURTHER IF THIS WAS 1989 OR EARLIER?
"I don't think so. I've been in some hard races with people in the past and, generally, when it happens you get together. I don't usually look for trouble. I'll race people clean if they race me clean and that's sort of how I've done it. I've gotten into it in years past, quite a few races with Earnhardt, but I didn't usually strike first but I repaid the favors along the way. Racing Joe was good and clean and hard. To me, shoving a guy out of the way is not a way. It's easy to spin somebody out. I don't particularly think it takes a great deal of skill to wreck somebody. I'm not gonna race that way. I'm gonna race somebody hard and clean, but if I can't pass him legit, then I won't pass him I guess."
JOE BROKE HIS 54-RACE WINLESS STREAK.
"I don't think it could happen to a better guy. He hasn't had an easy go of it. That car has been running stronger and stronger each week. It's got those Hendrick motors under the hood and, man, they're fast in the straightaway, but, I tell you, we had something for them today with our Yates horsepower. We were just as good in the straightaway, I thought. I think it's good for Joe. It's well deserved. He hasn't had it easy and I can't think of a better guy, other than, that should have won it today."
ARE YOU COMMITTED TO HANGING AROUND THE TEAM MUCH LONGER?
"That's a good question. To me, right now, racing is fun. I've got a great group of guys that I enjoy being around. There's no pressure. Eddie Wood, Len Wood, these guys are just everyday guys. Fatback McSwain and Hoyt Overbagh, those guys, I enjoy being with this team. I don't feel like there's an immediate timeline when I can still run good now. We've run bad for a year and a half and, believe me, it weighs heavily on your mind. All of a sudden you start thinking, 'Is it me?' All of a sudden you hop in a good race car that goes around the corner and you get those questions sort of re-answered and it sort of rejuvenates you a little bit and makes you want to hang around a little longer."
DO YOU FEEL YOUR JUICES FLOWING WHEN IT'S GOING GOOD OUT THERE?
"I don't know of any race car driver that enjoys running 25th every week or 35th. I didn't go racing early in my career to be back in the pack, but I will say this, after being back there for about a year and a half, there are some darn good race car drivers that drive the wheels off their cars back there, but they just haven't gotten the right opportunities yet or it's not clicking for them. All of that being said, I don't enjoy riding around just to be out there to start another race. I've always enjoyed the thrill of the hunt. OK, we didn't win it today, but we were in the hunt. It could have turned out different. We could have won it, but we were right there in contention and those are the days and that's why I drive race cars for a living. I live for those days. Granted, they have been few and far between in the last year and a half - not since the Yates days - but, hopefully, we'll have that back on a more regular basis."
WHAT HAVE BEEN THE KEY CHANGES?
"We got two key guys - the one everyone knows about is Fatback McSwain, but we've got the engineer that's been with him. Hoyt Overbagh, from Richmond, Virginia, he worked with me when I had my own team and we shut it down. We moved Fatback and Hoyt and six or seven other guys over to the 28 Yates team. That right there is sort of the nucleus. Hoyt and Fatback just work good together and you've got to have that pairing. It's all about personalities and blending and making one not feel like their toes are being stepped on by the other guy. They have a good role there. They work things good. Hoyt doesn't care about being the front guy. He's a low-profile guy, but he's smart as heck. He's part of our success today, along with Fatback and all the rest of the guys, but those were sort of the ingredients that we were missing."
WHAT IS IT ABOUT HOYT?
"He's just a savvy guy. He's probably the oldest engineer in the garage area. I don't know if it's the combination - I work good with older guys. Bob Reilly was the last old engineer that worked with and he was a pretty crafty guy and it's sort of the same way with Hoyt. I don't care if it's young or old, he's just a low-profile guy that contributes to the puzzle of making these cars handle, but he doesn't care about the limelight. I think it's just a unique combination with him paired with Fatback that works. I don't want to over-analyze it or under-analyze it, but it works."