Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 88 Snickers Ford Fusion, returned to Daytona International Speedway as a full-time driver this morning as the first day of testing for next month's Daytona 500 began. Rudd, who served as a mid-race fill-in driver for...
Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 88 Snickers Ford Fusion, returned to Daytona International Speedway as a full-time driver this morning as the first day of testing for next month's Daytona 500 began. Rudd, who served as a mid-race fill-in driver for Tony Stewart at Dover last season, signed with Robert Yates Racing just before Christmas.
RICKY RUDD -- No. 88 Snickers Ford Fusion
IT'S A SAD WAY TO START THE DAY WITH THE NEWS ABOUT BOBBY HAMILTON. "Bobby was a class guy. He worked hard to get to where he was and was a good family guy and I hate to see anybody have trouble like that or pass away like that. I guess it's more a shock to me. I was kind of away and I didn't realize maybe that his health had declined lately. It's too bad. He was a good guy, a great guy."
HOW WAS HE AS A COMPETITOR? "He was tough. There's no doubt. Bobby was very good, very aggressive and a really great short track driver over the years. He was as good as there ever was on short tracks and it wasn't that he was a bad speedway driver. I remember racing against him when he won at Talladega. I guess he's one of those old-time guys that just loved this sport. He was kind of like a Bobby Allison, who sunk everything he had into his operation."
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE BACK HERE? "It's pretty neat. I missed it. There's a lot of it I missed. Talk to me at the end of the year and I'll let you know the real story, but right now I'm fresh and feel good and ready to go. I'm not tired out from all of the travel."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT HAVING AN 88 ON THE SIDE OF THE CAR? "We kind of hoped for 28, but I guess it didn't really work out. Actually, I drove the 88 back in 1981 when it was the Gatorade car and Robert was actually running the show back then. When I had my own car, the Tide car, we rolled it out of the paint shop and we had the choice of 88 and 10. We didn't know which one we were gonna use and we actually stuck both of the numbers on the car when we had the photo shoot. We had one with the 10 and then they turned it around and pulled the 10 off and put the 88 on it and shot it both ways, but we liked the 10 on it because of the looks of it -- we liked it a little bit better but it could have been either the 88 or 10."
DID YOU HAVE ANY NOTION WHEN YOU LEFT THAT YOU WOULD BE BACK IN A YEAR? "I really didn't think about it. I kept sort of an open mind to it. When I first stepped aside, a lot of start-up teams needed drivers and they needed them signed pretty early and I wasn't able to commit. I just said I wanted to clear my head and really figure out what I want to do and it probably wasn't until October or November that I was thinking that I'd like to get back out here. At the time, I wasn't really looking for a full-time setup, but the way this thing came together it's gonna be a good deal for me and it's gonna be good for Robert, I think. The sponsors have been really good about working with me through some of the commitments that are required. They're working with me a lot and being flexible on that. I feel like I'm kind of needed over here. They've got some work to do and I feel like I can contribute and make it a better race team."
WHAT DID YOU SEE AS BEING THE PROBLEM LAST YEAR? "Really, to sum it up -- you could go on and on about different problems. They've got some great people and they always continue to have great people. I think a lot of it was the teams are growing and Robert was trying to figure out how he could expand and it really gets back to management. The management that he chose just wasn't clicking and working for him with the way he runs things. He was trying to do the right things to be able to expand and step back, but it just seemed that the thing headed in the wrong direction. Now he's back in there everyday in kind of a re-grouping situation. Doug is spread thin with the motorshop. They've got a tremendous motor program as everyone knows and there wasn't enough of Doug to go around to run the race shop and Robert was trying to find a way to cut back and look at other opportunities to maybe even expand his operation and spend his time there. Robert is a big key to this thing working and he has been for all these years and, again, I think he tried to step back a little bit and it didn't work. But I will say that he's back there now and that's probably the biggest incentive for me to come over here and run because they definitely have all the things in place to do good. With Robert sort of re-grouping, I probably picked a good time to come because I think it's only gonna get better. Looking at what happened to them at Miami. They had a very fast car at Miami. I guess David Gilliland qualified well and ran well. Whatever happened, he made a mistake or he spun, but the car was competitive the whole race. DJ had a car built just like that off the truck and I think it got wrecked early on, so that's a big positive note to be able to go into the winter and build cars off that successful run they had at Miami."
-credit: ford racing