Martinsville II: Ford - Ricky Rudd interview

Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus, is the highest Ford qualifier for tomorrow's Subway 500 and will start from the 12th position. Rudd, a three-time winner at Martinsville, spoke about the race and how his first season...

Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus, is the highest Ford qualifier for tomorrow's Subway 500 and will start from the 12th position. Rudd, a three-time winner at Martinsville, spoke about the race and how his first season with the Wood Brothers has progressed.

RICKY RUDD - No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus

YOU MENTIONED THE OTHER DAY THAT THE TEAM HAS BEEN GETTING BETTER RESULTS LATELY. WHEN DID THINGS TURN AROUND? "I think it goes back about a month or so and I'd say it started at the last Michigan race. We ended up getting our fenders wrecked early in the race, but we were a top 10 car there and didn't get the results. But after that we had a third at Richmond, a second at Loudon, an 11th at Dover and a 10th at Kansas. We went to Charlotte and that was just a bad run for us. We actually got things going good at the end of the race, but we had already gotten laps down. So we've made some pretty good progress in recent weeks and I'm happy about that. Now we've come to Martinsville and we've got a racy car."

WHEN YOU WERE SIGNED TO DRIVE THIS CAR, MANY PEOPLE HAD YOU WINNING A CHAMPIONSHIP THIS YEAR, BUT YOU WERE REALISTIC FROM THE START. HOW WOULD YOU SAY THIS YEAR HAS GONE?

"The way we're running now is the way I really figured we'd come out of the box to start the season. That's how I thought we would get started and then we would improve on that, but we were off the pace. There are some reasons for that now in looking back like the tweaking of the bodies that took place by NASCAR and our guys wanting to keep up with the latest trends. We put all new bodies on and now we're back to having the bodies put on the way they were last year. So we were trying to do better, but sometimes you beat yourself trying too hard and I think we've had a case of that. But right now is the way I thought we'd start the season and then we'd work on it from there. The good side is that we've definitely made measurable improvements in recent weeks while a lot of teams in the garage area have gone the other way. I see us moving to the front of the line instead of going farther back."

DOES THIS COINCIDE WITH GOING BACK TO TRACKS FOR A SECOND TIME WITH THIS TEAM? "I think so. We unloaded here the other day and were really quick right off the bat. It wasn't like a Chinese fire drill trying to dial the car in. If you didn't come here and test - and some of the tracks you can't test but so much - but the first go-round it was more a Chinese fire drill because we couldn't get the car to do what I wanted it to do. So it took not only the practice, but the whole race to figure out what we needed. So now we know what we need to start with and we've come back to these tracks and have been much better in race trim. We've still got some work to do. Like here yesterday, we qualified 12th but if I could have had the front end cut a little harder in the middle where I could have gotten off the brake pedal, we could have been pole contending material. Now we know when we come back what we've got to work on, so it's kind of a work in progress. I don't think you're ever where you need to be."

SO WHAT'S THE KEY FOR TOMORROW? "We feel like we've got a car capable of winning the race, if everything goes our way. We'll see. We were really racy at Richmond. What's really killed us is that while we've been racy at a lot of these short tracks, we've qualified poorly. Even though we've been a top five car, you don't see it until the end of the race because we've had to dig out of such a big hole. As long as we don't run into any problems tomorrow in the beginning of the race where we have to make an unscheduled stop or pull fenders off or something like that, you should see us the whole race. I think we'll have more of a presence, if it goes like I think it's gonna go. This program really just needs some fine-tuning to make us a winning effort. Anytime you finish in the top five at a short track, you've got to be pretty good to begin with and we've been able to do that fairly frequently."

-ford racing-

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Series NASCAR Cup