Rudd ready to win at Michigan

BROOKLYN, Mich. - Michigan International Speedway has been good to Ricky Rudd in the past two races, but not good enough. Rudd, driver of the No. 28 Texaco/Havoline Ford, has an impressive record at Michigan, with one win in 1993 and eight ...

BROOKLYN, Mich. - Michigan International Speedway has been good to Ricky Rudd in the past two races, but not good enough. Rudd, driver of the No. 28 Texaco/Havoline Ford, has an impressive record at Michigan, with one win in 1993 and eight top-five's. He has finished second in the last two races at Michigan -- the checkered flag almost in his grasp. However, the No. 28 team is not satisfied with second place, especially during a championship run, so this weekend they will strive for the win.

Last August, Rudd dominated the second half of the race but ultimately finished second to Rusty Wallace after a caution late in the race allowed Wallace to receive four fresh tires. On the restart, Wallace was able to pass Rudd for the win. This past June at Michigan, Rudd was ready to take the checkered flag after taking the lead from Jeff Gordon with one lap to go, but Gordon was able to pass for the win.

Rudd and the No. 28 Texaco/Havoline team have several factors working in their favor this weekend that will help them achieve their second win of the season. One is the Yates engine under the hood of the No. 28 car, the second is good handling and the third is the hope that they can close in on NASCAR Winston Cup Series points leader Gordon.

Four of the last five poles have been won with Yates engines - Dale Jarrett (Watkins Glen), Jimmy Spencer (Indianapolis), Todd Bodine (Pocono and Chicagoland). Rudd also had strong qualifying performances at those tracks: he qualified second at Watkins Glen, fourth at Indianapolis, second at Pocono and third at Chicago. Rudd, who started second at Michigan in June, thinks he has a shot at winning the pole this weekend.

"We were .006 seconds behind Gordon for the pole in June," Rudd said. "I feel like the Texaco car can sit on the pole any given weekend with the right conditions and I'm looking forward to trying to sit on the pole this Friday."

Horsepower certainly helps a driver, but without impeccable handling, it is difficult for a driver to finish well at Michigan. This Sunday will be Rudd's 630th consecutive start, the most of any active NASCAR Winston Cup driver, which means Rudd has years of racing experience at Michigan.

"Michigan is one of those tracks that not only requires good horsepower, but also good handling. The corners are wide so it is crucial to get the car turned and pointed down the straightaways so that I can make the most out of the Yates horsepower. Being a veteran in the sport, I have had plenty of experience handling the car at Michigan so hopefully, my experience paired with Yates' horsepower can help me get the Texaco car into victory circle at Michigan."

Another factor giving Rudd that extra desire to win this weekend is the need to gain points on Gordon, with whom Rudd is tied at 15 for the most top-10 finishes this season. On his 50th Michigan start, Rudd is in second in points after 22 of 36 events - 194 points behind Gordon and 71 ahead of third-place Dale Jarrett.

"Gordon is so good right now that we are going to have to be flawless from here on out and hope for a little luck," Rudd said. "We should be really good going back to Michigan. We almost won there in June but Gordon was able to get the win on the last lap. I'm ready for some close competition this weekend, but I have confidence in our team.

"We've been close the past two races at Michigan with this Texaco/Havoline Taurus and maybe this time we can close the deal."

And close in on Gordon.

-PPRP

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Rusty Wallace , Todd Bodine , Jimmy Spencer