By Pat Jennings - Motorsport.com Richmond, VA - It was business as usual on the 3/4-mile Richmond International Raceway as Ricky Rudd battled back from late-race contact with rookie Kevin Harvick to claim his second victory of the season in the...
By Pat Jennings - Motorsport.com
Richmond, VA - It was business as usual on the 3/4-mile Richmond International Raceway as Ricky Rudd battled back from late-race contact with rookie Kevin Harvick to claim his second victory of the season in the Chevrolet Monte Carlo 400. Although Rusty Wallace led the most laps (276) and seemed destined for certain victory, an uncharacteristic mistake by Wallace in the race's closing laps provided Rudd with an opportunity to contend for a much needed win. Rudd's win was the 23rd of his career and his second at Richmond. The victory also marked the 50th win for Robert Yates's No. 28 car.
"I lost the race myself," Wallace admitted. "I called for one pound of air adjustment on the right rear tire the last pit stop. I just got the doggone thing way too loose. Before that the car was perfect. I had about 10 or 15 car lengths on these guys . . . . He [Rudd] never really touched me. I just went up in smoke. I got loose up off the corner and when he got behind me it just caused me to spin the rear tires. I got lucky saving it because I almost hit the inside wall."
"The battle got pretty intense after the [last] restart," Rudd explained. "All night Rusty was fast, but not on the restarts. It must have been the way he set his tire pressure. You had Dale Jr. back there champing at the bit, Harvick, and myself charging up there. Rusty, at the time, had track position but he didn't have the car and he was holding everybody up."
But Rudd was not about to give up without a fight. "I tried to work him low and couldn't get by him. He was driving it so hard, he was breaking loose on very corner. I thought he might have lost it the corner before and he gathered it up. Finally, it just got out from under him. Nobody touched him, but, again, he was driving hard trying to hold us up. He knew if he could hold us up for about three or four laps his car would come to him and we probably would not have been able to beat him."
Wallace's self-induced spin handed the lead to Rudd with 23 laps remaining. Six laps later, however, contact between a hard-charging Harvick and Rudd enabled Harvick to assume the lead.
"I was ahead of Kevin [Harvick] and the restart before he kept bumping into me and racing me up in the straightaway and sort of got me a little ruffled under the collar," Rudd asserted. "Finally, he got me and about turned me around on backstretch. I did everything but wreck. I should have wrecked, but I was just lucky I got it gathered up. I didn't know if I was gonna catch him or not."
Predictably, an unapologetic Harvick downplayed the incident with Rudd. "It got a physical out there at the end. Coming off the corner there I got into the back of Ricky [Rudd]. But that's just short track racing. We're all grown men. We all know how to go out there and have a race."
After the contact with Harvick, Rudd did not know if he could catch the young rookie. "I knew we had a better racecar at the end of the race. But I was pretty steamed up and I had to be careful not to drive the wheels off of it. You have to worry about over-driving the car and I over drove it in a couple of corners. I didn't know if I was gonna catch him in time or not."
Over the course of the next 12 laps Rudd steadily worked his way back up to Harvick while simultaneously fending off Earnhardt. And with five laps to go, Rudd made his move. "He [Harvick] basically . . . turned me around, so I raced like Hell to catch him so I could return the favor. I got to him at the end and sort of obliged the favor."
"What I gave him was a clean love tap," Rudd said. "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. I didn't' try to wreck him, I moved him."
"The only thing I can say is that you can do that and you race each other with a little class about it, or you can kind of be like a bull in a china close and just run over people," Rudd added. "He sort of chooses to do the second."
In the end, Harvick finished second, while Earnhardt, Jr. came home in third. Dale Jarrett and Wallace rounded out the top-five.
Early on, it looked as if pole-sitter Jeff Gordon was the man to beat. But Gordon took himself out of contention for the win when he crashed in Turn three on lap 36. After Gordon's demise, Wallace left the rest of the 43-car field in his wake until the final restart.
Rudd's win allowed him to pick up 120 points on Gordon in the race for the Winston Cup championship.
In 26 races this season, Rudd has 11 top-five's and 18 top-10 finishes.
There have been seven different winners in the last eight races at Richmond International Raceway. In fact, only Tony Stewart has repeated here during that span of time.
Ford has 11 wins in the last 26 races at RIR and five of the last 10 since the track was re-configured in the fall of 1988.