Rudd Darlington II preview

In His 25th Southern 500 Start, Rudd Fond Of "Lady In Black" Darlington, S.C. - Many men would say that it takes patience to properly court a lady, and Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 28 Texaco/Havoline Ford, agrees. Most drivers in the NASCAR ...

In His 25th Southern 500 Start, Rudd Fond Of "Lady In Black"

Darlington, S.C. - Many men would say that it takes patience to properly court a lady, and Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 28 Texaco/Havoline Ford, agrees. Most drivers in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series consider Darlington to be a very unforgiving track, thus the given phrase, "Lady in Black." Rudd will begin his 25th Southern 500 start with enough experience to know how to dazzle the "Lady."

Amassing 24 top-10 finishes and a spring 1991 victory at Darlington, Rudd enters this Southern 500 determined to perform well, and after racing here for 25 years, he knows the ingredients to succeed.

"I have always liked racing at Darlington," said Rudd. "It has been on the schedule since I began racing in the late '70's and to me, it's a historical track.

"I enjoy racing here because it's what I call a patience track," Rudd said. "I'm generally a patient driver and this season, that has definitely been a plus.

"I've had some decent days here and some not so decent days. I'm not sure if I've ever hit the set up just right, but overall I've had good performances.

"Another reason I have always liked Darlington so much is because it's a challenge to drive. It's a track that has definitely earned its reputation because it takes a lot of thought and concentration to drive here. Drivers come prepared to give this track the respect she deserves.

"You can run at Darlington forever, but if you don't stay on top of yourself mentally, it can get to you. I've always worked hard at racing the track and being focused for the entire event and I think that has helped me."

Rudd not only enjoys racing here, but also has fond memories of the track that perhaps helped him gain perspective on his driving career at Darlington.

"I have a great Darlington story that always sticks out in my mind," Rudd said. "Back in 1979, I was driving for Junie Donlavey. Junie always had fast cars at Darlington and it was no different that day.

"I think I started third or fourth and the car was awesome - I just drove to the lead and left everyone despite the fact that I was inexperienced at the time. I was leading the race about 50 laps into it when I bounced the car right off the wall.

"I messed up the front end and it was terrible. So I got on the radio and whined about it, going on and on about how bad the car was. Finally, I guess Junie had heard enough because he finally asked, 'Ricky, how was the car before you drove it into the wall?' I wasn't nearly as critical after that."

Twenty-five years of experiences such as that are the ones that have helped Rudd realize the importance of patience not only at tracks like Darlington, but also in the points race.

"Being second in points is an honor for the Texaco/Havoline team, but our goal right now is to gain points on Gordon," said Rudd. "To do that, we have to be consistent week in and week out and be careful about every move we make."

Patience is certainly a virtue that Rudd has been able to hone over his 25-year career at Darlington and will aid Rudd this weekend in the Southern 500. It might even allow him to win over the "Lady in Black."

-RYR-

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Series NASCAR Cup