Long Pond: This Week in Ford Racing - Rudd, McSwain

NASCAR Winston Cup Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 28 Havoline Taurus, snapped an 88-race winless drought when he won last year's Pocono 500. In addition, that marked the first NASCAR Winston Cup win for crew chief Michael McSwain. Both men spoke...

NASCAR Winston Cup

Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 28 Havoline Taurus, snapped an 88-race winless drought when he won last year's Pocono 500. In addition, that marked the first NASCAR Winston Cup win for crew chief Michael McSwain. Both men spoke about that day and their thoughts on returning to Pocono as the defending champion.

RICKY RUDD -28-- Havoline Taurus:

IT MUST BE NICE TO GO TO A RACE AS THE DEFENDING CHAMPION. "Yeah, I think anytime we go to Pocono we feel good. That's a track where horsepower shines pretty good and the Yates stuff is never short on power, so we're encouraged about going back to Pocono. We ran good in both races and last year we sat on the pole and won the race, so that was a good day for us. In going back, things haven't changed a whole lot since then so I feel like we're going to go back in really good shape."

HOW DO YOU SET YOUR CAR UP FOR THAT TRACK? "Well, it's always been a compromise up there. You hear everybody say, 'Well, we'll set up for this corner and sacrifice the rest of them,' but I think nowadays the cars handle a lot better than they used to and you've got more available options. I think you've got to handle good in all the corners now. There are no throwaway corners anymore like they used to be. You have to be able to go through all of those corners because if you don't, you start the straightaway on a lot shorter distance than everybody else. You've really got to handle in all the corners now."

WHAT DID THAT WIN MEAN FOR YOU LAST YEAR? "That was a big step for us. We had run really well and had a couple of wins slip away from us in 2000 and it took us nearly halfway in 2001 to get a win. That just kind of laid everybody to rest a little bit and kind of took the edge off everybody. It was just a good team morale booster."

DID THAT SERVE AS A SPRINGBOARD TO YOUR CHAMPIONSHIP CHASE? "I think so. I look at our situation right now and somebody did the numbers and told me that if we had not gotten wrecked at Richmond, we would be second in the point standings right now. You've got to have the consistent, good runs, but when you throw a win in on top of that, it's a tremendous morale boost for the team. All of the hard work kind of pays off when you sneak in and get yourself a win."

DOES THIS SEASON MIRROR LAST YEAR TO THIS POINT? "They're real similar. There's not a whole lot of difference. We started off in a hole last year in the points and we did the same thing this year. Now we're starting to fight our way back up and trying to get caught back up from Richmond, plus the wreck at Daytona set us back. Those two big wrecks and DNF's on the schedule have really hurt us, but, mathematically, where we stand now versus last year isn't much different."

MICHAEL MCSWAIN, Crew Chief --28-- Havoline Taurus:

DOES THAT WIN SEEM JUST LIKE YESTERDAY? "No, not really. It seems like 10 years ago. But that was a good day for us. The whole weekend was good and we just hope we can go back up there and have that kind of weekend again."

WHAT WENT THROUGH YOUR MIND THE LAST 5-10 LAPS OF THAT RACE? "I guess I didn't really have a lot of emotion the last five or 10 laps because we had been so close so many times the past couple of years prior to that and it always seemed like something would happen. So I just really didn't want to celebrate too early because we had been close a lot and never really did it."

BUT AFTERWARDS YOU LET LOOSE. "Yeah, that was a pretty good victory lane. I've been doing this for 10-12 years and that wasn't only my first win as a crew chief, it was my first win on a race team. There was a lot of work, a lot of aggravation and a lot of long, hard days leading up to that day."

DID IT MEAN MORE AFTER ALL OF THOSE CLOSE CALLS? "Yeah, I think we savored it more because we did it the way we felt was right, not necessarily by the norm and it worked for us."

WAS THAT THE CULMINATION OF A DREAM? "Yeah. I came into this business 12 years ago as a fabricator and just through hard work and dedication I got a shot to do this deal with Robert (Yates). Fortunately, all of the pieces went together and we all made it happen."

SO POCONO WILL ALWAYS HAVE A SOFT SPOT IN YOUR HEART? "Oh yeah. Pocono will always be Pocono."

-ford-

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Series NASCAR Cup