RICKY RUDD --28-- Texaco Havoline Taurus "That's a pretty neat deal. I mean, a pretty neat race. The Texaco Havoline Ford ran really good all night. We started off and moved quickly in the top five and found ourselves leading there and chasing...
--28-- Texaco Havoline Taurus
"That's a pretty neat deal. I mean, a pretty neat race. The Texaco Havoline Ford ran really good all night. We started off and moved quickly in the top five and found ourselves leading there and chasing Rusty a good part of the night, but it seemed like all of that was filler for what happened at the end."
DID YOU THINK YOU COULD RUN RUSTY DOWN? "It seemed like on a real long run we could start reeling him back in. The trouble that everybody had was that you could catch somebody, but you couldn't hardly pass them because everybody wanted the top of the race track. You could kind of sneak under somebody and get square with them in the middle of the corner, but you'd go to come off and you couldn't get any traction down low. So, if you made a pass and you had three or four behind you, they'd fill your spot and you'd fall back a bunch of positions. That's one reason there was a lot of single-file racing."
WHAT ABOUT THE TWO PASSES -- WITH RUSTY AND HARVICK. "There were about three things that happened there that made it pretty intense there at the end -- the restarts. Rusty was a good car all night. We came out of the pits second to him just about all night long and that would give him track position. His problem all night was he couldn't go very good on the restarts. He was very good after three or four laps, but he'd sort of hold you up because he was at the top of the race track. If you tried to pass him, you'd fall back about six positions. He knew that and then late in the race he'd take the bottom of the race track away. He was smart driving it that way. When we got down to that last restart, I mean, guys are rooting and gauging and shoving and it was time to go and Rusty couldn't go. He tried to. I'm not sure, we were running like inches apart. Nobody touched him, but he just broke loose coming off turn two I think. I thought he wrecked. He peeled out of there and headed to the infield in a hurry, but nobody touched him. I guess he did a good job of gathering it up, so that basically gave us the lead when he half-spun to the inside. It was at that particular time that Harvick was running pretty good. He must have come from way back because I hadn't seen much of him all night. He's pretty aggressive late in the race, it was time to go. He sort of rooted and gauged a little harder than I liked it and finally moved me out of the way. He basically about turned me around, so I raced like hell to catch him so I could return the favor. What I gave him was a clean love tap. What he gave me was a cheap shot trying to wreck me, so there is a difference."
MICHAEL MCSWAIN, Crew Chief --28-- Texaco Havoline Taurus -- "I thought it was a typical good short-track race. I mean, a lot of beating and banging but there was a lot of professionalism shown most of the time. The guys would move each other a little bit and that's short-track racing, but there were some hits that were too hard too."
CAN YOU EXPAND ON YOUR COMMENTS ABOUT HARVICK? "The only thing I can say is that you can do that and you race each other and you use a little class about it, or you can kind of be like a bull in a china closet and just run over people. He sort of chooses to do the second. That's the only thing that bothered me is the way it happened. I should have wrecked. I was all but wrecked, it was just a miracle that the car straightened up and my night was gonna be over. That's what I was upset about is that we ran like that all night long. There's a big difference between getting underneath somebody, touching them a little bit, sliding them up out of the groove and going on. That's basically what I did to him when I caught him. I just moved him. I didn't try to wreck him, I moved him. He's a good driver, but I don't know if he's been around long enough to know how to do that, but he'll learn though."
YOU SEEM TO GET GUYS RIGHT BACK. "Well, it's the way I grew up racing. There's a big difference, like I was talking about. Moving people and wrecking people are two different things. I choose to move people and not wreck 'em. That's basically what I did at the end of the race. He was gonna take the race away from us, I call it stealing the race, and I stole it back. I didn't steal it back. I don't feel like I stole it back, I got the race back that belonged to us in the first place."
WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS WHEN HARVICK HIT RICKY? "Of course I was a little upset because it looked like we had a shot to win the race, but I was also grinning a little bit inside because I know that anytime that somebody pisses Rooster off with 50 to go, they've got hell to pay."
THIS IS ROBERT'S 50TH WIN AS OWNER OF THE 28 CAR. "It's just been a neat team. I don't know how to explain it, but it's the best team that I've ever driven for and it's taken me 26 years to get to this type of an operation. Guys like Fatback McSwain, he is the backbone of this race team. Robert Yates, the motor program, it's just a pleasure to go to the race track each and every week. I had a dry spell there in my career for a couple of years and the 28 team had about four dry years, so, believe me, it's a good time to be in the 28 camp right now. But probably something I've never experienced ever in all my years of racing is that we've got a group of guys that work on these race cars every week. Sure, all these guys work hard on all the teams, but our guys truly love what they're doing. It's a fun group to be around. Sure, we snip at each other a little bit every now and then, but it's like a bunch of brothers or something working together. It's just a pleasure to work with them and it's neat to be with the 28 team."
YOU GAINED ON GORDON TONIGHT. CAN YOU RUN HIM DOWN? "Running them down in the true sense of the word as far as making points up every week and passing him, in that respect, no that won't happen. Will situations like tonight and mechanical breakdowns, will that keep us in this race? It very well could be. I think we've got 10 race left. These 10 races, man, the intensity level has just been stepped up tremendously. It doesn't matter if you're short-track racing or superspeedway racing, these guys are running like it's a Saturday night late model race. Rooting and gauging -- Darlington was a good example of that. I would not want to be sitting in that position thinking I've got a comfortable lead for the championship when you've got intense races like we've been seeing here lately and I'm sure Jeff will tell you the same thing. He will win the championship if he doesn't have any problems from here on out, but I don't anybody that can say that we're not gonna have any problems the rest of the season. So, in that respect, we're probably still in it."
HOW DID YOU MAINTAIN YOUR COMPOSURE AFTER THE HARVICK BUMP? "I guess being an old guy -- 45 next week -- your temper doesn't get up as quick. That probably helps a little bit. I used to watch boxing a lot and the guys were always instructed not to get mad at your opponent because if you get mad, you're gonna make mistakes and get knocked out. That's sort of the way it works out here. Certainly, I was mad and I overdrove the car for about two laps. Then I gathered myself up and then I was on a mission. I had a new focus. Fatback said I ran two-tenths quicker than I had run all night long chasing him down, so I probably needed that little push."
HOW DOES THAT PROCESS EVOLVE? "Go ahead and say it, I was a hothead and I won't deny that. But I guess I've mellowed over the years. I feel like I've gotten a little smarter, a little wiser. I've probably wasted a few race cars that could have won some races by letting my emotions take over and tonight I didn't let that happen. I think it's just that age has a way of mellowing people."
DO YOU FEEL YOU'RE AT THE PINNACLE OF YOUR CAREER NOW? "I sort of said it a while ago, the team I'm with right now is the most fun team and the most solid team I've ever been with. In one way it's great and in another way I'm saying, 'Man, I wish I would have had this team 15 years earlier,' but there are also guys that have come and gone and retired and never had the opportunity to drive for a team like this. I appreciate what I've got. I wish that I had it earlier on in my career, but my situation is that I'll be 45 in a couple of weeks and somewhere along here I'll peak and I'll start going down that backside. I don't know what age it is, but I can tell you right now it hasn't happened. I don't know if there's a magic age. I know my eyesight, I can't read anymore unless I've got reading glasses and that happened when I was about 43 and everybody said it was gonna happen right there. So I don't think there's an age where all of a sudden you can say 'this driver can't drive anymore and he's not gonna have the ambition or the desire.' So I'm enjoying it. In comparison to Jeff Gordon, he's got probably 15 more years of championship seasons. At the outside, I probably have a realistic shot at five more chances. That's why it's a little tough to take when you slip behind in the championship because I know my chances are limited. I'm trying to make every race count. I'm enjoying it, but I also know the career is winding down. But as far as me as a driver, I still feel great. I thought I was in great shape until last week. I've been kind of patting myself on the back with what tremendous shape I'm in, but last week my cool helmet went out. I took the hose off to put it in my face too cool off under caution and I dropped the hose and I couldn't find it, so I had to run the last 30 laps without the cool hose and I found out I wasn't as tough as I thought I was. I don't feel like I've peaked yet. I feel like I'm still going and when that time will come, I don't know."
WHAT CHANGES DID YOU MAKE? "We made a couple of minor changes early in the race because of some comments Ricky had. What we ended up doing, it was good for the first couple of runs when we made those changes and then the track went back like it always does -- it got a little tight -- and we just ended up undoing that and were back where we started the race. It just made the car right."
WHAT WENT THROUGH YOUR MIND WHEN GORDON HIT? "Believe it or not I blocked it out. Earlier in the year when Dale Jarrett and I were racing pretty hard for positions and one of us would have problems and we'd say, 'Man, this great we're gonna move up tonight,' and all of a sudden we'd have problems. So I just 100 percent tuned it out. As a matter of fact, Fatback said, 'Yeah, they had problems but forget about that and run your race. We've got a long ways to go.' So that's sort of what we did. I saw the accident and said, 'That's tough,' but I never thought no more about it. I think we have to do that so we don't make any mental errors saying, 'Hey, we're gonna capitalize tonight.' I made a mistake a couple of races back at Daytona when somebody had trouble. We were running third at the time and thought we'd make some points up and I think I got too conservative driving the race car. I let that effect the way I drove because a competitor had problems and then everybody outran us, so I pretty much tuned that out." DO YOU HAVE A STRATEGY TO CATCH GORDON? "Again, we're not gonna catch Gordon unless Jeff has more problems and you can't count on that. From my standpoint, I'm just gonna go out and drive the race car like we did tonight. Be smart, don't be stupid. Go for the wins, but don't sit there and get conservative and try to count points. These guys on the other side, they're a whole lot more intense with what's going on. I don't know half the stuff they do to get prepared to do the job they do, but they've done a great job mechanically keeping these cars together week-in and week-out, so I'm sure the preparation they do back in the shop hasn't let up any. It's probably gotten more intense. From my standpoint, I'm just going out every week. They either let the reins out on me or pull the reins in depending on the situation and tonight they just sort of let the reins out and we had a good night."