Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus, comes into this weekend 37th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series point standings and is not guaranteed a starting spot in Sunday's Advance Auto Parts 500. Rudd spoke about his...
Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus, comes into this weekend 37th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series point standings and is not guaranteed a starting spot in Sunday's Advance Auto Parts 500. Rudd spoke about his situation during a Q&A session Friday morning in the Martinsville infield media center.
RICKY RUDD - No. 21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus
THOUGHTS ON THIS WEEKEND'S RACE? "First of all, I hope that we get to make that 845th start. We're not in too good a shape in the point standings. We've had some really good race cars this year, but just can't seem to finish a race without finding a wreck somewhere on the race track or it finding us. I'm not quite sure which way that goes, but having Fatback McSwain back on board - things actually worked OK when he wasn't there but we never had a chance to show that we had good race cars. We'd get wrecked on lap five or six or seven of an event and never got a chance to show that our cars were pretty good, but it's like having the head coach back. He's definitely an asset to the team. The team is built around him and when he's not there, everyone pulls together and does their best but it's hard to beat having your coach there every week."
IS THIS TRACK SPECIAL TO YOU BEING FROM VIRGINIA? "I grew up on the other side of the state, so I wasn't as close as Jeff (Burton) was. When I grew up, this was the hotbed for anybody - at the time it was Late Model Sportsmen - this was their Daytona 500. We used to hear a lot about that in the area where I grew up at is that they would go to Martinsville and they'd have a hundred-and-some cars show up. If you went to Martinsville and made the race, you really accomplished something and were a really good car because a lot of good cars didn't make it. I have a lot of fond memories. We've won three of those grandfather clocks here and have quite a few starts here, a lot of top fives and a lot of top 10s. I have to tell you a little story about Clay Earles one time. We'd won two of those clocks and the third clock we won the race and we were waiting. One week goes by, two weeks, three weeks and still no clock yet. I finally get on the phone because I thought maybe they'd lost my address or something. I called and talked to Clay Campbell and said, 'Clay, I didn't get the clock. I don't know if you guys know my address or whatever.' He said, 'Oh no, we know your address, but there's gonna be $67.38 shipping charge and we wanted you to pay the shipping charge before we sent the clock.' At the time I think I told him where he could keep his clock (laughing), but I think another 30 days went by and I found out he wasn't gonna send that clock unless I'd send him a check, so I sent him a check and I got the clock."
IN REGARDS TO THE JARRETT-HMIEL ISSUE. WAS THAT A LACK OF RESPECT OR JUST A NEW WAVE OF YOUTH COMING INTO THE SPORT? "I don't really think it's so much a young-old thing as it is you've got to evaluate the personality of the individual that's making the statements. It just so happened that you had a young guy-old guy situation pop up there. If the two would have been the same age, I'm sure that Dale would have been the guy with the class and Shane would have probably been the guy, even if he'd have been older, he would have probably said something stupid. You've got to think about what you're gonna say before you say it. So, anyway, I pretty much echo what Jeff just said. There has to be a mutual respect. When I came along my heroes were David Pearson, Richard Petty and Bobby Allison. I raced against these guys all the time. At that time I had a tremendous amount of respect for those guys - not just so much how well they drove because when you're young coming into you know in the back of your mind it's just, 'give me the car that they've got and I'll show them I can run with them.' That was what we sort of lived and dreamed was to have a car equal to what those guys had. That's sort of different nowadays, but there was also a tremendous amount of respect for the dues that these guys paid. They paved the way for when I came into it and now the same has to be said here. Look at the money these guys are making. That wasn't always the case."
IS THERE A FINE LINE BETWEEN BEING AGGRESSIVE AND SHOWING RESPECT? "It was a different time when we came up. You just lived for the day that if you kept a clean nose and showed you could take - with A being a top car - you started off in C cars. If you really did well, eventually you might have a chance at a B car compared to how you conducted yourself on the track. But even if you had the driver talent and ability, you didn't have the equipment to get it done. There was sort of a waiting process. Yeah, you'd get impatient because there were only five or six cars that were really that good, but you had to be smart. You had to be pretty smart just to be around when one of those cars would open up. Now you've got guys that are coming in this sport and they're capable of coming in and getting in multi-car team cars that can win from the first time they sit in the seat and that hasn't always been the case. To me, it's back to what I said a while ago. It's the personality of the individual. You've got a lot of young drivers out here that are very talented. Some have won races and some have not, and they're all made up of different personalities. I think all you're seeing is that these guys now are being heard and if you say the wrong things it can come back to haunt them for many years in the future. It's not based on driver ability because all of these guys are pretty good, but, again, there's a lot of stuff that goes on off-track that's also important to how far your future in this sport will progress."
IS THERE A LACK OF RESPECT FOR THE EQUIPMENT? "I can say there seems to be a lack of respect for patience and I'm not quite sure why that is. I mean, there's a lot of competition in this sport - about everybody is with a multi-car team and there seems to be a lot of competition amongst the guys on that team a lot of times that want to outshine the other guys. I'm not really sure why there's a lack of patience, but it seems like this year we've been a victim of many multiple car wrecks in the early stages of a race. Heck, we run Atlanta and wrecked on lap two or lap one. That used to be almost unheard of. Occasionally you'd see it, but now you've seen it a lot more frequently. Evidently there's a lot of pressure on drivers from themselves or from their car owners or from their sponsors because they're making a lot of mistakes. A lot of mistakes are being made. Wrecks don't usually happen. Usually there's a mistake on someone's part that starts it. Why are the mistakes being made? Why are there more mistakes it seems like than there used to be? I really can't answer that. Monte (Dutton) probably maybe has covered it. Maybe there is a lot of extra pressure on these guys. I don't really understand the whys, but it would be nice to eliminate it if we could."
YOU TESTED AT TEXAS. ANY CHANGES? "We tested at Texas and I didn't see a lot of difference. I guess we've got a different tire there. There are probably more differences in the tire than anything. It's fast. It's really fast. In race trim we ran speeds as quick as the pole speed, if not a little quicker. The wind was blowing about 35-40 miles an hour, but there were about six Cup cars there and all of them were very fast. As far as the way the track acted and reacted, I didn't really see any difference from years past."
THOUGHTS ON THE IMPOUND PROCEDURE? "Right now it shows that we can do a two-day event. I'm sure, again not having talked to NASCAR, but it's more of a testing situation than it is anything - sort of testing the waters. The only positive I can see is that a lot of these Cup teams have Busch teams and it probably frees up their Saturday to pay attention to the Busch Series. From my standpoint, I'm sitting around twiddling my thumbs in the motorhome going stir crazy. I'd rather have a three-day event than a two-day event, unless you've got something going on everyday, but it shows that it can be done in two days. Kind of like what Jeff said, it makes a lot of sense. If you could come in and use that Friday for an open test day and save all these teams a lot of money - you could have your two cars or whatever you needed to roll out there and just use it as an open test day. Along with that stop other testing, if you could do that. I'm sure at NASCAR they're pretty smart about this. They're sitting there and they've got an alternative motive to this right now we just don't know what it is. They're pretty tight-lipped about it, but they're testing is what they're doing."
HAVE THERE BEEN ANY PROBLEMS QUALIFYING ON FRIDAY AND THEN WAITING TO RACE ON SUNDAY? "It's no different than it is if we did the old way of doing things and you've got an 80-degree day and the next day a cold front comes through and it's 60 degrees on Sunday. There's virtually no difference. I don't think that's an issue at all. We've had to deal with those issues before with the old format."
ANY APPREHENSION IN THE SHOP ABOUT YOUR QUALIFYING SITUATION? "We're definitely in a position that we don't prefer to be in right now. As long as everything goes OK. We unload off the truck, we don't have any problems, you don't have any accidents. You go to qualify and the car in front of you blows a motor, you could be in trouble. So as long as nothing out of the norm goes on, we're not majorly concerned. We're concerned but not majorly concerned. This has been a pretty good track for me over the years. That doesn't guarantee that you're gonna have a good run this week, but all in all we're just more concerned about what happens if the abnormal happens that we're not prepared for. The best thing to be is, like I said, to work hard to get back in that top 35. We made up some ground last week at Bristol even though we wrecked. We need a good race under our belt to get out of that slump or out that hole we're in. To me, it's more of a concern when you go to a track that is an impound race, where you go there and you have to be in race trim when you get there. It could force anybody that's outside that top 35 to put their car in qualifying trim and sacrifice race performance just to make sure you get in the race first and we're not dealing with that right now."
WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT YOUR FIRST RACE AT MARTINSVILLE? "I don't know if you'd call it a start or what, but I remember coming up here and it had to be 1975. I ran a couple of races in 1975 for Bill Champion, but we came up here in the middle of the race just to watch the race. When we got here about halfway through the race he said if I needed relief - I think he stopped on pit road because they didn't have radios - and told whoever was crew chief for the day that, 'I'm gonna need some help here to help drive this race. I'm gonna make it to halfway so tell Ricky that if he's still here I've got a driver's uniform up in the truck. Go put it on and get the spare helmet and come down here and relief drive for me.' My first recollection of Martinsville was I'd never been around the race track, never even saw the track until Sunday morning. I don't think I ever ran any short tracks in my life at that time and all of a sudden here's a guy saying, 'Here, go hop in the race car,' during the middle of a race. I'm stupid enough to do it and I did it. I never had so many fists shook at me in one day in my whole life. That was a very memorable experience, so that's what I remember about my first Martinsville race. That probably wouldn't be allowed to happen today, I guess."
HAVE ROUSH AND HENDRICK MOVED AHEAD OR NOT? "Another big equation that everyone was working with over the winter and a lot of what dictated how the car should be built is Goodyear's changing of the tires. The tire compound is a pretty major deal. A lot of these teams now have tire modeling software. They're spending millions of dollars to analyze the tires and tire development, and I'd say that probably their engineering support and information they were getting on their tire data probably helped educate them a little more quickly than other teams and that led to them understanding how to build their race cars a little better to match that tire. But you can't deny they've done a great job over the winter."
BACK TO THE JARRETT-HMIEL ISSUE. SHOULD NASCAR HAVE KEPT JARRETT AWAY FROM THE CAR? "The bottom line, really, in all of this is - like Jeff said - you've got to look at yourself in the mirror. You drive with such intensity and you keep talking about turning that switch off. It used to be a lot easier when you didn't have all the in-car camera stuff. You usually by the time the wreck happened and then NASCAR went to a commercial and by the time they stuck a microphone in your face you probably had two minutes to cool down. Now everything is live. It's happening, boom, boom, boom. I remember a lot of time you used to get the cameras even on you and you were just doing what you would normally do. A little bit of this responsibility falls on NASCAR's lap. Are we trying to make this rated G for a Disney program, or somewhere in the middle is this thing gonna be rated R for violence or whatever. Man, I don't know if people are humanely possible - you're going down the interstate highway and all of a sudden out of the blue some car just comes across the front of your car and takes your nose off and spins you out. What's the first thing you're gonna do after you're not scared. You're probably gonna say a few things that you probably wouldn't normally say in church on Sunday, and it's really not a whole lot different on what's going on right now. Can you have it both ways? I don't know. I think that's what's happening right now is a juggling act. This guy did this and it was on live TV. Well, that could have been avoided if the live TV wouldn't have been there, or if they had a delay on that circuit the fans would have never seen it. So I think there are some growing pains that the series is going through right now in trying to figure out how to handle and deal with this."