This Week in Ford Racing September 3, 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 28 Havoline Taurus, goes into this Saturday night's NASCAR Winston Cup race at Richmond as the defending race champion after outdueling Kevin Harvick...
This Week in Ford Racing
September 3, 2002
NASCAR Winston Cup
Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 28 Havoline Taurus, goes into this Saturday night's NASCAR Winston Cup race at Richmond as the defending race champion after outdueling Kevin Harvick one year ago. Rudd, who was a contender in the spring event earlier this year until getting involved in an accident with a lapped car, spoke about returning to the Virginia track.
RICKY RUDD --28-- Havoline Taurus
YOU WON AT RICHMOND IN 1984 AND THEN NOT AGAIN UNTIL LAST YEAR. YOU'RE OBVIOUSLY HOPING IT WON'T TAKE THAT LONG TO WIN AGAIN THIS TIME, RIGHT? "I wouldn't say we finally figured out Richmond, but we did win this race a year ago and we actually had a dominant car in the first race there this year. We led the most laps and had a very good car, but we were lapping a car that had a flat tire and we got taken out of the race. Being the dominant car, there was no guarantee we would have won it, but the fashion we were running that day, it looked like it was probably our race to win. We got within about 60 laps from the end and got wrecked out. So we've had two really good runs in a row at Richmond. We won this race a year ago and followed that up with another shot at winning, so we'll see how we can do this time. The thing about the last two races up there is that there were two big differences with the track. In the race we won last year, it was a two-groove race track and it was good racing like we've come to expect at the Richmond Fairgrounds for many years. When we went back in the early part of this year, it was a single-groove race track. We're going back this time and the track is back like it used to be. We tested there for Goodyear and the two grooves are definitely back into the race track, so we'll be racing under the old race track conditions. The track should swing back to the setups that were sort of favored here a year ago, so, all that being said, you're gonna see a good race. You're gonna see the type of racing that people are used to seeing at Richmond and not like the one we saw that was single-file racing the last time we were there."
GOODYEAR HAS HAD A COUPLE OF TIRE TESTS SINCE THAT RACE. DID THEY TRY SOME DIFFERENT COMPOUNDS? "My thought process was if the race track is messed up, I don't think you can come up with a tire that's gonna make things much, much better. In the first test they tried to reconstruct a tire that would run on the sealer and I understand that at that time the second groove had not been worked back in and it was very similar to the last time we raced there. So they did come up with some tires that were just a little bit better. It was still very treacherous when you went to the outside groove, but it made it a little bit more tolerable. Since then, though, they ran the IRL race with the Indy cars and then they had a midget race or some sprint cars there before we went back for a second tire test. I guess because of those races running the high groove, the track is now back like it used to be and we're back to the tire we used last year. There is no new special tire for the sealer because the sealer is gone. The track is very much back like it was a year ago. When we left there our argument was, 'Don't put any sealer on it. Don't paint any stripes on this race track. Please just leave it alone because the track is fine.' That was the message that we left after we tested there with Tony (Stewart) and Jimmie (Johnson). They actually had us stage a 75-80 lap race on purpose so we could run the outside groove and see how it worked. As you got into a run, the outside groove was actually faster than the bottom of the race track, which is very similar to the way it used to be. So, the track is back."
SO YOU THINK YOUR SETUP FROM A YEAR AGO WILL WORK AGAIN? "I think the setups people ran in last year's night race should be the same and that should favor us. We were in a pretty tough race. There were four or five us about the same speed for most of the night and as the race went on into the evening we got stronger and stronger. I hope we're gonna run good and we can duplicate the way we ran last time. We earned that win a year ago and we hope we can be in that position again to try and win this Saturday."
YOUR BATTLE WITH HARVICK DOWN THE STRETCH WAS FUN TO WATCH. "All night long Kevin's car would jump out front and run very fast, but then it would fade really hard. The way the race unfolded at the end, there was a caution and people got tires. He knew what he had to do because it was a similar situation to what had happened all night. He knew he had to jump out front and try to build the biggest lead he could because once his tires started to fall off, we were gonna catch him. The game he was playing was, 'try to get out front and go.' Unfortunately, there were some cars in between him and the front of the pack and he took it upon himself to do what he felt he had to do. I felt he used his bumper more than he should have late in the race. He didn't move us, he basically wrecked us. We really shouldn't have been able to make another run at him, but we were able to catch him because we were better on the longer run. Time was running out, so I had to basically re-pay his favor. The difference was that mine was much more kinder to him than he was to me, so I moved him out of the way and went on."
IN A WAY IT WAS JUSTICE BECAUSE YOU HAD THE DOMINANT CAR. "Yeah, we should have won the race. He was trying to steal the race, but they were trying to do what they could to win the race. If he had been able to restart at the front of the pack after that final caution, he had a better chance with what he was doing. What I didn't like about it was the way he was having to move people. I mean, he didn't ease them out of the way like Gordon did to Wallace the other week. He just tried to drive through everybody."