RICKY RUDD, No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus (finished 3rd) "It was a real good car the Wood Brothers out under me tonight, Motorcraft and the Air Force, we finally gave them something that we could hopefully be proud of. We didn't win the race, but it...
RICKY RUDD, No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus (finished 3rd)
"It was a real good car the Wood Brothers out under me tonight, Motorcraft and the Air Force, we finally gave them something that we could hopefully be proud of. We didn't win the race, but it was a good race to come back. We weren't handling like we needed to and made some adjustments about the midway point in the race, and then track position obviously was real important. The pit stops got good at the end of the race and we were in position to win, it just didn't work out that way."
DOES THE END OF THE RACE OVERSHADOW THE THIRD-PLACE FINISH?
"I don't think so. It's two different incidents that happened. I know our guys would like to be celebrating about a good run we had tonight, unfortunately they've got to go back to Stuart, if they're going to get this car ready to go to Loudon. This is kind of a one-of-a-kind piece that they just put together, and we didn't have a scratch on it until the end of the race, and it's unfortunate that crewmembers tore our car up and it didn't happen on the race track - had guys bouncing up and down on the roof, up and down on the hood. I'm confident that NASCAR's got the situation under control. We went in there and met in the NASCAR trailer. I don't have a problem with any of it, because I guess I wasn't on the receiving end of the damage. Kevin was, and to me the beef was between me and Kevin. It shouldn't involved their crewmembers basically attacking our race car. That should've never happened. I think NASCAR's is gonna handle it. I'm confident they will. As far as the incident with me getting into Kevin, it was a racing accident, it wasn't on purpose. I checked up once we got together. I checked up and, matter of fact, Jeremy got by me and I think maybe one other car got by me because I was trying to let Kevin get straight. He didn't just spin, he had it in a long slide and I'm not going to deny that I didn't get in the back of him, I did, but we were racing. For some reason, I looked in the inside, I looked back and Kevin was on the brakes on a part on the straightaway where you're not braking for the corner. I'm not really sure what happened, if he had a problem with his car or what. Anyway, I got in the back of him and it was unfortunate and hated it happened but that was really between Kevin and myself."
TAKE US THROUGH THE SEQUENCE OF EVENTS AT THE END OF THE RACE.
"The race was over. For the time that the incident happened there was no warning: 'Hey, the 29's laying back looking for you,' none of that type of thing that sometimes you get an idea that something's going on. I understand the 99 and the 31 had a similar incident and it didn't turn out the same results. But anyway, the race was over, the top five go to pit road like they usually do. I went to pit road, parked down there near the start-finish line where we're instructed to park. I'm unbuckling out of my race car, then the next thing I know is there's another car, a race car comes up, drives into the side of my car as I'm sitting still. When I say drives into it, it's not like I got a tremendous jolt from it, but got enough jolt that it bent the side of the race car up. Really, at that time, I guess I was dumb. I wasn't even thinking there's an incident getting ready to happen, and I'm still in the car. It takes me a minute to get unbuckled, and as I'm unbuckling, I don't see Kevin yet but I see his crewmembers walking up and down my car like it's a dadgum runway or something, jumping up and down on the sheetmetal, collapsed the hood, and basically total lost the race car. And just absolutely absurd. I mean, I never seen anything like it."
IS THAT WHAT UPSET YOU THE MOST?
"Yeah, that's what upsets me. Kevin, he should be mad. I would be mad, if I was him, but I think if he sees the tape and figures out what happened he'll probably cool down a little bit. That happens, close racing, 10 laps to go on a short track, you got a bunch of guys on the lead lap. The race is on. It's a dogfight. And it's unfortunate we got together. It wasn't intentional. But what happened after the race is absolutely uncalled for. I haven't seen anything like it in 28 years of racing. It was just totally crazy after the race. It happens, I guess. I've never been a part of it, and I've never seen it in a Winston Cup garage area where crewmembers jump up and down, destroy a man's race car, and of all people the Wood Brothers have been busting their butt here all year, and finally get something that runs and it gets tore up in such a nonsense way. That's what I'm mad about."
WHAT DO YOU THINK SHOULD BE DONE ABOUT THE INCIDENT BY NASCAR?
"That's their call. I think they understand they got a serious incident on their hands. They don't want to see this ongoing. Basically it was a meet to see both sides of what happened. There really isn't a whole lot of discussion what was going on. I think the things that they're going to discuss is what are they going to do to handle the situation so they gain control of the situation after the race. So, hopefully something positive will come out of this. I think a strong enough statement ought to be made that it doesn't happen again - after the race incidents just don't happen again."
MORE ON THE INCIDENT.
"Let me clear something. It wasn't a fight. It really wasn't even a scuffle. We had one man, when the race was over, I'm getting out of the car and I got one guy, our tire guy, standing there, that's going to help me get out of the race car. And then they have like 30 guys that basically are using our race car as a doormat. So, as far as a scuffle or fight, there was really none of that. There may have been some words: 'Hey, get off the race car,' you know, 'What are you doing?' but it wasn't even close to be a fight break out. It would've been kind of unfair. I was telling all the NASCAR guys, hey, it wouldn't have been much of a fight. You got me and the Wood Brothers, and I put us all, just about everybody on the team, in the senior citizen category, and they've got a group of 20-year-olds that are bodybuilders, and it wouldn't have been much of a fight. It wouldn't have been pretty, I can say that." WAS IT SCARY? "No, it was scary. I was disgusted on seeing what was going on, the race car getting tore up. It was more a feeling of disgust than it was anything else. I guess that's the emotions we had at the time."
IS THIS AN ONGOING THING WITH KEVIN FROM A FEW YEARS AGO WHEN THE TWO OF YOU WERE BATTLING FOR A WIN HERE?
"I almost have to laugh at that one. That seemed like a hundred years ago. I haven't been in too many on-track incidents, I think Kevin's had a few along the way, but as far as us against each other, you know, we haven't run good enough to really have an ongoing confrontation with anybody this year. We're just trying to get our act together and quietly try to get our race cars going. But as far as it being an ongoing thing, that was the least thing in my mind. At the end of that race, it was time to go. Had to get up on the steering wheel, had to do my best part to try win the race. We had a pretty good race car. As far as going in there and trying to take Kevin Harvick out of the race just because we had a bumping incident here two years ago, that's kind of foolish to think that."
HAVE ANY CONTACT WITH KEVIN AFTERWARDS?
"The only contact I had with him was I caught his HANS device as he was throwing it at me. That's the only contact. I've got Kevin's HANS device..." YOU KEPT IT? "No, I made a mistake. I threw it back at him. I should've kept it. If it fit, I would've kept it. But it didn't fit."
YOU SAID THIS CAR WOULD BE USED AT NEW HAMPSHIRE. HOW DOES THIS AFFECT NEXT WEEKEND'S RACE?
"That's the part that hurts. Our best shot at winning a race has got to be on a shorter track where aerodynamics aren't that critical. We're behind on the aero program and it's pretty obvious we can run really good on shorter tracks where aero doesn't matter. That's the part that's pretty hard to take. It's a car that they worked on - we don't have another one like it in the shop. It's a car that's built for the flatter short tracks. Taking it to Richmond was probably a little bit of a stretch to be able to do so just because of the way the car is built. It would've shined better at Loudon than it did here today and it's unfortunate they got to send it and get a body put on it. So anyway, you don't get a whole lot of opportunities when your best shots at winning are on non-aerodynamic tracks. Looking at the schedule, there's not many of them left. We got Phoenix at the end of the year, we've got Martinsville and then Loudon, so one of those three, we got a shot at two of 'em, I guess, and one of opportunities is not there anymore. If you lose it on the race track's one thing, but to lose it on pit road after the race is another."
ON THE CREWMEMBERS GETTING INVOLVED.
"When you say crewmembers, when you say RCR crewmembers hadn't got involved I'll agree to that, that if it would've been settled with me and Kevin in the red trailer and had a discussion, I think we could've had a one-on-one discussion. I'm not saying we'd of left there shaking hands and patting each other on the back, but I think he'd clearly understand that it was a racing incident. The crewmembers never should've been a part of it, their crewmembers never should've been a part of it. Again, we had one guy there. So, when you write your story, just make sure you get it doesn't look like the Wood Brothers against RCR. It didn't quite happen that way."
YOU DROVE FOR RICHARD CHILDRESS. HOW DO YOU THINK HE'LL REACT?
"I drove for Richard for a couple of years. He's a real professional guy. What he gets out of his people - he loves to have guys that work for him with emotion, that not just there to punch a clock and change nuts and bolts on a race car. He wants guys on that crew that they live, breathe, sleep that race car, and from that, I commend Richard on having that kind of a group. What happens in a situation when their car gets taken out and their emotions are running high, I don't know if the crew chief, who's responsible for getting those guys under control, but I can tell you that Richard Childress, I have a lot of respect for Richard, and I can guarantee you that Richard didn't go down there and say, 'Hey, you guys go down there and teach these guys a lesson.' I can tell you for a fact that that didn't happen."
WAS IT ENCOURAGING TO BE RUNNING WITH THE LEADERS?
"We're real encouraged with it. It was a good, solid run. If you go back, we've had some really good runs in the last three weeks, we just never got the results. Bristol, Tennessee, is a good example. We qualified eighth there, something like that, and we ran top-three there most of the night until we got to about lap 350, and we had a miscue on a pit stop, came back and lost track position, but came back and got in a wreck, but we had a very good car. That car was actually, I thought, a better shot maybe at winning a race then anything we've had this year, up until now. We were good in the long runs, we weren't good in short runs here tonight, but at least we had a racy car. We had finished third and fourth early in the season, but it wasn't because we had a great race car, it was because the Wood Brothers had a real good pit strategy going. Tonight, we just had a good, solid race car. Track position was very important, but we had a car that was pretty racy on the stop watch all night. So, yeah, it's encouraging. It was going to be real encouraging going into Loudon with this car. We're going to take a setback a little bit on that, but at least it's a sheetmetal deal and the chassis is not bent up. So, it'll set us back from going to Loudon, but it's encouraging to come somewhere and run well and at least be a factor at the end of the race. As far as this overshadowing it, I think when you wake up tomorrow and the car goes to the body shop, I think what we'll remember about it was it was a good run for us."
WHY DOES SOMETHING LIKE THIS HAPPEN?
"I think it's kind of a two-fold answer. I think if you look at the size of these race teams now, when you're talking 20-something years, the race teams consisted of six full-time guys and then part-time guys showing up to do the pit crew. Now these teams have hundreds of people on the payroll, and there's hundreds of people dressed in uniforms. I think it's gotten so big you can't control everybody. It's not a small of a group as like it used to be. You say, the crew chief should've been responsible; I don't know if even knows all the names of the guys that was on his team to try to get it under control. But I think this day and time, emotions are running high, these guys, again, this is their life, these race cars, and when they get tore up they take it personal. But why it didn't used to happen, I think because the teams were much smaller and probably easier to control the situation then having a bunch of people you got to get under control."