Phoenix II: Rudd - Ford interview

Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus, spoke about his future plans prior to Friday's practice. RICKY RUDD -- No. 21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus "The word retirement sounds so permanent. I'm gonna be doing ...

Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus, spoke about his future plans prior to Friday's practice.

RICKY RUDD -- No. 21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus

"The word retirement sounds so permanent. I'm gonna be doing something, but I just don't know what just yet. I know that I don't really particularly care about the grind of the schedule week in and week out, and I really don't know what I want to do, I'll be honest. I may or may not race. If someone gets in a bad position next year, hopefully nobody gets injured, but if somebody happens to need a fill-in for a couple of weeks I would do that, but I wouldn't look at a whole season."

WAS THE 2 CAR THE ONLY REAL OPTION YOU WERE LOOKING AT? "There were quite a few options out there and a lot of the teams out there were pretty solid, and the Wood Brothers. If I was gonna look at the options out there, the Wood Brothers are as solid as anything out there. They've got the right things in the works and I would have stayed put, but most of these teams and most of the things that are available are in a build-up phase, where you're gonna be able to reap the benefits down the road, but you're gonna sacrifice a little bit of performance while you're trying to get there. That's why the 2 operation was so attractive when Roger called me and asked if I was interested. It wasn't a real hard decision to make that I would put off that rocking chair for a little while to have a shot at everything that would be in place that would be needed to win championships is right there right away, and that's what I would have liked to have done if it worked out. But there are no hard feelings. Like I said, before Roger came along I had already sort of made my mind up on what I was gonna do. We didn't really let a lot of people know this because the team had been running so well and we didn't want to do something that was gonna sacrifice the performance. A lot of times the knee-jerk reaction is for people to start bailing out and we couldn't afford to have that happen because the team has been running so well."

YOU HAD BEEN PRETTY QUIET ABOUT ALL THIS. "Yeah, I had planned on telling folks earlier, but I really thought hard. I thought back about the past years when I was with a team and early in the summer when it's announced that you're gonna be going somewhere different, no matter how hard the driver participated, a lot of the people that worked on the team a lot of times they didn't know how to react. A lot of times it was not a very productive season from that point out and our guys had worked too hard for that to have happen. Unfortunately, the fans were maybe kept in limbo a little bit longer than maybe they needed to be, but business first. I would have loved to have been able to tell everybody, but it would have affected the performance of the team and we didn't want that to happen."

WHAT DIDN'T APPEAL ABOUT HAVING ONE FINAL BLOWOUT YEAR? "I think another major commitment. A year now is like three years used to be. It pulls on you pretty hard. I don't know if it's an age thing. I still love the racing part of it, but as the sport continues to grow drivers today are pulled in 100 different directions. You basically don't really have much of a life. To be honest with you, my family has been put on hold long enough."

DID THE DECISION COME TOGETHER KIND OF QUICK? "What happened is that this decision was pretty much made back in late July or early August and it just sort of sat on the shelf for a while. Eddie Wood was very aware of it. I'm gonna hate to leave the team and they're gonna hate to lose me I think, at the time, but they had to do what's in the best interest for their team so they had to start putting their plans in order at that time. I think because of that, it wouldn't be based on performance because our team has been running pretty well -- very well as a matter of fact. But it's not like I'm running terrible, I've got to get out. It's just time to get a breather. Each individual driver has got to know when that time is there and it's time for me to get some rest. My father passed away and I met a lot of people at the funeral that I hadn't seen in 30 years. I haven't been to a high school reunion. I haven't been to a family reunion. A lot of stuff has been put on hold. Unfortunately, part of the iron man role that I've inherited means I've been doing this a lot longer, so a lot of my personal life has been put on hold a lot longer than most of these guys and it's time I try to get that life back together."

DOES IT AMAZE YOU THAT YOU'VE DONE IT THIS LONG? "In a lot of ways it doesn't seem that long. I'm never a person that looks back. I'm always looking ahead. I look back at the stats now because a lot of people have been running stat numbers that I've never seen before. I didn't realize we had accumulated more points since 1972 than any other driver, including Richard Petty or Darrell Waltrip or Earnhardt. A lot of good things have happened aside just racking up the races, but I'm sort of surprised. I look back and 25-30 years has gone. It doesn't seem that long."

ARE YOU GLAD AT THE TIME YOU CAME IN OR WOULD YOU RATHER COME IN NOW? "It depends on what you get into it for. When I came into it, there were no plans. We weren't smart enough to sit down there and map out a five-year program or whatever. A phone call came through one day and a guy in my hometown wanted to know if I wanted to run some races and that's how it started. I was running go-karts and motorcycles one weekend and doing very well with that and then the phone rings and it's, 'Hey, you want to go run a Cup race at Rockingham.' I said, 'Well, what is a Cup race? Tell me a little bit about it.' From there it went on. I had no idea what I was getting into. I have no regrets looking back but as far as the timing goes it was a lot easier pace when we got going in some respects. It was a lot harder work then as far as man hours because all of the drivers worked on their own equipment. We loaded them up and we drove them to the race track along with the crew. We basically traveled with the crew. That was our life and I wouldn't trade that for anything. I wouldn't necessarily want to go back and re-live those years, but now looking back I wouldn't trade that for anything. Nowadays everything is more organized, everything is a lot more formal and structured than it used to be. I'm not saying it's good or bad, it's just different. I'm glad I came in when I did and I'm glad I'm leaving when I'm leaving. I'm sure the guys that I took the place of when I came in -- the Pettys and those guys that were getting out when I was coming in -- I'm sure they looked at then and probably said they enjoyed their time window. Again, this sport is a lot bigger and it's a lot bigger and more professional now."

WHAT CAN YOU DO NOW THAT YOU WOULDN'T GET TO DO IF YOU STAYED FULL-TIME? "I think the biggest thing is the family situation I spoke of. I had to think really hard when I was at Yates. I went through this when I was there. Did I want to do another three years when I signed with the Wood Brothers. I look back and my son was eight years old then, now he's 11. Do I do another few years and then he's 15 and he's gone. So I look at it and you asked the question, what will I be able to do? I'm home some during the week, but he goes to a pretty tough school and by the time he gets out he's got two or three hours of homework a night. His weekend is when he can go out and do stuff with dad and mom, but I'm not there on the weekends. There are 38 scheduled weekends a year and I'm not there on the weekends. I don't have anything planned other than having some weekends in the home."

-ford racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Darrell Waltrip , Richard Petty