RICKY RUDD: "It'll be a little easier this time because we won't have to downshift in the corners." Ricky Rudd, driver of the 21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Ford Taurus answers questions submitted by his fans on a variety of subjects...
RICKY RUDD: "It'll be a little easier this time because we won't have to downshift in the corners."
Ricky Rudd, driver of the 21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Ford Taurus answers questions submitted by his fans on a variety of subjects including the upcoming Pocono 500 at Pocono Raceway.
You won Pocono in 2001, winning the pole and then the race, when you were with Robert Yates and Michael McSwain. You are now together again. Does the equipment/engine combination that you drive now measure up to the cars you had at Yates? "It is starting to get there. We had a really good run at Charlotte a couple weeks ago. We had a great car there. They are starting to get to be great cars like I had at Yates. There, we were pretty consistent. Here, we've been more hit and miss, but there have been reasons for that, but we're starting to get the consistency down."
Where would you rate the track at Pocono in your list of favorite tracks? "I like Pocono. I've always liked it. I'm not sure why, but I've always done fairly well there. I like road courses and it reminds me of a road course."
What is the toughest turn at Pocono? "I think all of them are unique to each other. They've all got their own characteristics. I don't think they make it any more difficult than any other track we go to. It'll be a little easier this time because we won't have to downshift in the corners. So that will be different." Will that make the way you race the track different? "I think it is going to make it a little more relaxing because a lot of times you have to make those downshifts at some critical times. It is a situation where it is kind of hard to downshift, brake and turn into those corners at the end of the straightaways. With a Cup car that is difficult. That is going to be gone now. Not shifting will make it easier to drive, more like it was in the '80s. The fans shouldn't see any difference, but the cars will be a little more sluggish now."
I know you used to have the nickname "Virginia Lightning." Did you loose that nickname when you became the "Iron Man" or do some still refer to you as "Virginia Lighting"? "I'm not really sure where that came from to be honest with you. It was on a tee shirt somebody had made up. Maybe if we get to winning again we can go back to it."
What races will you be running the Air Force paint scheme? "We'll have it two more times, I believe - at Infineon and again at Richmond."
Ricky, do you plan on attending the EAA Fly-In at Oshkosh, Wis., this year and, if so, what day or days do you plan on attending? I'm scheduled to be there on Monday, July 25 from 1-3 p.m. in the main Ford tent.
What other hobbies outside of racing do you enjoy (flying, fishing, hunting....????) "Flying. I don't like being cooped up indoors, but I don't fish or hunt. We do some four-wheeling and I like that. I'm not on a regular workout program, so I try to do a lot of work outdoors, physical work in the heat. I enjoy that."
Do you still have the red Porsche you and your father built in Chesapeake, Va.? "No. I had it until about five years ago and then I sold it to a good friend of mine."
When you get in your race car before the race, what are you thinking about? "I'm ready to go and get away from everything. It seems like right before that everything is kind of a big circus and we are being herded like cattle all morning long for the introductions and so on. When I get in the car that is probably my best time of the week because now you are back in your own environment and I'm real comfortable with that. A lot of the other I'm not real comfortable with. I'm focused on the race and the track. I think about that. Once the race starts, I'm thinking about driving each corner. The crew chief says, 'hit your marks', and that is what goes through your head and I'm 100 percent focused on that. As the race progresses, you have to make sure you know what kind of information you're going to give the team when they ask how can they make it (the car) better."
What do you think was your best race memory? "There have been a lot of them. It is hard to single one out. The year we won the Brickyard - not crossing the start/finish line, but coming down the front straightaway on that last lap. That was a pretty neat deal. And, I guess the IROC Championship; that was a big day because of the way we did. We had to beat Earnhardt the last race. That was a fun race."
What does it really mean when cars are loose or tight when you are racing? "A loose race car, the back end is going to step out. I guess the best way to explain it is which end of the car is going to hit the fence - the back end or the front end. If the car is loose, that means you are going to hit the fence with the back end. If the car is tight, it feels like the front end is pushing toward the wall."
What gives a car its number? Like your car being 21? "It is assigned to the owner. The 21 belongs to Wood Brothers Racing. A lot of people think when the driver moves, they carry the number with them. But the number is assigned to the team. NASCAR controls all the numbers and the owner has to reapply for it every year. It would be an odd set of circumstances if it did not stay with that team. The owner can request a number that is available. There usually is a grace period for an owner - like a Junie Donlavey and the number 90. NASCAR usually will wait a while before reissuing that number to somebody else."
What is short pitting, and why is it sometimes an advantage? "At some tracks getting tires is a huge advantage. It was at Rockingham, and Darlington is a similar deal. It's a gamble to short pit a car, to come in before you have to, to get tires. Andy Petree used to be the best at it with Harry Gant. There are some days that it will bite you, but sometimes if you put on tires, you can gain two seconds a lap. You may go a lap down, but you're gonna fly, and you can gain an advantage, but if the caution comes out you will be in trouble. If it goes green all the way, you are just 'borrowing' that time and you have to pay it back. But if you can make up that lap, what you are gambling on is that the caution is going to come out shortly after everyone else comes in to pit, and you will have made up all that ground on those tires."