Ricky Rudd: "Richmond is a driver's track. Any place you have to lift the throttle and use brakes, the driver's skill plays more of a factor." Ricky Rudd, driver of the ...
Ricky Rudd: "Richmond is a driver's track. Any place you have to lift the throttle and use brakes, the driver's skill plays more of a factor."
Ricky Rudd, driver of the #21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Ford Taurus, answers his fans' questions about the team's test at Richmond, going from the superspeedways to the short tracks, NASCAR's new impound races and the differences between qualifying trim and race trim. Wood Brothers Racing co-owner Eddie Wood talks about a multi-car team and his son, Jon, who is currently the driver for ST Motorsports in the Busch Series.
RICKY RUDD - No. 21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Ford Taurus -- How did the test go at Richmond? "It was a one-day test. We were on the track fairly early. The guys were really prepared. They came in the night before. We got a lot of laps in and got to try a lot of things we normally wouldn't get a chance to try. We were okay. There were quite a few cars there, and I would say we were probably a middle of the pack car. We were okay, but not great. And then right there at the end of the day - I joke with Fatback (Michael McSwain) and tell him he always does that to me on purpose - but right at the end of the day we hit on something that was pretty good. I thought we were really good then. Up until that last run we were middle of the pack, but at the end of the day we were one of the best cars there."
So you feel really good about going to Richmond? "Yeah. I wouldn't have been as excited about going back until that last run when, as I said, they hit on something. We made a long run, like a 40-lap run and put up good times."
After a race like Talladega, where there was a wreck, is there a thought process you have to go through to prepare yourself to go to another track, one that is so different, like a Richmond? "There is no comparison between those two. There is nothing to compare to the restrictor-plate tracks. It is pretty uneventful at Talladega. You just ride around in a traffic jam all day waiting for the big one to happen. We've had trouble being swept up in wrecks all year, but the percentages or the odds at Talladega or Bristol are probably much, much greater than at any place else we go. It's probably better than 50-50. It's probably 70-30 that you are going to be in a wreck. So it's no big surprise. You hope that it's not going to happen, but it's not going to happen, but it seems kind of normal."
Is the thought process different going to a Richmond? "Richmond is a driver's track. Any place you have to lift the throttle and use brakes, the driver's skill plays more of a factor. At Daytona and Talladega you have to keep your foot on the floorboard and you don't use the brakes. There is not a whole lot the driver can do to make it a better run. It is more about luck, being in the right place or the wrong place. But, at Charlotte, Richmond - anywhere you go that you've got to drive the track and you cannot run wide open -- that's when the adjustments the crew make determines whether or not you are going to be a good car or a bad car."
Does that make it more fun for you? "Yes. It's more of a challenge. It is a challenge to get your car to be the very best. Just like our test at Richmond the other day. We were okay, but I knew the car wasn't as good as cars we've had there in the past. And Fatback knew it, too. Just watching it run around the corners. But he kept tweaking and making adjustments and making adjustments and finally he hit on something. It makes it a lot fun when you hit on something like that and you know not everybody in the garage area is going to be that good. You know you are going to be in the top 10 percent of the cars there based on lap times and the way the car felt and handled. So that makes it exciting when you hit on something and you know it's going to work, it's going to mean something when you come back."
What do you think of the new impound rule? "In concept I like it and I think it's good. What I don't like is the way they have taken a two-day event and stretched it to three. It doesn't make sense to me. There must be other reasons that we don't know about. I just don't know what they would be. It could very well be a very productive two-day weekend. It becomes awful boring when you have to hang around the race track and hang around not doing anything. Race tracks are great when you are out there working and running laps, but when you're not they are a pretty boring place."
Do drivers have any input as to why some tracks use the impound rule and some don't? "I think what controls it is television. I'm not sure what goes on with ticket sales for qualifying. Maybe tracks have been advertising and people will pay for tickets for qualifying and then can't just make it a two-day program, but have to stretch it into a three-day event. But, from what I've seen it will work really good, but I just don't know why they have to stretch it to a three-day event."
When qualifying, what changes between race trim and qualifying trim have to be done? "The biggest differences are the shock absorbers. You use a real aggressive shock to complement the aero dynamics of the car. The guys do a lot of things with the shocks that hold the front end down on the ground, make more total downforce. It makes quite a bit of difference, but a lot of times you can't race those shocks because they would go away. The car would go really fast for five, six, seven laps and then it is going to go away on you because it abuses the front tires, and the tires in general. So that is the biggest difference. There are a lot things you can do to run fast one lap, but it won't last that long."
Can you find a happy medium for an impound race? "A good example, I'm not that excited about our chances qualifying (at Darlington). I think we can make the car better, but we spent most of the time working on making the car good for a longer run. And I think we're okay there, but for qualifying we'll pay a penalty. When you come as a single operation you don't have any test data at all. So you end up with a shorter period of time to get your car dialed in. The multi-car teams had one or two cars here testing and they come home with all that data. And that will give them a little head start. So when we get to a track where we haven't tested, we are forced to make a decision: Do you want to qualify fast or do you want to race fast? It's more important to us to race fast than qualify fast. If you had test data from a teammate you know these guys worked on qualifying all one day and this is what it took. We don't have that luxury. But, it also forces our guys to be able to quickly tune and adjust the car when track conditions change."
EDDIE WOOD - co-owner, No. 21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Ford Taurus -- With Jon Wood doing so well in the Busch Series and with multi-car teams being the norm in the NEXTEL Cup Series, wouldn't it benefit Wood Brothers Racing to have a two-car team with Jon as one of the drivers? "Jon has been doing well, and we are all very proud of him. But, he is not under contract to us, and I wouldn't want to get in the way of his career advancement right now, or at anytime. Down the road, a two-car team at Wood Brothers Racing is something we'll look at, but that won't happen tomorrow so I wouldn't want anyone to think Jon will automatically be part of a two-car program here in the near future. We want him to be able to take advantage of whatever opportunities are presented to him and do what he feels is in his best interest."