Ricky Rudd Win Streak and Martinsville Speedway

Martinsville, VA---Ricky Rudd has not yet been able to extend his 16-year consecutive win streak this season, but he is coming up on a series of races he likes including the NAPA AutoCare 500 at Martinsville Speedway. NASCAR's ...

Martinsville, VA---Ricky Rudd has not yet been able to extend his 16-year consecutive win streak this season, but he is coming up on a series of races he likes including the NAPA AutoCare 500 at Martinsville Speedway. NASCAR's Winston Cup season only has 10 races remaining, but Rudd has been in this situation many times before winning the last race of the season in 1985 at Riverside, winning in the next to last race in 1995 at Phoenix, the fall race at Dover in 1992 and at Rockingham in 1996. He extended the streak last year by winning the NAPA AutoCare 500 in September at Martinsville. In fact, of the 16 years in the streak, Rudd has won only one race per season 12 times. "I've been in that crunch time before and some kind of way it always seems to work out. I remember at Riverside, California one year (winning in the final race) with Bud Moore and with our own team getting down to Phoenix with one race to go," said the driver of the Tide Ford. Rudd said, however, in Winston Cup racing you can't take anything for granted. "I don't know if it's fate or miracle or what it is, but it just seems to unfold and work out. I hate to put confidence in that we will automatically win one because there is nothing guaranteed. Some kind of way, it just seems like with the determination of the people that work for me and myself, it all comes together and we win one before the season is out." Does Rudd think a lot about the streak? "We think about it probably every day of the week. Fans remind us about it and it's really something special. It's something that not everybody in this garage area can claim to have. Hopefully, it won't come to an end," Rudd said. "If we were sitting at this point in the season and were not showing improvements in performance, I'd really be concerned about it. Really we should be sitting here with about five top ten finishes and two top fives (in recent weeks). We've had situations were rocks got caught in shifters with five laps to go and lapped cars wrecking in front of us with ten laps to go. One thing after another has knocked us out of a position that we deserved to finished." "We haven't dominated any races or led races by sheer speed, but I feel like it's coming. As the season winds down we should get stronger. So hopefully by the time Martinsville gets here, we will be right." Rudd is coming up on his favorite part of the season "We are getting into some really good race tracks for us. We have Richmond, Dover and Martinsville is definitely on that list. Then we have Rockingham," he said. Out of the final ten races of the season, Rudd has won at seven of the tracks. A year ago, the NAPA AutoCare 500 at Martinsville was the race in which he ran his streak to 16 seasons. It was an unusually hot 93-degree September day with temperatures reaching 140 on the asphalt pit area. A weird set of circumstances put Rudd through a torture chamber. Rudd tried a different cool-suit helmet that day and it froze up on lap two and cooked him all afternoon. Then the crew tried to cool him down by spraying water on him with a garden hose during a pit stop, but the hose was sitting on the asphalt and the approximately 140 degree water "just about cooked me," he said. Rudd had Hut Stricklin standing by as a relief driver, but his Tide Ford was so good he didn't want to get out. And it was so hot he didn't want to stay in it. "There's no question that it was physically the toughest race I have every been in over the years. Generally you will have some problems with equipment or something and you are able to improvise and make something else work. It was hot and the crew meant well, but they sort of blasted me with hot water with a garden hose and that about finished me off," he said. "My biggest deal was trying to stay focused, driving the race car and trying to mentally block out the heat situation. It wasn't just hot, but physically my skin was burning. It was everything I could do to stay in the car." Rudd said he didn't remember much about the last 50 laps of the NAPA AutoCare 500. "If I could remember it, I would tell you about it. It was one of those deals, you are sort of on auto pilot," Rudd said this past weekend at Darlington. "I remember just propping myself up in the right side corner of the seat and trying to use as little energy as possible. If the car bobbled or got loose, I'd just let it get loose. If I got into a traffic situation where I bumped into traffic, I didn't even turn the wheel. I just let it ricochet off them. I didn't have the strength to turn it. So it was one of those deals where I just tried to survive it. I knew we had the race won. I just had to get to the checkered flag." At the conclusion of the race Rudd said, "I really had to work on myself. If there's ever such a thing as blocking out pain this was it. I've probably got second-degree burns on my butt and lower back right now. It's like sitting on a hot iron and knowing you're getting burned, but mentally just blocking the pain out." The NAPA AutoCare 500/Goody's Body Pain 200 weekend gets underway with 3 p.m. Winston Cup Bud Pole qualifying on Friday, October 1. Immediately after qualifying, will be the Anderson Tractor-John Deere Allison Legacy Series race. Saturday, October 2 includes second round Winston Cup qualifying at 11:15 a.m. followed by the Goody's Body Pain 200 NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour race at 1 p.m. The NAPA AutoCare 500 starts at 1 p.m. on Sunday, October 3. Great seats in the Clay Earles and Bill France towers still are available for $60 each. There also are seats in all of the concrete bleacher sections for $40-$45. Another 8,000 unreserved seats go on sale race morning at 7:30.

Steve Sheppard Martinsville Speedway http://www.martinsvillespeedway.com

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Hut Stricklin