This Week in Ford Racing April 29, 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus, is in his first year driving for the Wood Brothers and he goes into this weekend's NASCAR Winston Cup event at Richmond...
This Week in Ford Racing
April 29, 2003
NASCAR Winston Cup
Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus, is in his first year driving for the Wood Brothers and he goes into this weekend's NASCAR Winston Cup event at Richmond International Raceway 18th in the point standings. Rudd, along with owners Len and Eddie Wood, were this week's guests on the NASCAR Winston Cup teleconference.
, Owner - No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus
Part 2 of 2
IS IT HARD TESTING BEING A ONE-CAR TEAM?
"Yeah, there's a little disadvantage there, but then you get back to what one driver can drive doesn't necessarily mean another driver likes it. Some of the stuff we were doing last year is not really working now and some of the stuff Ricky was doing last year in the 28 car is not working. It's just a matter of getting what you've got suited to your driver and going from there. It certainly would be, information-wise, better to have more information but sometimes that doesn't necessarily work."
HAVE YOU DEVELOPED A STRATEGY TO HELP JUGGLE ALL THE ELEMENTS INVOLVED IN RACING TODAY?
"Juggling is a good word for that. In years past the crew chief probably did the majority of what was going on, even so much as getting rooms and plane tickets and travel. We're not even talking about the race car itself, but now the crew chief's job itself takes about three people to do because there's so much involved in it. You just kind of have to divide things up. I try to keep up with all the travel, the scheduling of tests and wind tunnel stuff. Len keeps up with all the motor stuff with Jack (Roush) and his crowd. Pat (Tryson) keeps up with the race car. My sister, Kim, she does all the business stuff so far as booking tickets and rooms and all that stuff. But it is a pain because it changes so quickly. You'll have all your stuff in line to go at a certain time with a certain group going to a certain place and five minutes later it's changed - you've decided to do something else. Even something as simple as when you leave to go to the race track every week, it's never known until the day you leave when you're leaving. We've got a list of where you're staying, when you're leaving, who is in which room, who is flying commercial and who is flying private. That thing is posted on Monday for the following weekend and by Thursday - the time we leave - it will have anywhere from eight to 10 updates."
HOW DO YOU GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR TEAM MEMBERS?
"Each team member knows what he's got to do. He's basically responsible for his little piece of this world. We try to give them time off because the schedule is so rough, especially the road guys. When they get their work done, we try to get them to take some time off. It may not be but a half-a-day or a day - whatever can be done - but you try to squeeze your testing stuff in with your race stuff and that makes it pretty tough."
LEN WOOD , Owner - No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus
WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF THE DODGES THIS YEAR AND WHY DO YOU THINK THEY WERE SO STRONG AT CALIFORNIA?
"I don't know. That's a handling track and, obviously, you've got to have horsepower. We had a good engine and we didn't use it. We were struggling with handling, so to say it was the engine or handling, that's hard to say. Ryan Newman, the power has been there on his pretty much all year and you expect Rusty to be right there with him. The Ganassi cars hadn't shown that well, so maybe they're getting their stuff turned around too. It's hard to say."
JOHN ANDRETTI WAS UP THERE TOO. IT SEEMS LIKE IT MIGHT BE MORE THAN COINCIDENCE.
"That's three different engine builders in those cars we just spoke about, so it's hard to believe they all just all of a sudden stumbled on an engine package."
OR A HANDLING PACKAGE?
"That too. You've got to have the whole package from aero to engines to handling to the right strategy - the whole thing. It could be coincidence, maybe not."
HAVE YOU SEEN ANY PROBLEMS WITH CARBON MONOXIDE?
"We haven't seen any effects with Ricky or last year with Elliott. We try to seal our car up. We put a lot of emphasis on sealing the car up - all the cracks and crevices and holes that get in race cars as time goes on - and try to keep all of the air that's under the car from getting up inside, which would be from the exhaust. The air-conditioned system that blows air-conditioned air into the helmet does not block out carbon monoxide. I was told that recently, but I always thought if you had that clean air from the air-conditioning unit that it would clean that, but I've been told lately that it does not. I think that's something that just needs to be worked on and NASCAR is working on it. We get an update every now and then about what they're doing and what they're trying to figure out on it. With carbon monoxide you can't see it or smell it, so it's pretty hard to detect. I remember back when Dale Jarrett drove our car, he had a little paper filter that we would use and that seemed to help we thought. But I'm not sure anybody really has a fix for it. I've been told that pretty soon they're gonna have an answer for it."
IS IT EASIER TO CLICK ON A SHORT TRACK QUICKER WITH A NEW DRIVER THAN OTHER TRACKS?
"It may. I really hadn't thought about it that way. When you go to a short track, you're taking the aero element kind of out of the picture. It's there a little bit, but nothing like a Fontana, Michigan or Charlotte. You'll see cars during the race that has a fender knocked completely off and it's still running up front. That takes an element you have to have exactly right to be good. So far, with us, the short track stuff has been better with Ricky driving it. I think he brought something to us that we might have been missing on our setup stuff because he's historically always run really, really well at the Richmonds and Martinsvilles. We've struggled a bit there, so some of the setup stuff he brought seems to have helped us too."
THE RICHMOND SCHEDULE HAS CHANGED WITH EVERYTHING ON FRIDAY AND ONLY THE RACE ON SATURDAY? DO YOU LIKE THAT FORMAT?
"Probably just go ahead and get it done on Friday because that gives you more time to prepare for the race. When you qualify, whether it's a short track or a superspeedway, it takes a couple of hours or even three hours to switch your car over to race trim. The way they do it is they let us stay there while the Busch race is going on and we can get a lot of work done there. I like it better. I like the one-round qualifying. That deal the way it used to be, you qualified late afternoon on Friday and then Saturday it was mid-morning to mid-afternoon and it was always hot. You weren't gonna run quicker, you very seldom ever did, and then you were basically giving up your happy hour time if you had to re-qualify. So the way they've got it now is pretty good."
WOULD IT MAKE SENSE TO PUT A COUPLE OF WEST COAST RACES TOGETHER INSTEAD OF HAVING ONE IN CALIFORNIA ONE WEEK AND ANOTHER IN RICHMOND THE NEXT?
"No, not really because you probably wouldn't have the right car. You need to bring your cars home. Our truck rolled in this morning at 10:30. It's Tuesday morning and our truck is back. We came back on Roush Air. We were at home and in bed by 3:30 a.m. Monday morning. Some people still fly commercial, but you're still back mid-morning on Monday. It's just what you do and the way you do it. Staying at one end of the country or the other just because the race is there the next week, I don't really think that's the way to do it."
CAN YOU CALL OVER TO ROUSH RACING AND GET INFORMATION LIKE WHAT KURT HAD IN HIS CAR SUNDAY IF YOU WANT?
"Pat does most of the communicating with those guys on that. Len keeps up with motor end of it. Everybody's motors are pretty much identical from car to car, but there are little things that they do as far as timing, jetting or gear ratios and stuff that they discuss. I leave most of that up to Pat and they talk all the time. How much of the stuff is accurate, that's a toss-up there (laughing)."
HAVE YOU CONSULTED WITH ROBIN PEMBERTON AND HAS HIS ADDITION BEEN HELPFUL?
"We talk to Robin a lot. Robin just came on board around Daytona and I think he's gonna be a real asset to Ford Motor Company and all the race teams at Ford. He's got crew chief experience. He's been in a team manager role, so he's kind of been in on every end of it. So far as being a crew chief or a team manager, those are about the two most aggravating things you can be on a race team so far as having a gun pointed to your head all the time. When things go wrong, you're the first guy they look at. That in itself is some of the stuff we've talked to him about. He's been there, done that kind of thing. In fact, we'll probably be on a conference call with him this afternoon talking about some stuff because we struggled at Fontana. We're in constant contact with him as well as the rest of the engineers that Ford has."
HOW MUCH AERO INFORMATION ARE YOU GETTING FROM ROUSH?
"Not really a lot. Teams share stuff to a point. Our aero stuff is basically done within our team and the Ford engineers. We don't think we have a problem there. That doesn't mean we don't, but at this point in time, we think the aero is OK. But we're looking into it right now so far as maybe what we've got doesn't suit Ricky. We're working on that as we speak."
ISN'T THERE A FINE LINE BALANCING HANDLING AND AERO?
"You've got to have your aero correct, but if you've got a bad aero car, most of the time you can work around it and get the chassis to match something. Right now in Winston Cup racing, the thing you hear the most about is tight, center off. A lot of times if you fix that, especially fix it aerowise, you may turn the car into a dead loose condition getting in the corner which is really worse. If you screw up your entry, you hurt it from the middle and off, which hurts it down the straightaway. What we've been going through is we've been moving stuff around and getting different configurations that show difference in the wind tunnel and we haven't really found what we really need. We've had different variations from the race at Atlanta, where we had a bad race, through Texas and Vegas and all that the cars have changed quite a bit aerowise and we still seem to be having a problem with it. I guess what I'm saying is we've been a lot of places on the body right now and we haven't really improved, so we're kind of focusing on our setup stuff."
HOW DOES THE PURSE WORK AS FAR AS PAYMENT AND HOW IMPORTANT IS THAT TO THE OPERATION?
"You've got your budget and the money that you win on Sunday usually shows up on Saturday. There are some plans that are built in there and that money comes every week at a certain amount and then the prize money is above that, so it varies a little bit. It comes quickly, quite honestly."
YOU MUST FEEL LIKE YOU'LL HAVE A HOME TRACK ADVANTAGE THIS WEEK WITH RICKY BEHIND THE WHEEL.
"I hope so. Ricky is from the Chesapeake, Tidewater, Richmond area, so this will kind of be his home track more so than ours because ours is obviously at Martinsville. But we had a lot of support at Martinsville and I think we'll get a lot at Richmond. Ricky's fan club is really unbelievable. He's got something called the Rockettes or something like that. He's got about two or three different versions of it, but I had a birthday two weeks ago and I got cards from all over the world. I don't know who these people are, but they're in Ricky's fan club and it's just unbelievable the support that the fan club gives Ricky. I was pretty impressed with that."
HOW WOULD YOU EVALUATE WHERE THE PROGRAM IS FROM THE TIME YOU SIGNED RICKY TO TODAY?
"We're not where we want to be, I want to make that clear, but we're gonna get where we want to be and we won't stop until we do. Like I said, we just haven't hit the magic on the intermediates and that's what's hurt us. We were good at Daytona and were gonna be good at Talladega and then we got in that wreck that happened on the third lap. The short track stuff is coming around OK, it's just the intermediate stuff that we've struggled on. Like I said earlier, right now you can rule out motors. The motors are winning races and we just came off the chassis dyno with probably the best motor we've had all year. Unfortunately, we didn't have a good day at Fontana and didn't get to use it. So you throw that out. If we can eliminate the aero part of it for sure and know that's not the problem, then you focus on your setup stuff and go from there."
ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT BURNOUT WITHIN THE TEAM?
"I don't see that with our team. We give the road guys a couple days a week off. As far as the inspection process, after the first couple of weeks you fix your car before you leave and when you get there, you don't have that trouble anymore. You don't hear about the four-hour lines anymore. You basically go through and if you're right, you get your sticker and move on. The only time we get pressured for time is when you try to throw in a test that wasn't planned. We'll probably go to Michigan next week. That was a little bit unexpected, but we need to step up our testing program right now for the next two or three weeks. I think we're going to Pocono at the end of the month. We plan around that stuff. If you're not ready for it, then it can wear you out with the travel and things like that. But like this California trip, we left on Thursday morning and got back early Monday morning. We were back here at work on 9 o'clock Monday morning. We've usually got three-and-a-half days at home each week and, right now, that's a lot. We kind of look at it differently that other people. We were born into this sport, but that's what we choose to do is stick with it."
WHAT WOULD UNLEADED FUEL DO TO THE ENGINES?
"Several years ago when we were building our own engines, there was the possibility of us having to switch to unleaded fuel. At the time, there was some concern that lead in fuel lubricates. There was concern that valve guides or valve stems and maybe possibly valve seats would wear out quickly. I think most teams that tried it had figured out a way around it if that was gonna be the case. There were a couple of teams that struggled and they decided not to use the unleaded fuel. Supposedly, the unleaded fuel would pull more horsepower because it's got oxygen in it, so it's not a horsepower issue, it's more of a longevity issue I guess. You just go to different We're most likely gonna have a new fuel supplier next year and it could be that they'll want us to race unleaded fuel. Then we'll have to adapt to that and Roush Racing, with as big of an engine department as they've got, they'll figure it out pretty quick."