Martinsville: Ricky Rudd preview

Havoline team carrying momentum to Martinsville. MARTINSVILLE, Va. - In the first five races of the 2002 season, Ricky Rudd's average finish in NASCAR Winston Cup Series races was 20.2. In the last two, the driver of the No. 28 Havoline Ford has...

Havoline team carrying momentum to Martinsville.

MARTINSVILLE, Va. - In the first five races of the 2002 season, Ricky Rudd's average finish in NASCAR Winston Cup Series races was 20.2. In the last two, the driver of the No. 28 Havoline Ford has averaged a finish of 3.5.

"I think we've turned the corner," Rudd said. "We finished third at Bristol and then went to Texas for a test where we learned a lot about intermediate tracks. We proved that on Sunday by leading some laps and finishing fourth in the race there. We're definitely headed in the right direction and I'm looking forward to Sunday's race at Martinsville."

Rudd is looking forward to Sunday's Virginia 500 at Martinsville Speedway for obvious reasons. Since joining the Havoline team, he has been in contention to win every race at the historic .526-mile oval. Last year, he was passed just six laps from the end of the spring race by his teammate, Dale Jarrett, who used Rudd's setup to get the win. In four Martinsville races with the Yates team, Rudd has two top-five finishes and ran solidly in the top five before an engine failure and an accident in the other two.

"Martinsville has always been one of my favorite tracks," Rudd said. "I've won four poles and three races there, and I think that's because of my patience as a driver. Also, Michael McSwain is a very smart chassis guy and we've had great cars every race here with this Havoline team."

The strong runs at Bristol and Texas, along with a 12th-place finish at Darlington, have moved Rudd from 21st to ninth in the series point standings in the last three races.

"I've thought all along that this is a championship contending team," Rudd said. "We were just missing it a little aerodynamically on the intermediate tracks. I think we have a handle on that and I hope the last two races are an indication of how we'll run throughout the rest of the season."

-ryr/havoline-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Jarrett