Ricky Rudd: "It's not like we were really, really fast, but we were consistent. Our car didn't fall off." Ricky Rudd, driver of the ...
Ricky Rudd: "It's not like we were really, really fast, but we were consistent. Our car didn't fall off."
Ricky Rudd, driver of the #21 U.S. Air Force/Motorcraft Taurus, carries back-to-back top-10 finishes into Saturday night's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race at Richmond International Speedway. Rudd, who will be making his 865th career series start, tested at RIR earlier, and this week he answers questions from his fans regarding the test, the differences in a car between qualifying and race trim, and how the new partnership will affect Wood Brothers Racing. Plus. Ricky's wife, Linda, explains how she remains calm during a race.
How did the test go at Richmond? "We were there for two days. The first day we had long list of things Fatback wanted us to try. Fatback wasn't there. They had a crew chief meeting in Charlotte so he had to skip the first day. So we didn't set the world on fire, but we did run through the list of things to try, and ran all the computer data on the car so we got a lot of good information. The next day Fatback showed up, looked at the data from the day before and looked at all the notes and made some changes. The second day the car was quite a bit better and I felt really good about it. We were the only one there on the second day. It's not like we were really, really fast, but we were consistent. Our car didn't fall off. Usually when you run fast the car will fall off - get tighter and push - and we didn't have any of that happening to us. We could run really good laps for a long time."
When qualifying, what changes between race trim and qualifying trim have to be done? "You hear all the drivers talk after qualifying about they had a race set-up and when they went to qualify it was real loose and they couldn't drive it. The biggest change is that you are allowed to add the tape to the grille. It doesn't seem like that would be a big change, but it adds a lot more aero and gives the car a lot more front downforce. It makes less drag. It makes the front end really tight and pushes the front end into the race track a lot harder than it does in race trim tape. When you do that, now, all of a sudden, the car is really loose, so if you are going to run a quick lap, you have to tighten the car up. NASCAR only gives you two or three items you can do to tighten the car up - like the rear panhard bar adjustment. You can't change the springs, but I think you can change the settings on the shocks - they have adjustments on them. It usually takes one adjustment for racing and one adjustment for qualifying. It is just a little twist knob on top of the shock you can adjust. I think that is one of the adjustments allowed. A little bit of wedge in or wedge out. Whatever those changes are that allowed, the team tries to use them tighten the car up. Then after you qualify you reverse those changes."
Do you know why some tracks use the impound rule and some don't? "No I don't have any idea on that."
Are there rules governing what wheels are used on the cars? "Yes. There are only two or three approved wheels. They are all steel and very similar to one another, but there are only two or three manufacturers that are approved. There is no flexibility on that other than the different manufacturers."
Is it possible to have an improvement in aero after a small accident or from bumping another car, or is any change in the sheet metal a detriment? Does Fatback go to adjustments to compensate altered aero when he gets a visual of the damage, or is it wait and see? "Generally, it's just let's get it back together. And, usually you are handicapped when you get it back together. If you back into a fence and you dent the deck lid down, in the process of putting it back to where it belongs, if the team bends it up from where it actually started, it could be an improvement. But generally it's not that simple. There's usually other damage associated with it that you don't see, like the crush panels are usually knocked out. The only time I've seen it really work was many years ago when Bobby Allison won the Daytona 500 in the Diegard Gatorade car when the rear bumper fell off. A lot of people speculated that was by design because they learned in the wind tunnel the car ran better without the rear bumper. They didn't pull it off, but it got knocked off on the track."
Does that change with track size, like at a Richmond? Is aero as important there? "At Richmond it is a little more critical. Somewhere like a Bristol is not. The cars run so close together that the air stays stirred up. In qualifying you can see a little aero advantage, but in race trim the air stays so stirred up that you don't see aero push. Over the years, I've seen cars run better there with the sheet metal off the front end. And the only theory that I've heard that makes sense is that since aero is not an issue, cooling the front tires and brakes can be a big issue. I've heard guys say they can run as fast with the front end gone as long as there is no suspension damage because the air cools the tires better."
Now that the Woods have formed a partnership with a Busch Team, how do you think that will improve performance on the Cup Car? "I think you have to look at what's involved a little bit. It may require more of a workload as far as some of our guys. I'm not sure of all of the particulars, but I think for us it's mostly on the fabrication side. I really like the guy they are partnered with, Tad Geschickter. I like Tad. I've got a lot of respect for Tad. I worked with Tad when Tide sponsored us. I think the Woods and Tad can help each other."
Linda, how do you stay calm while Ricky is racing? "I just try to stay busy. If I'm on the pit box I just watch it. Most of them don't make me nervous. With Landon there I watch it on TV and that makes it easier."