Martinsville: Ricky Rudd preview

Martinsville - 50th for Ricky Rudd, 100th for Wood Brothers Racing Martinsville Speedway will be the site of milestones for Ricky Rudd and his Wood Brothers Racing team this weekend. It will be Rudd's 50th start at the .526-mile oval, and...

Martinsville - 50th for Ricky Rudd, 100th for Wood Brothers Racing

Martinsville Speedway will be the site of milestones for Ricky Rudd and his Wood Brothers Racing team this weekend. It will be Rudd's 50th start at the .526-mile oval, and the Wood family will be making its 100th appearance at the historic Virginia track. Ricky answers his fan's questions on this week's 500-lapper and the paperclip-shaped short track.

Do you put more effort into Martinsville, and is it special because it is in Virginia and the "home" track for the Wood Brothers team? "I've always liked to run good there. I've always tried to run good there. I think we've won three of those grandfather clocks over the years. It has just been a track that from the time I got there the first time and ran on it we just seemed to do well on it. I don't really have an answer for it other than especially with the Wood Brothers you want to do well in their backyard. Our backyard is really quite a ways from there. I didn't really come up on late-model racing so I don't really have any home tracks other than the closer we get to Chesapeake, Virginia, the more it feels like a home track. That would really apply to Richmond and Martinsville and Dover, Delaware."

Why is the Motorcraft Ford better at Martinsville, Bristol and Richmond and off a little at big tracks? Is there that much of a difference or is the program missing it a little? "I can only speak about last year to answer that. Last year our program was pretty good on the short tracks. What it said about the intermediate tracks is that maybe the body hanging program on the tracks depending on aero is maybe not up to par. Where you run fast enough with aero to make a difference, we weren't strong there. But one of our stronger runs of the year was at Daytona, which is a big track but in a different classification. That is a low aerodynamic drag situation. We had a new guy hanging the bodies and we were fifth fastest overall. Sometimes when you get aggressive with a body there to go fast you have to give up front downforce. But with a little tweaking I'm confident we'll be running very good at the speedways, but that leaves all the other tracks where aero is an issue. That is where we have sort missed it this year. But there have been some pretty drastic changes on the bodywork from what we had. We started the season pretty different from the Roush cars. But at Darlington we had a car that aerodynamically was closer to what they are running. You say, 'How do you get out of that box?' Well, I think there is a lot of thought process that maybe what we are doing was better, but on the track that obviously was not the case. So you kind of go back to square one. Our bodies are not put on by Roush, but we have access to their notes. I think the car we are carrying to Charlotte will be built more like their cars, and hopefully we'll see some improvements. Why not start like that? Ben (Leslie) was in the Roush camp and he knew what was going on and thought he might have a better combination than what they were running. It turns out that maybe that wasn't the case, but he tried it and has had the smarts to say it didn't work so we'll get more like they are and not get so far out of the box out of the body."

Do you have a particular set-up you have the crew put in the car, or does Martinsville just suit your driving style? "The only thing I bring to the table is that a driver has a feel he is looking for and you have some tracks you like better than others. You've had cars that have won races at places and you know where the strong suit was, whether they were really fast getting into the corner or really fast exiting the corner. There is sort of a feel there that you are looking for. It is up to the crew chief and the guys working on the car to communicate that and give the driver what he is looking for. At Martinsville, it is just a track where we have run well at over the years. But, there are no guarantees because you have run there well before that you are going to come back and run good again. It is not a given."

On qualifying for a race at Martinsville, do you see better times if you are one of the first drivers to qualify or do you get better after others have qualified before you? "Generally at Martinsville over the years, a later draw has been better. It was particularly important years ago when they would run the modified cars before on Hoosier tires and they would send the Cup guys out behind them. You could go early and be two seconds off the pace even with what could be a pole-sitting car. It was pretty dramatic. NASCAR picked up on that pretty early. Now they don't let anything that runs a different tire compound practice prior to us getting on the track. They laid down a sort of haze on the track, a little bit of a rubber film and if it was a different brand of tire sometimes it can be a major conflict. So back then a late draw was really important. Today there seems to be a trend that as qualifying progresses for some reason, I don't know if the track heats up or what, but the later draw at Martinsville is a better draw."

I know on the road courses you brake with your left foot. Do you use the same braking style on a short track like Martinsville? "I brake with my left foot everywhere with the exception of the road course. On the road courses I use a combination. I start braking with my right foot until I get my heel-toe downshifts done and then I finish the braking with my left foot. I do that for one reason. It is probably a little unusual, but by being able to switch feet I'm able to use my left foot on the brake pedal and move my right foot to the accelerator just a little bit sooner if I was braking with my right foot only. That is just a personal preference. There is not a right or wrong way to do it."

If the Wood Brothers keep plywood and 2 by 4's in their car for Darlington, what do they do at Martinsville? The track is so small that it is easy to rub fenders and scuff the wall. "I had never seen boards in the doors or the quarter panels until I drove for the Wood Brothers. I'd heard about it years ago at Darlington. They used to use different mechanisms, like a spring. I've heard of using a leaf spring. It is spring-loaded and would keep the car off of the fence in the corners. The biggest thing you are trying to do is keep the tires and wheels off the fence; keep the wheels from grabbing the fence and doing damage to the rims and knocking the front end out of alignment, or the rear end out. It was a really smart idea. We don't need them at Martinsville. The track is different and you wouldn't need them there because the damage wouldn't be the same."


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Series NASCAR Cup
Teams Wood Brothers Racing