RICKY RUDD - No. 21 Air Force/Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus (Finished 2nd) Press Conference WHAT ABOUT THE BATTLE WITH TONY? "I guess with the way the week started, we had a good car in practice. Going into qualifying we were ...
- No. 21 Air Force/Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus (Finished 2nd)
WHAT ABOUT THE BATTLE WITH TONY?
"I guess with the way the week started, we had a good car in practice. Going into qualifying we were eighth-quick and qualified poorly - like 20th. Man, you get yourself in hole here and you just can't dig out. You can have a winning car and get buried and just can't dig out. Finally, Fatback had some really smart strategy and that's what got us the track position. We had the car, but we were buried in the traffic. Again, he had the strategy knowing that sometimes this thing ends up with a lot of yellows near the end. When we pitted, we knew there was no possible way we could go the distance on fuel, but with the cautions that we thought would be coming, and you could see the intensity level picking up with the competitors on the track. Everybody was starting to not be as kind to each other as they were earlier in the race and we knew cautions were gonna be coming. So he gambled and went for it and got us track position, and then we had to race. We were pretty good with that group that we were racing and we knew Tony was fast. He was fast in practice, so I was just trying to hold him off the best I could. Obviously, we weren't able to do that. It was right down to the wire on fuel. We didn't know if we were gonna make it or not. It actually ran out. When you hit those little speed bumps the thing would just quit running, just like you'd turn the ignition off. I don't know how he (Busch) missed my back bumper. If I was him, I don't know if I would have been as kind. I owe him one because he cut me some slack back there at turn five and it all worked out. The motor got running again and it started surging coming to the line and then it ran out going up the hill. You couldn't have planned it anymore perfect."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE ATTEMPTS TONY MADE TO PASS?
"He kept coming and coming and inching up, and then he got there. I tried to hold him off trying to out-brake him getting into turn 11, but it was just a matter of time. Then I started making mistakes. I started wheel-hopping my car and then it was just a matter of time before I spun off the race track. You can only run over your head for so many laps and then the tires take a lot of abuse and the brakes won't take it, so he was able to just drive by. We had nothing for Tony there at the end. We were just trying to play the hang-on game."
"As far as our car, we weren't very good when the race started. We were just average at best. When the sun came out we got better. At the same time, we had our first pit stop and they adjusted the tire pressure and stuff and we got better, so with our situation the sunny track and hot track came to us better than it did when it was cool."
YOU TALKED ABOUT THE NEW TRANSMISSIONS THE OTHER DAY AND IT WAS AN ISSUE TODAY.
"I don't know if it's experimental. Guys have been running that thing for a while. I don't even know the name of it. I guess there are several versions of transmissions out here. I think we had the transmission that the Hendrick cars had because that was the sales pitch that the guy gave us. 'They've run two or three races out there and nobody's broke one yet.' So we didn't have nothing to lose as far as points go, so we tried it and I liked it. We tested it at VIR and, again it's so easy to shift, but I think that's part of the problem is that the thing is so easy to shift that maybe you're over-confident and you're not matching the revs on the downshift. I don't know what broke in them, but, again, I was abusive on mine from what I usually do. I never hopped the brakes, but I was jamming gears and not using the clutch. Guys have been doing that for years with transmissions, but something about it just sounds like it's tearing things up. I shifted all day without a clutch on the up-shifts and I've never done that here before. I abused it as much as you can abuse one, but I did match revs. If the guys didn't match revs, evidently, that's probably what I would say broke in one but I'm not certain."
CAN DAYS LIKE TODAY LEAD TO A GOOD SUMMER?
"This is fun being able to race for the win or race for a top five. To me, that's what racing is all about. I don't know. I probably will have some decisions. I know I've got decisions to make here shortly, but as far as good performances, the team runs good and car runs good and you get good finishes, that's why I race to begin with. That's probably the biggest motivation I had to hang around a little bit longer - just being a competitor. You don't want to be out there just riding around."
WHAT CAR DID YOU USE TODAY?
"Somebody was asking me about that earlier. It's really strange. This is the car that I won with in '02 with Yates. I guess Yates is building their own chassis now and they were gonna put this car out to pasture, sell it or whatever. I don't know all the particulars and how it came to be, but Fatback was able to buy it and get Robert to sell it to us. There wasn't much left on it, I think, when they got it but a bare chassis, and then our guys took it and did all their package, put a body on it and things of that nature. They updated the car because a lot of things have changed since them. Some of the rollcage configurations have changed since that time, but it is odd. I don't know if Elliott ever ran it, but the last time we ran it we won with it and we came here and ran second today with it, so it's kind of strange in a good way."
DID YOU GET A WARRANTY WITH IT?
"I don't know, Robert's probably gonna want it back right now. Their cars struggled a little bit today. I'm not sure what their problems were, but they struggled a little bit. They might want this thing back, but, hopefully, the Wood's have paid for it."
HOW MUCH DOES THIS MEAN TO THE TEAM?
"These guys really haven't gotten the credit they deserve. Really, you've got to have good finishes to get credit. You can run good all day and then people forget about you, but it doesn't really bother me. I'm much happier this year than we were last year. Last year we just ran like a dog. We ran 25th on the race track and finished 25th. When Fatback came on board we ran better, but this year we've run well. I don't think we've been good enough to quite win, but we've had some good top-five finishes slip away from us. If no one was at the track watching and you read the newspaper and read the NASCAR Scene you'd read it and wouldn't even know we were there. Today, it's kind of hard to skip over the guy that finishes second. It doesn't bother me. I don't care if we're ever in print or not, but the guys that bust their butt on these cars week in and week out, they're getting some credit, hopefully, that they deserve. Again, they've had good race cars and we've been in every wreck, I think, that there's been on the circuit this year. We didn't start them, but we've been in every one of them. That's just sort of how the year has gone. To get a finish gives those guys some respect that they deserve."
IF FUEL WASN'T AN ISSUE COULD YOU HAVE HELD TONY OFF? "No. I could go for awhile. We were one chassis adjustment away, I think. At the start of the race we weren't good. We had the first chassis adjustment on the set of tires, and we only had two stabs at it. The second time they got better. We were adjustment away, I think. Of course, sometimes you go the wrong way, but I feel like we were one adjustment away from being a great car. We were a good car, but maybe one adjustment away from being able to race these guys here."
WHAT ABOUT ROAD RACING?
"I love road racing. I always have. I came up as a kid racing tracks like this running go-karts. I've got a go-kart today that I go out and play with on a road course that's very similar to that track at the top of the hill. Charlotte Motor Speedway has been nice enough to let us go there and play and practice. As a matter of fact, they're getting ready to repave it for us. A bunch of guys are starting to get them. I know Burton's got some. I don't know about Kurt. The Labonte's have got them and Joe Nemechek. A bunch of guys are starting to get them and it's kind of neat to go over there and play. I guess that's how crazy I am over road racing, I go out there on my off day and drive something on a road course."
WHAT'S THE RIGHT PROPORTION FOR ROAD COURSES?
"I think because you only have two a year, a small team like ours cannot really put a lot of focus into that because if you really get smart on your road course car, it's not really gonna help you on oval track racing. Our tests are limited, so we elected not to test at a road course. I feel like you need at least four road races a year. Now you've got 36, 38 races a year - four road courses would probably be a better balance and you could probably learn a little more about them. It seems like we're always behind trying to play catch-up on the equipment nowadays it's changing so quickly."
EDDIE WOOD WASN'T HERE TODAY.
"I forgot all about that. Eddie Wood, one of the owners, was not here. I don't know if he's ever missed a race. He went to Milwaukee to watch his son, Jon, run. I don't think they had too good of a night, and his flight was cancelled that he was gonna fly back on from Milwaukee over to here and he didn't make it back. I don't know, Eddie is as superstitious as they come so he's liable to think hard about this. He's liable to have Sunday's off here for the next 17 races or whatever we've got left here."
DOES A DAY LIKE THIS MAKE YOU THINK ABOUT RIVERSIDE?
"It was kind of strange for a while there because of the way the pit strategy worked out. I think Rusty was in the lead and we had to get by Dale Jarrett and Elliott Sadler and a couple other guys and, all of a sudden, I was chasing Rusty. That was a flashback to the late eighties. Having two old guys chasing each other again for the lead, that was kind of neat. It did cross my mind. I think the last time we did that Rusty ended up in the dirt. I'm not sure exactly what happened."