LONG POND, Pa. - Ricky Rudd turned his first lap in a Winston Cup car driving for Bill Champion in 1975, he kicked around the circuit for the next several years sporting a limited race schedule for a variety of teams. Rudd landed a full time gig...
LONG POND, Pa. - Ricky Rudd turned his first lap in a Winston Cup car driving for Bill Champion in 1975, he kicked around the circuit for the next several years sporting a limited race schedule for a variety of teams. Rudd landed a full time gig in 1981 with DiGard Racing, finishing sixth in the championship that year and garnering his first Winston Cup pole at Martinsville.
Rudd is set to make his 700th consecutive start today at Pocono Raceway, making him the only driver in NASCAR history to never miss a day of work. The feat has enabled Rudd to be somewhat of a bystander to some of the most storied aspects of the sport; participating and watching as the sport grow into the multi-cultural phenomenon that it is today.
"It has changed quite a bit," said Rudd. "And I think that is the one word that pops into my mind - you have to be flexible and adaptable as things have changed. NASCAR has really grown this sport tremendously over the years. It really wasn't my business to know the other side of the fence. I've seen this racing from the inside - from the inside of the garage area - from the driver's standpoint and the owner's standpoint.
"I haven't seen it from the promoter's standpoint and I haven't seen it from NASCAR's standpoint, but you look at where the sport is today and how healthy it is compared to other sports and I'm proud to be a part of it and play a little role in that."
Rudd who has scored 23 NASCAR Winston Cup victories says that the attention being placed on his 700th start Sunday has made him reflect on his career.
"What it does is it forces you to take a look back," said Rudd. "In this sport you're always looking ahead and you never really have time to look back. Whatever happens today or Sunday's race, you don't have time to think about it too much because Indianapolis is next weekend. You're never really focused on what's going on today or in the past, so this has basically forced me to take a look at the past and the accomplishments up to this point."
Rudd started racing at age nine in go-karts before hooking up with the Winston Cup circuit at the age of eighteen. When Rudd came onto the scene he was the youngest driver in the garage and used to be kidded by the other drivers.
"When I went to the first couple of races," said Rudd. "I was getting kidded about coming in for a diaper change because I was 18 years old and the next youngest drivers at that time were in their early thirties, so now I'm on the older end of that spectrum, so it's been pretty neat."
NASCAR president Mike Helton referred to Rudd as "a very big asset to NASCAR Winston Cup racing".
"What amazes me," said Helton. "Is the heart and the character that Ricky (Rudd) has and I think that's what has made NASCAR successful. That type of attitude and aggressiveness to be so competitive. It's remarkable and it's a little spooky to listen to, but it's pretty remarkable to think that Ricky and some of these other drivers want to race that many."
To commemorate Rudd's 700th start at Pocono, a B2 bomber will have the number 700 embossed on its tale during the flyover.