Rudd looking for first Charlotte win

Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 28 Texaco Havoline Taurus, has 20 career NASCAR Winston Cup victories but he is still looking for his first at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Rudd's best finish in this event came in 1981 when he finished fourth ...

Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 28 Texaco Havoline Taurus, has 20 career NASCAR Winston Cup victories but he is still looking for his first at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Rudd's best finish in this event came in 1981 when he finished fourth driving for car owner Bill Gardner. His best effort at the speedway occurred last fall when he was third in the UAW-GM Quality 500. Rudd will start 21st tomorrow.

RICKY RUDD --28-- Texaco Havoline Taurus

WHAT ARE THE KEYS TO WINNING THE 600?

"I'm still looking for those keys. I haven't figured that out yet. I think third is my best finish in the 600, but the key is consistency and being able to deal with having your car work good in the late afternoon in the sun and also at night under the lights. We've worked to get the car where the adjustability is pretty simple, where you don't have to make major changes. Hopefully, you're just doing things like air-pressure changes or a couple of rounds on wedge adjustment. If you get that to happen, then you're gonna be in pretty good shape."

IS THIS A LONG WEEK?

"Charlotte is the kind of place that is kind of like Daytona. If you come and you're running good, you speed right through that endurance situation of being here so many days. But if you miss the boat a little bit as far as handling, it can kind of torment you the whole time and you get anxious to get through this track and move on to the next one. Our car, though, has really raced well. We ran the Open the other night and finished second. We made some mistakes by not pitting, but we did find out that the car is very, very quick on a long run so we decided to bring it back for the 600."

DO YOU LIKE RUNNING THIS RACE?

"It doesn't matter if you're racing at Martinsville or racing at Charlotte, to me, they're all just about as important. Again, this race the conditions make it a little more difficult because you do start off running in the heat of the afternoon and it goes on into the night. After you've run this 600-mile race a couple of times, it's really not that much different than a 500-mile race."

DOES THE EARLIER START TIME CAUSE ANY EXTRA PROBLEMS?

"When you've really got a good car, like I feel we've got, it's not as temperamental. It's not great one moment and, all of a sudden the sun goes behind a cloud and it's terrible the next. Yeah, it might be a little bit better with it overcast, but it doesn't change a whole lot. That's one thing I'm excited about with the car we've brought here. The biggest problem we had was that we drew in the top five for qualifying and we know it's an honest two-tenths of a second difference in the speed. The car won't drive that much different, but it just doesn't have as much grip and the corner speed is not as quick. I'm really excited about this race car because it did drive good in the Open. We didn't get a chance to run it a whole lot, but we came from twentysomething to second, so it's pretty racey. Again, the biggest thing is having a car that doesn't change a whole lot."

IS IT DIFFICULT WHEN YOU HAVE TO PRACTICE IN THE DAY AND RACE AT NIGHT?

"To be honest with you, I was kind of hoping everything would rain out and we could load 'em up and put 'em on the race track Sunday and not have any practice. I'm confident enough about the car I had over here the other night. I was thinking back to last week and we were not very good going into that race. They changed a lot of things drastically. We weren't even gonna bring that race car back here. It was a brand new car, but it was built two years ago and has been just sort of been sitting. So we brought it out here and I said, 'Uh, oh, I know why that thing has been sitting in the shop collecting dust.' Usually, when the car is that bad like I thought it was last week, you usually don't make a few shock and spring changes and turn it around, but our guys were able to do that. We ran it under the lights last week and it drove very good. It's good now in the sunlight, but I know how good it was the other day and we would start that race right now just exactly the way we were in The Winston Open the other day and not be hurting from a lack of practice. A lot of cars missed the setup quite a bit, so some are more dependent on practice than we are and it's gonna make more of a difference to them by not having the ability to practice under the lights. Again, I'm kind of throwing all of these practice sessions out and forgetting about 'em, and reverting back to what we did the other night."

IS THIS THE KIND OF RACE WHERE YOU CAN'T WIN THE RACE IN THE FIRST 200 MILES, BUT YOU CAN LOSE IT?

"This type of track is the place where you want to be in the lead lap. You can't get too worked up if you're not leading a lot of laps. You don't want to get caught up in that too much, but you want to be in the lead lap when you get to the final pit stop. That's when it's time to go, but, before that, you just have to use your head and keep the car underneath you and make sure you run a smart race. As the race goes on, the tempo builds and you usually start wrecking more on those restarts toward the end of the race, so you want to be in a position where you're in the top three or five. You want to be away from a lot of that chaos that can take place, but it's not a life or death matter to go out and lead this race in the early going. The race doesn't really begin until you get to about mile-marker 450 or 500. That's about the time that the race starts for me."

DO YOU NOTICE THAT LAST 100 MILES? IS IT THAT BIG OF A DIFFERENCE?

"I used to pretty well play a mind game with myself. When you'd go to run 600 miles at Charlotte, you would strap into the car and you knew that with the race starting at noon that you were gonna be there all day. You didn't want to start watching that scoreboard and see how many laps were left in the race because it will mentally fatigue you, so you strap in and just block out the fact it's 600 miles. You just know you're gonna be there for a long time and when you have that mentality, to me, it doesn't tire you out as bad."

YOU HAVE NOT WON THIS RACE, BUT IS IT A CASE WHERE YOU'VE NEVER HAD A CAR CAPABLE OF WINNING LIKE YOU DO NOW?

"I've come here before and led the most laps, but I think the best I've ever finished was third. This race track takes tremendous horsepower and it takes a really good handling car. I've had good horsepower before and I've had good handling cars, but it doesn't seem like have had 'em both at the same time. But the car we've got here this week feels like we've got the entire package. Obviously, Robert and Doug's motors can make the power, but now for the first time in a long time here at Charlotte I feel like I've got the whole combination together. I'm pretty excited about it."

-Ford Racing

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Series NASCAR Cup