Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus, qualified 19th for tomorrow's Virginia 500 while Dale Jarrett (37th), driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, and Kurt Busch (36th), driver of the No. 97 Rubbermaid Taurus, will both start from the back...
Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus, qualified 19th for tomorrow's Virginia 500 while Dale Jarrett (37th), driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, and Kurt Busch (36th), driver of the No. 97 Rubbermaid Taurus, will both start from the back of the field. All three drivers spoke about the hazards Martinsville presents, particularly at the start of the race.
RICKY RUDD - No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus:
WE SEE GUYS GET SPUN EARLY IN THE RACE AND THEN HAVE TO GO TO THE REAR. IS THIS A MENTALLY CHALLENGING RACE BECAUSE OF ALL THAT CAN HAPPEN HERE? "Well, I think it's a little easier if you do have a problem to get kicked to the back. I think we had some kind of problem here last race and it happened fairly early on. We made up two laps and then came from the back of the pack all the way up and finished third. You can do it, but it takes a while to do it. If you get yourself in a hole, it just takes all day long to dig out. The good thing is that if you don't have anymore problems, you can dig yourself out of that situation. The track, to me, is a little bit better for making up time than it used to be. When they ground the surface here last September everybody was complaining before the race about how bad it was and when the race started it ended up equalizing the bottom groove and the top groove to where they both had even speeds. There wasn't a big advantage one way or the other, so what it did was make two distinct grooves to race on. That was a plus because now instead of having a single groove, you've got more race track to work your way through traffic."
IS THE START OF THIS RACE MORE STRESSFUL BECAUSE GUYS IN THE BACK ARE ALREADY IN DANGER OF GETTING LAPPED? "What happens is when the race start, if you're the last-place qualifier, the pole winner can see you. You're on the same straightaway when the race starts, so it's pretty frustrating if you're that far back. If you're somewhere up there in the middle of the pack, you've got some buffer between you and the leader, but it's not hard to get lapped here if you don't have track position. What happens is the guys that are farther back, somewhat like Bristol, they've got to hit the panic button. Even if you've got a good car and have a bad qualifying run, like Dale Jarrett yesterday, he's in a different position than a guy somewhere mid-pack or closer to the front early in the race. The guys up closer to the front can't use patience and wait for the things to come to them. The guys in the back have got to race the wheels off their car to keep from going a lap down, so there's a lot of pressure on the guy that's back there not to get lapped early on because it's easy to do. You've got to hustle. If you've got somebody holding you up, you don't tend to have the patience you need. The next thing you know, bumpers find each other and cars get turned around. That just happens here."
DALE JARRETT - No. 88 UPS Taurus:
DO YOU THINK GUYS IN THE BACK GET IMPATIENT AT THIS PLACE BECAUSE THE LEADERS ARE ALMOST ON THEIR TAIL WHEN THE GREEN FLAG FALLS? "I think some of it becomes impatience, but some of it is that you've got so many cars on such a small place here. You're trying to run hard, but things jam up and they happen so quickly that it only takes a small bump and you get turned around, or you hit the brakes a little hard and you turn yourself around. But, yeah, you know that the leaders have a clear track and they can get on you in a hurry, so you have to go fast. The other side of it is I've seen this work also where guys start in the back and make an early pit stop under one of those cautions and then be able to stay out when the leaders finally decide to pit under caution. You can get some track position that way and, if things work just right, you can make it work for you throughout the day. If you get to where your sequence is the last one and you stop, then you've got fresher tires than what the leaders do at the end of the race, then things will work out."
IS THIS RACE MORE TACTICAL IN SOME REGARDS AS FAR AS PIT STRATEGY? "Yeah, that's the biggest thing is trying to get yourself in a little different position than the leaders because it's so hard to pass. If you could have a couple of really long green flag runs and you have a good car, you might make up a lot of ground but that generally doesn't happen. I can't remember the last time we made a green flag stop here at Martinsville, so you have to do something a little out of the ordinary. That may even mean trying to run on your tires at the end of the race for 120-130 laps."
IS IT TOUGH MENTALLY TO GET SPUN AND THEN HAVE TO GO ALL THE WAY TO THE BACK, KNOWING IT'S A LONG WAY TO THE FRONT? "Yeah, but I think Kurt Busch won at this track after spinning in the fall, so it's something you can do. It is tough on you knowing how difficult it is to pass and having to do it from the back, but if you've got a good race car I don't think it works on you nearly as much. If your car isn't very good and that's why you're getting spun, then that makes it a little more difficult."
KURT BUSCH - No. 97 Rubbermaid Taurus:
YOU WON AT THIS TRACK IN THE FALL FROM 36TH PLACE AND YOU'LL START THERE AGAIN TOMORROW. WHAT'S THE SECRET TO GETTING TO THE FRONT? "I don't want to let too much of it out (laughing). It's something where a lot of things have to fall into place and you have to be lucky in certain situations with yellows and when you pit. Last year we gained a ton of track position. We pitted under a caution because the car wasn't handling that well and we changed the car around and did a lot of good things to it. About 30 laps later there was another caution and the whole field pitted. We only had 30 laps on our tires so we stayed out. The next run was 120 laps, so we maintained our track position and we stayed up front for the rest of the day. It takes that one little break, but that's the easy way to get in. Otherwise, you've got to pass cars and make sure your car is adjustable and you don't put yourself in a box to where you have to run the low line or you have to run the high line. You've got to make it adjustable to run both lanes because when they groomed this race track last fall, I think that's where we benefited the most."
IS THE START OF THIS RACE MORE INTENSE BECAUSE YOU'RE IN THE BACK AND COULD GET LAPPED PRETTY FAST? "Yeah, there's a pace you need to set for yourself. You can't run over people too quickly and you can't get too far behind, so it's a fine balance."
YOU SPUN IN THE RACE YOU WON AS WELL. "Yeah, I was running eighth and we got spun but only lost six positions. We did a 360 and got going again. We came in and changed four tires and that happened to be a stop where everybody came in to change four tires, so we came out in 12th. So we went from eighth to 12th, basically, with that yellow and it didn't hurt us that bad. We were able to maintain our track position and just continue rolling forward."