Masterfoods USA hosted a teleconference this afternoon to announce that Ricky Rudd will be returning to full-time duty behind the wheel of the Snickers Ford Fusion in 2007. The deal reunites Rudd and car owner Robert Yates, who teamed up from ...
Masterfoods USA hosted a teleconference this afternoon to announce that Ricky Rudd will be returning to full-time duty behind the wheel of the Snickers Ford Fusion in 2007. The deal reunites Rudd and car owner Robert Yates, who teamed up from 2000-2002 to win three races and post three straight top 10 point finishes.
WILLIAM CLEMENTS, Director of Sponsorships and Sports Marketing, Masterfoods USA:
"Masterfoods USA has elected to serve as primary sponsor for a second car for Robert Yates Racing in 2007. This second sponsorship allows Masterfoods to showcase additional brands such as Snickers, Combos and Pedigree with Snickers serving as the primary brand on the car. Snickers joins forces with M&M's chocolate candies making Masterfoods USA the only sponsor in NASCAR Nextel Cup to have two brands from the same company on one team. Also, the sponsorship of a second team will strengthen Robert Yates Racing and will define it as a multi-car Nextel Cup team in the coming season. The addition of Ricky Rudd, who provides 30-plus years of experience, will bring added leadership for the entire organization as well as assisting in the continuing development of David Gilliland, driver of the M&M's Ford Fusion. We feel that veteran Ricky Rudd and Snickers is a perfect complement to David Gilliland and the M&M's racing team"
RICKY RUDD, Driver -- Snickers Ford Fusion:
"It's good to be back and it's really good to be back in the Snickers Ford Fusion and to team back with Robert Yates Racing. I'm really looking forward to the upcoming '07 season and having a teammate to work with is something that I haven't had the luxury of in quite some time. We've already practiced a couple times with David Gilliland and hit it off real well, so I'm really looking forward to the new season and can't thank the Masterfoods Company enough for participating and stepping up and sponsoring both cars at Robert Yates Racing and, again, thanks to Robert Yates and all of his family for having me back."
ROBERT YATES, Car Owner -- Snickers Ford Fusion:
"It's time to go, but this is Christmas and this is a wonderful deal for Masterfoods to support us in this way. The opportunity to get Ricky, who had three very successful years with us, is back to do it again. Hopefully we can start off equally or better than we were and we're looking forward to that. I think we have the strength and the depth. We certainly have the desire. Ricky has that and we have the desire and we have the belief that we can go out and have a great year, so we're excited about this."
Q: WHAT NUMBER WILL THE CAR BE?
ROBERT YATES: "We're gonna have our two cars. We know one of them is the 38 and the other one, we really haven't decided on that. We're excited about getting Ricky and getting the Snickers brand on the car, but that's gonna be a team decision. I think it will come in the near future, but that's not been made yet. It's one of two, so I'll let you figure that out, but it'll happen pretty soon."
Q: YOUR THOUGHTS ON NEXT YEAR?
RICKY RUDD: "I'm really looking forward to it. I had plenty of time off to decide what I wanted to do and it's the right opportunity. I saw the fire in Robert's eyes when I met him the other day. He's ready to get this operation turned around and the whole operation is hungry. I couldn't be back at better opportune time than right now, especially with Snickers coming on board to sponsor the car. We're gonna have the funding to do it correctly. I know that Robert's got a lot of great people and I know there's a lot of re-grouping going on right now, but I'm excited about working with Butch Hylton. I've always had a lot of respect for him as a crew chief."
Q: YOU HAD SOME OTHER OPPORTUNITIES. WHAT APPEALED TO YOU ABOUT THIS DEAL?
RICKY RUDD: "The desire. Robert Yates Racing did not have their best year last year. They've had plenty of good years in the past and once you sort of taste the success Robert has, when you don't have a good year it makes you even hungrier. Robert tried to reorganize a little bit and change some things within the organization to make them a stronger outfit and it sort of backfired and went the other way. Now he's regrouped. I understand Robert's there almost every day opening the shop up, so, like I say, I think the biggest thing is that desire and the fire in his eyes when I met him. He's bound and determined to get this thing turned around and you can't have a car owner that's more committed than Robert Yates, so I think that's the key. The motor program is never an issue when you go to Robert Yates Racing. Motors are sort of taken for granted. They're always there for you. And then also having the funding with Snickers coming on board. You've got everything it takes and it's just up to us to get it organized and get it headed in the right direction and get it turned around."
Q: WHAT DID THE YEAR OFF DO FOR YOU?
RICKY RUDD: "As far as coming back after taking the year off, what it did was give me a chance to really focus on what I really wanted to do. Racing is in my blood. It has been since I was a kid and for the time until I'm dead and in the grave I'm sure that desire will still be there, but it just came to a time after thirtysome years of on the schedule, doing the commitments and all, I needed a little bit of regrouping time. My dad passed away last year and it just sort of makes you re-evaluate things. The pace in racing is so aggressive that you really don't have a chance to evaluate things. That was just a stepping back period for me to kind of figure out what I wanted to do. I got kind of hungry. I missed the competition. I was running go-kart races and running the dirt bikes daily, so the desire to go out and go fast and try to do good in motorsports never left. We went to Indianapolis and teamed up with a 16-year-old boy and won a huge go-kart race out there about a few months ago, so the desire to race never left, but the desire to have a chance to regroup was something that I needed to do. I feel like I'm more focused than ever by having the time off."
Q: WHAT DOES RICKY BRING TO THE TABLE AS FAR AS TEAMING WITH DAVID?
ROBERT YATES: "It makes all of our 125 employees excited. They know when they build a car for Ricky that he'll put his 100 percent in to the 100 percent they've already put in. When Ricky drove for us in the previous three years, you always looked forward to going to race tracks -- some even more than others -- so they're excited about it. So having him in the car was the most popular thing I could do with my 125 employees and that's just on the car side, and it's been very popular in the grandstands. It's popular because they expect us to run good and we will run good and we're looking forward to it. All the desire is there and I think our ability now with the sponsorship and Snickers on board is the best move we could make."
Q: IS RACING ENOUGH? ARE YOU PREPARED TO POSSIBLY RUN MID-PACK? IS THAT GOING TO BE ANY FUN?
RICKY RUDD: "No, if you look at the nature of my make up, I'm just a very competitive person. Put it this way, I wouldn't be back out here and Robert probably wouldn't have me if our goals were to run mid-pack. My goals have always been to set your goals high and shoot for them and take what you can get, but I can't see any reason why we can't be competitive. When we were together in '02, up until midseason we were challenging for a championship. Just to go out there and make laps has never been part of my physical make up and I wouldn't be back over there if I didn't think there was an opportunity to win races at Robert Yates Racing and that's one thing that was presented to me is the right opportunity. Having a teammate like David Gilliland, we've tested twice already and that's something where I didn't realize the importance of that until these two very brief test sessions we've been to. We're the same size. We can hop in and out of each other's cars and it's nice to have a different opinion on cars. Again, we've got to roll our shirtsleeves up too because it's not easy. It's tough and there's a lot of competition, but I'm prepared for the fight and that's what it's gonna be. It's gonna be a fight."
Q: HAS THE CHILDRESS TURNAROUND BEEN A SOURCE OF INSPIRATION FOR YOU?
ROBERT YATES: "It certainly does. A couple of years ago I was feeling really bad for that group and wishing for them to do good, and in the blink of an eye I needed him to feel the same way about me. It's like, 'Wow, this is extremely competitive.' We learn from our experiences, but they got their place organized from the top down and got it performing from the bottom up and that's what we have to do, so we've started that process and I think we're well on our way. I'm excited. We want to run up front and we feel like we have the right people in place and we'll figure it out for ourselves. We won't be waiting on a cell phone call from somebody to tell us what the next move is and we're getting excited about it. We're looking forward to it."
Q: YOU AND ROBERT DIDN'T HAVE THE GREATEST PARTING. WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED SINCE THEN?
RICKY RUDD: "I think part of it started coming back together even three years ago when I went to the Wood Brothers. Michael McSwain was our crew chief. I'm not really sure. I think what happened is that we had success and I wouldn't say it came easily, but we had a lot of good things happen for us and I'm not so sure that that success wasn't what maybe drove us apart. We were a fairly young team at that time and I'm not so sure that isn't what helped to drive us apart, but I think I'm a smarter person right now than I was three or four years ago. I've still got that competitive nature that I had and I think a lot of things that go on in this sport is that you're together almost more so than you are with your family. I've got brothers and sisters and I know we've bickered all our lives, but yet we still love each other. I like to compare it to something like that. You spend so much time around each other that you can't help but to have disagreements and I think maybe the way we handled those disagreements, we might face them a little earlier instead of letting them fester like maybe we did last time -- bring them to the table and let's discuss them and that's something we probably didn't do a very good job of last time."
Q: WHEN DID THIS POSSSIBILITY COME UP AND HOW LONG CAN YOU CONTINUE TO DRIVE?
RICKY RUDD: "I'm not really sure. It's amazing the power the internet has because about the time we started talking was about the time it started showing up a couple of weeks ago. We had some really brief conversations probably even six months ago and really, at that time, I was non-committal and teams were really working hard to put their operations together. The ones that maybe were gonna have changes were making them back as far as early spring last year. At that time, I was not ready to commit, so I couldn't expect any team to sort of wait for me to make my decisions. It's kind of ironic the way it ends up. I guess Dale, I'm not sure exactly when Jarrett decided to make his change, but that left an open seat in one of the powerhouse organizations late in the season when a lot of operations were wrapped up at that point. Anyway, I'm happy the way the timing worked out, but as far as how much longer I want to do this, I don't really think I can put a time on it. Obviously age, I'm 50 years old, but my dad lived to be 80 and was still running bulldozers up until about two weeks before he died and could really do a good job with them, so I think until your skills start to slip. Is that at 51, 52? Is that 61? I'm not really sure. But during the time off I was able to really focus on what I really wanted to do and that's to drive competitive race cars and be competitive and I don't think I can put a time limit on it. I think I'll know when that day is ready for me to step out, but it's not right now."
Continued from part 2