Phoenix: Ricky Rudd preview

RICKY RUDD: "...That's what motivates me - running well and challenging for a win and challenging for top-fives and top-10s." Ricky Rudd, driver of the ...

RICKY RUDD: "...That's what motivates me - running well and challenging for a win and challenging for top-fives and top-10s."

Ricky Rudd, driver of the #21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Ford, carries back-to-back top-10 finishes into Saturday night's Subway 400 at Phoenix International Raceway. The one-mile track has been hosting NASCAR races since 1988, but 2005 will mark the first time Phoenix has hosted two NEXTEL Cup races in a season. Rudd, who won there in 1995, answers his fans' questions this week about the trip out west and racing under the lights. Fans can submit questions for Ricky or the team to Ricky's web site - - under "Ask Ricky."

RICKY RUDD -- #21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus: How do you and the #21 team feel about having this second race in Phoenix? "I've always enjoyed going out to Phoenix, I've always liked that part of the country. The scenery is different; people have received us well out there. I'm all for that (the adding of a second race). The schedule is going to be a little different. We used to use it as a little mini-vacation; we might do it for one of the races, but we won't be able to do it for both of them."

The upcoming race at Phoenix will be a night race. How much will you have to change the setup of the car? Do you think running under the lights instead of the daytime will change the handling of the car? "Every track has its own characteristics. Generally, at night most race tracks stick better, they have more grip, which could dictate a little bit different setup. It's a dry heat out there in Phoenix. The race track is almost like solar panels, they retain the heat. When race tracks get into the low 100's (temperature in Fahrenheit) the oil starts coming up through the pavement and the track get slicker. So, at night the track should be faster, should make more grip, and the motor should make more power. Everything should be similar, other than it could dictate a little bit different chassis setup because the cars will make more corner grip."

You placed seventh at Martinsville a couple of weeks ago (and eighth this past weekend at Texas). Is this going to give you and your team that extra push to keep you all racing for a few more years? NASCAR is losing some good racers at the end of this season and I'd hate to see you be one, too. Keep up the good work and please keep on racing! "Teams are motivated by performance, and we've had good performances, but the only ones who have really known are the team members because every wreck that's been out there this year it seems like we've been in 'em. The only races we've finished this year without some type of damage have been Martinsville and Texas. Probably, at Martinsville, if it had gone long greens we probably would've had a third- to fifth-place car. We weren't set up particularly well for the short run. We ended up seventh and we had a little bit better car than that. But, for the first time there we got a finish under our belt without any major damage. It was a good shot in the arm for everybody. It is a confidence builder and it gave us something to build on. We need to be able to continue to do that for a few more weeks. These guys have been working very hard fixing wrecks, and there hasn't been a whole lot of off time, so if we can get ahead and finish some races well - the cars are fast, that's a hard thing to accomplish, to get the cars where they're running competitively, and our cars are competitive this year. That being said, if we have some luck and continue to get good finishes, also to give these guys a rest from fixing wrecks every week."

What is the rule on lapped cars moving to the side for cars on the lead lap and why doesn't NASCAR black flag those that refuse to move? I noticed during the Martinsville race you were held up by several lapped cars that would not move to the side even though the blue flag had been displayed. How frustrating is it to know your car is faster but lapped cars refuse to move? How long does your patience last before you start helping them move? "That's a good question. I'm not a fan of NASCAR's system on allowing one-lap-down cars to hold up cars in a lead lap. I just don't agree with it. It's been that way for years, I don't think it's right. It's one of the major issues that NASCAR has and they don't seem to realize it is an issue. It's very frustrating having a car that you're being held up by three, four, five lapped cars, and they won't get out of the way. It used to be for many years, it was a common courtesy and most of the drivers would abide by those rules. If you're a three-lap-down car, you don't race a guy that's on the lead lap. You just didn't race him, you let him go. For some reason, that doesn't apply anymore. It's wrong. It's a bad situation. It puts the guy in the lead lap, it forces him to have to try to use his front bumper to move somebody, and then, therefore, he's putting himself in jeopardy. And, that's sort of what happened to us in Martinsville. Normally, I would've gone up and maybe shoved a little bit and moved guys out of the way, but I couldn't take a chance on another wreck. When that problem develops, your percentage factor of being in a wreck goes up 80 percent. We just couldn't afford to push the issue with the point situation. As far as getting good finishes and being around for a while, that's what motivates me - running well and challenging for a win and challenging for top-fives and top-10s. That's what keeps me in racing, and that's what will either keep me in racing or I'll be away from racing if we can't continue to do that. I see the competitive team we have here. We just need the finishes to prove it."


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Series NASCAR Cup