Part 2 of 2 HOW MUCH DID MOTORCRAFT STEP UP AND DID FORD KICK IN A LITTLE EXTRA? Ricky Rudd: "Let me just say from where I'm coming from, and I'm not gonna get into details, but all the car owners I talked with, we never got into, 'I want...
Part 2 of 2
HOW MUCH DID MOTORCRAFT STEP UP AND DID FORD KICK IN A LITTLE EXTRA?
Ricky Rudd: "Let me just say from where I'm coming from, and I'm not gonna get into details, but all the car owners I talked with, we never got into, 'I want this.' I just wanted fair compensation. I didn't ask for Winston Cup championship driver's salary. I didn't ask for top-three driver salary or even probably top-five. Don't get me wrong, I'm not cheap and I want all I can get, but I'm not sure exactly what went on with Eddie and the sponsorship requirements. From day one, I told Eddie what I wanted to drive and what I based it on and how I came up with the figures and none of the car owners that I ever talked to actually got into any disputes about driver salary. I think more from a car owner's perspective, it's probably, 'This is a salary we're gonna have to pay to get a top-10 driver.' Then Eddie as a car owner he's got to look at it and say, 'Gosh, if I pay this to a driver and it's more than I've been paying, now we can't buy motors or we can't buy tires. It doesn't make business sense. So that's where the sponsors and car owners have to get together. I didn't get involved in that side of the relationship, but from day one, when I sat down with Eddie I told him what I wanted. All I can say is, as a driver, they didn't get me cheap. I didn't cut my price. I sat down and told these guys I wanted the same thing that I told every other car owner. I've had some car owners that came up and said, 'Hey, I can pay you more than that,' and I said, 'No, I'm not asking for more than that. Pay me what fair market value is. If you've got more money, put it in a bonus fund for the crew or something. I'm not asking for more and I'm not going to one team and playing one against the other. I'm not gonna get into that. So, that being said, I'll let him decide how far he wants to discuss that."
Eddie Wood: "Here's how it went down. When Ricky became available, that's where we wanted to go. Like I told you, it would go away and come back. It would go away and call back. Well, Judi called me and she told me, 'If you can get Ricky, we're committed. You go do it.' I got on the phone at that moment and called Ricky Rudd and I said, 'We can do it, you just tell me how.' And that's how it started. That conversation with Judi -- from the time I asked, 'Do you think we can do it?' 'I'll go check. Yes, we can do it' was less than 12 hours. So that shows the dedication that Ford Motor Company and Motorcraft is giving us, Ricky Rudd, and our whole group as a whole because, like I said, before Ricky Rudd even came here we wouldn't be sitting here had they not come on board. That gets back to the thing I said about Dale. I remember Motorcraft when they were with Bud's car (Moore) and Ricky was driving it. They were treated very, very well there as we are treated. We owe our existence to Jack Roush. He has helped us through the last 10 years to get us back on track and we also owe our existence to Ford Motor Company and Motorcraft, and now we're gonna take it all forward and make it happen with this guy."
HOW CLOSE WERE YOU TO GOING TO PLAN B?
Ricky Rudd: "I never really had a plan B. We had plan B's, but it's like we said, until he was in a seat -- whether it was ours or Ganassi's or whoever, we weren't gonna go to plan B until Ricky was in a seat, signed, done -- press conference. We weren't gonna give up on Ricky until the very end, so that persistence, I guess, prevailed. Like my grandmother used to say, 'Good things come to those who wait,' so, here we are."
HOW MUCH OF A RELIEF IS THIS?
Ricky Rudd: "This is very important to me. I wouldn't say it's hard to do both. I would certainly say there are a lot of sleepless nights trying to figure out what the future was gonna allow for myself and the family. I just wanted to make the right choice and I didn't want to be pressured into making a hasty decision. I wanted to, I guess, kick the tires and look at these teams inside and out. As far as feeling pressured and hurried to make a decision, I guess the only thing that bothered me were a lot of the comments that were coming out. I think a lot of people were anxious to get things laid to rest and I respect that 100 percent. If everything would have worked correctly, a lot of the Robert Yates stuff that we were working on would have been behind the scenes, so the public would not have known that Ricky was taking 30 days longer than he should to make a decision or 60 days. That would have been behind the public's view and it would have been out of sight, and it's the same thing that goes on with just about every driver and every team owner when they go to make business decisions. But with today's modern technology and the internet and everything that things are today in technology, news travels very fast. I can't believe how fast. It's overwhelming how fast it travels, but some of it's true and some of it's not true. The parts that are not true can really put a damper on things. I'm very pleased with what we have going here."
IS THERE ANY CHANCE YOU AND ELLIOTT COULD SWAP RIDES BEFORE THE END OF THE YEAR, IF YOU FALL OUT OF THE CHAMPIONSHIP RACE?
Ricky Rudd: "Wow, that's a good one. I don't know, I guess I've got to look at that. That's something to think about, I guess. I would like to go out there and do some testing and get ready for next year. I'd like to work on that now, but I'm not really sure what our agreements will let us do and not do. Even if I don't drive the cars, believe me, the conversations will be going on. Like today, we sat down and it was like, 'What kind of steering box do you use? What type of brakes do you like?' We can kind of sort through some of that stuff, so when you do go test the first time, you can pretty much hone in on the little subtle difference between the drivers and what driver preferences they like. But, back to the championship deal with Robert Yates, I don't think that's a dead-end issue. I think the championship is up for grabs right now. We're something like 165 points back in sixth place. We were second in the point last year at this time, but we were some 300 points back. We stayed second just about right until there were three races left in the season, so that just shows how the competition has closed up. It's very competitive and the championship is up for grabs. I'm not giving up. I know how hard it is to get in these positions and I'm gonna fight as hard as I can this year to try to win that championship to do my part. I won't say we'll wait until the checkered flag falls at the last race, but we'll definitely be putting things in gear for next year here, but not where it becomes a distraction to either side. These guys have races they want to try to win. I'm not sure where they can finish in points, but they can probably get as high as 13th or 14th."
Eddie Wood: "We were 18th three weeks ago and have had a couple bad races and that dropped us back, but he's still got his job to do there and we've got our job to do. I'm sure we're gonna be testing. I think I read on the internet that Elliott is actually going to Kentucky with the 28 sometime in the next couple of weeks. I saw that before I left."
Ricky Rudd: "That's good news (laughing). Here we are running for a championship and they've got somebody else driving my car (laughing). I'll fix that. I'll double bolt all those little seats I've got in those cars and that big boy won't be able to get in there. He's young. He's chomping at the bit. Elliott Sadler is a friend of mine. I'm not gonna sit here and beat up on Elliott Sadler. He's got his dreams and he's going after it and I just hope it works out as good for him as he thinks it is and that's all I can say."
Eddie Wood: "It'll all work out in the end. People asked us that first week, 'What's gonna happen now?' It'll work out. It always works out."
IS IT GRATIFYING TO BE SUCH A HIGHLY COURTED DRIVER? THIS IS THE SECOND TIME IN THREE YEARS.
Ricky Rudd: "It's a tremendous honor. Considering how I got started with my background. I grew up in my dad's junkyard. I was talking to somebody the other day and they didn't believe it when I said we got a Monte Carlo in 1976 and it was a fire job. My dad got it just so we could build a race car out of it. We got out there with a torch and, back then, they didn't use new body panels. You had to go in there with a torch and cut all the old body panels. It was a nasty job. They gave it to me because that was the only thing I knew how to do -- make a mess. So I trimmed the bodies up. I was involved when nobody called. I mean, I'd wear the phone out calling people to give me a chance, and to have it go 180 degrees -- I'm not talking about guys with back-of-the-pack cars, I'm talking about top front running equipment calling me. It's very flattering. I wouldn't say nervewracking is the word, but you don't want to step on anybody's toes. You don't want to offend anybody, but, sometimes, I think people take it the wrong way when you have to say no. Some people can't take no and they don't understand no. I'm not saying that's the reason for all the negative stuff that went on, but, again, it was very hard for me to say no to some of these people that I've respected very much. But, at the end of the day, I had to do what was right for myself and Linda and our son. But, to answer your question, it's a tremendous honor. That's not a bad problem to have. The bad problem would be when you're sitting at home and the phone doesn't ring and you call people and they don't want to take your call. That's a whole lot worse situation to be in."
WHEN WAS THE MOTORCRAFT EXTENSION FINALIZED AND WHERE DO YOU SEE RICKY FITTING IN?
"The motorcraft deal came together within the last two days. It all started a couple of weeks ago. Judi is new to her job. She's only been on the job two weeks and she's done a great job in getting things organized to the point we are because it was a hornet's nest when she stepped in. Like I said, two weeks ago this was all like a dream. We hoped this would work out or that would work out, but when she got in place things started to happen and here we are. The Motorcraft thing had been in the works for quite a while, but it just got done this week. The sponsorship had another year on it, but with the new driver and everything they just re-did the whole thing so we can start over clean. Ricky is gonna help this team with his experience. If you go to the race track and you're struggling and you think this is wrong or that's wrong, the one thing you do not worry about is the driver part of it. If you do your job and everything is like it's supposed to be, you'll get there. If we get to the race track and things aren't working properly, you just work on it. Pat can answer that better than me, but his experience is the biggest thing. You can beat your dog, but you can't beat experience -- especially in this business."
Pat Tryson, Crew Chief --21-- Motorcraft Taurus
"It really boils down to experience. All you have to do is look back at Ricky's career and see what he's done every year. It doesn't matter what he sits in, he runs good. So it's up to me and all the guys in the room to make sure he sits in something he can run up front and win races with because we all know Ricky Rudd can do it. Now it's just a matter of us stepping up to bat and putting him where he belongs. Hopefully, we can win a Winston Cup championship with him in the next three years."
Ricky Rudd: "Let me just add this. I think Pat's underselling his abilities. The whole trick is, and I've been fortunate. I've been with some good race teams over the years and I've been with some teams that were inexperienced and some teams that were experienced. The bottom line is, an organization cannot have heroes in it. It's OK to be a hero in the public's eye, but when you go to work and you've got your motor program and you've got your crew chief and you've got your driver, you've got to look at that pairing and you really can't have any superstars. You're gonna go to the race track and you're gonna have off days when you're not running good. It's just gonna happen. The biggest thing you can't get into is the ego thing where, all of a sudden, the driver thinks he's better than the team or the team thinks they're better than the driver and you've got a lot of people with motives that are not focussed on 'how do we take this team from where it is now and make it better.' I guess I sort of pride myself in the fact I've been a player in a lot of those things. I don't take all of the credit, but I think when it comes to the driver donating his part, I guess I pat myself on the back and I feel like I contribute to the race team. Again, I can't do it by myself. I can't do it without the motor program. I can't do it without Pat. I can't obviously do it without all these guys in this room supporting us. That's one big thing that I see that they've got here, there is a team here that is united and focussed and feel like they need my services. It's nice to be needed. But I can guarantee that I'll give 120 percent effort and when I say effort, a lot of it gets back to something as simple as feedback. You say, 'Feedback, how is that gonna help you?' I'm gonna give Pat the information that he needs to put him in that driver seat so he knows whether he needs a bigger swaybar or a smaller swaybar. I'm not a driver that gets out and says, 'You need to put this spring number here and you need a 600 pound spring over here and you need an inch-an-a-half swaybar.' I don't get into that, but I can tell them what's worked in the past. I can get out and say, 'The car lays over on the right-front. You fix it. I don't know what you want to do with a bar or a spring, but you fix it. You work on it through your ideas,' and let them do what they do best. They live with these cars everyday. I live with it two or three days a week and let these guys do their job. I feel like if you can bring experience to the table. I've been around Michigan International Speedway for 50 races. I've run around it enough on days where I was really, really good and won races, and I've run around it really, really bad when I ran at the back of the pack and got lapped. So I've seen both sides of that, but I think an experienced driver can go in there and he knows when he's in trouble. He knows if you're slow, where you're slow at, what areas of the car to concentrate on instead of, 'well, we don't know what to do' and throw our hands up. I think, hopefully, that's what I can bring to them. Not to be any disrespect to the driver they had, but I think the communication should be better. If it's not, then they need to get rid of me because I feel that's what I should be hired to do." ON JACK ROUSH. "Jack's my hero. He loves this race team as if it was his own. He does a tremendous job. I run against this 21 on the straightaways and, believe me, he doesn't hold back anything for his own cars. The motors in that 21 car go down the straightaway like those other cars. I can tell you that from experience, so I'd like to thank Jack for furnishing these motors to this race team."
CAN YOU MAKE PEOPLE FORGET DAVID PEARSON WHEN HE DROVE FOR THE WOOD'S?
Ricky Rudd: "When you say that I think back and David Pearson comes to mind first. Then I think of Neil Bonnett and there have been some other drivers in that seat, but, certainly, Pearson comes to mind the quickest. David was kind of my hero. What I liked about David, he was the Silver Fox and all the things you heard about him, David was very, very talented. He didn't like to talk in front of the camera and so-on, but he was a heck of a race car driver and smart. He used to worry the heck out of Leonard. I remember watching this. I was just a kid -- about 18 years old -- and we were at Michigan or somewhere. I remember David Pearson hiding from these guys. It was either qualifying or the race was getting ready to start and they're sitting there and starting to get worried. They're looking at the watch and qualifying is getting ready to start and his car is like next in line. They didn't know it, but David was hiding behind pit road behind a group of people. He was hiding and ducking them right to the point where they were getting ready to send his car out to go, but then he showed up. He used to worry the heck out of these guys, but he was always having fun. David was my hero, not only because of the way he ran on the race track, but just the fun he had too. I don't think I could ever replace a David Pearson. I'm not even gonna try to attempt to do that. I will go out and try to do my best to do my part to try to win as many races as we can. To sit here and tell you I'm gonna out-do David Pearson's record, I don't think anybody in racing can sit here and tell you that. I have a lot of respect for him."
Rudd, Woods press conference, part I