Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus, is on a roll heading into this weekend's New England 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway. He has finished no worse than 13th in each of the last three races, including a ...
Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus, is on a roll heading into this weekend's New England 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway. He has finished no worse than 13th in each of the last three races, including a top-five at Sonoma (second) and a top-10 last week at Chicago (seventh). This week, Rudd answers his fans' questions about "favorites" - race tracks, paint schemes and cars. Also, the team's crew chief, Michael (Fatback) McSwain handles a question about car inventory.
Has the New Hampshire track changed to your liking over the years?
"The only thing that has changed there is that the pavement seems to stay down now, where for many years during racing the track would tear up, and that was part of the obstacles you had to deal with there at New Hampshire. Everybody dealt with the same thing so it really wasn't a big issue. You would prefer that it didn't tear up, and now it doesn't, but it is still a tough race track. We usually run well there, but it is a strange deal because of the pit strategy and the way it plays out. It can be confusing to a driver. You catch yourself running 30th at one time, and then the next thing you know you are running up front. It's almost like a road course the way the pit strategy plays out. But, you've got guys doing different things and you don't really know which way is going to work out until you get to the end of the race. You just have to keep your head on your shoulders and not get frustrated with it as a driver. You might have a really good car and not be running up front. But, the way the pit stops cycle, everyone pits again and the next thing you know you are running up front. It's a good track."
Is it a favorite of yours?
"We've had some really good runs there, but I wouldn't say it was absolutely my favorite."
Did you test at New Hampshire?
Can you use the blue paint scheme the rest of the year? It seems to be good luck.
"The blue scheme, the Air Force color, is run only a few times a year. A lot of people like it because it seems to stand out. The Motorcraft colors are red and white, so we run that most of the time. It has to do with the sponsorship contracts. I don't know about the good luck and bad luck. It just seems that some years it works for you and some years it works against you."
What can a team do to stay consistent?
"Well, stay out of wrecks is probably the biggest thing. That has probably been the biggest thing that has handicapped us this year. We broke an engine and had a hub go bad on us at Atlanta. Those are mechanical issues that if we had to do it all over again there is nothing that we could have done to prevent it. It was kind of a freak deal. We use the same hubs as everyone else uses and we had a problem with one. The motor deal - you are going to break a certain amount of motors during the year. The bad luck happens to be that we were running really well when we lost the motor. It didn't happen on a day when we weren't running well. That, to me, is where you separate the luck side of it. It could have happened on a day when we weren't running well. And then we've finally had some good luck. At Sonoma, Fatback played the fuel card to gain track position. When we finally ran out it came after we crossed the start/finish line instead of before. And, that was good luck. Usually you have some good days and bad days and it sort of balances out. This year, we have been heavily lopsided with the bad luck as far as it dominating our season so far, but maybe Sonoma was the turning point and we are going to balance it back out the other way."
I've seen the foot cam on you while you race road courses. Do you brake with you left foot on oval tracks also? And do you brake with your left foot in your passenger car?
"Yes and yes."
How many cars does a team have in waiting if something would happen?
"You are only allowed to have two on the grounds at one time. I have seen situations, like at Daytona, where you may be going on to a test right after the race, and you have to exchange cars out before you leave after the race, but you can only have two cars on the property at a time. And, if you take the second car out you have to pay an inspection fee. As far as overall as to what the team has and are active in the system, it could be as few as 12 and as many as 20, 21 that run in a season."
Fatback, how many cars have you built?
"I don't know. There are a lot of them that are old but new. They have all been torn down and rebuilt. We treat them just like they are new in the shop. The car we ran at Sonoma was an old car, but we stripped it down to almost nothing and started over again. It had the frame rails and roll cage, but we rebuilt it."
Ricky, do you have a favorite car? (Laughing)
"The fast one. I try not to get too caught up in that. You'll have a favorite car on a given day. I don't pay attention to the car numbers because if you do, to me, you can get a preset mindset that this is my favorite car and if I'm not going to run it this week I won't do good. They are always building cars. There is always a new car in the system, so I always try to go into it with an open mind. I don't know if there is a pattern that has developed, but it seems like we have one or two cars that every time they've run they have run extremely well. But, the rules change and the bodies change, so I try not to get caught up in that. The car we have this year in Chicago was probably my least favorite last year, but through the winter they changed the body around and now it is probably one of our better-performing cars. If the driver goes into to it with a preconceived notion, we probably wouldn't have run so well with it at Texas and Atlanta. It ran really well. We could have won the race there. That car would probably never have gone to Atlanta had I had it my mind and put my foot down that I didn't want the car here."
What one race are you the most hungry to win? Any particular track?
"Any of them. Really, the satisfaction of winning anywhere -- it doesn't matter what type of track, it could be the smallest track on the circuit -- to me carries as much weight as a big track. Now, it doesn't pay the same, but for just the thrill of winning any track will do for that."