Ricky rudd: "I think the first 20 laps I couldn't have been happier about the way things were going. I thought we were the best car in the field and then I found out what it was -- we had a good car, but I think track position was more...
"I think the first 20 laps I couldn't have been happier about the way things were going. I thought we were the best car in the field and then I found out what it was -- we had a good car, but I think track position was more important than having a good car today. Once the pit strategy started taking place -- a lot of guys watched the Busch race yesterday and saw that two tires worked really good -- so we elected not to beat ourselves. We put on four tires just about all day long and that hemmed us up in traffic pretty badly. We never could get a clean race track. Our car pushed really bad and couldn't get it to turn when we were back in traffic, so they kept loosening the car up and finally at the end it still wasn't loose enough, but a lot better. Probably what made a difference for us is we elected to put on four tires. I'm thinking with 35 laps to go there was a caution and elected to put on four (tires). I think it worked out good for Robert. I think some of these guys didn't put on any and some put on two, but for our car we started getting the tires dialed in there at the end, so four tires was probably the key to our running third. If not, we probably would have been somewhere between 10th and 12th."
WHAT DID YOU THINK WHEN YOU SAW GORDON SLOW AND WERE YOU THINKING WIN OR POINTS AT THE END?
"I saw Jeff slow, but it was getting real intense there toward the end of that race. I didn't have time to pay too much attention. I just knew that we had to come out of there with the best finish we possibly could. I don't know. I just got in the wrong line at Daytona last week. We had a top-five car and we came out of there with a 14th and I think I started watching points too much. At Daytona I starting looking and at one time I said, 'Okay, we're third' and I looked and DJ was 20th and Gordon had his problem. I'm thinking, 'Man, we can come out of here in really good shape.' Then I got boxed in. Maybe I got too conservative at the end of that race at Daytona. Today I didn't think points, I just thought positions. We need as many positions as we possibly can get. Something happened to these guys on the restart. I couldn't tell exactly what happened. Somebody missed a gear. Anyway, that opened the race track up for us and we dove low and were able to pick up a few spots." YOU GOT BY MARK, RIGHT?
"Yeah. I'm not sure what happened to him. He broke or blew up. (ACTUALLY, MARTIN RAN OUT OF GAS TEMPORARILY) You get down to the end of the race and everybody is going through those gears really, really hard. It's very easy to miss a gear. He might not have missed one. He might have spun the tires. I'm not really sure what happened, but we took off good and then all of a sudden everybody, like, stopped. I'd been using that apron all day long. There was gonna be some clarification before the race whether we could or could not use the apron. The Busch cars used it all day yesterday. No one received word, so that meant it was not out of bounds during the race. Basically, it was there. It was one of those situation that it made me look good, but, really, my choice was to run over the cars in front of me or to dive down and try to miss a wreck. That's pretty much what I did. When I cleared it I looked up and said, 'Man, that turned out pretty good.' That made it look like I knew what I was doing, but it was pretty much an accident."
WHAT ABOUT THE TRACK?
"When we come back it could be a different race track because this race track will go through a pretty hard winter this coming season and things will change. After an inaugural race, things usually change the next time you come back. It's a great race track. I wished we could have gotten into the corners side-by-side at full speed, but maybe next time. No one has picked up on this, but I just want to bring it to everyone's attention. Dale Jarrett and Jeff Gordon, I understand, are tied for the lead and we're 17 points back in second. I like that little tidbit, so I thought I'd throw it out there. It sounded good to me."