Sonoma: Winner's press conference, part I

RICKY RUDD --28-- Havoline Taurus "I hate to win one that way. Listening to Tony when he was talking about track position, we were sort of caught in that dilemma. I think we were running third or fourth before the caution and our car was in ...

RICKY RUDD --28-- Havoline Taurus

"I hate to win one that way. Listening to Tony when he was talking about track position, we were sort of caught in that dilemma. I think we were running third or fourth before the caution and our car was in really good shape. We didn't have to stop. We had enough fuel, but it's one of those deals -- do you pit or do you stay out? We ended up winning the race, but it looked like Jerry Nadeau made the right call. I don't know where he was before that caution, but he was probably about 10th or so and they stayed on the race track. Track position, again, was very important today. Our guys did a great job. They got this Havoline Taurus out of the pits. I think we were the second car out of the pits that went into the pits. We went in third or fourth and we came out second, which was actually about 11th in line, so we had to race a lot of cars to get back to the front of the pack and we simply ran out of time. We were running Jerry down, but we just didn't have the time to catch him. You hate to see misfortune come those guy's way. Jerry could have definitely used a big shot in the arm with a win today and Petty Enterprises, that's just a great operation over there, but we've lost some races the last three weekends under very similar conditions. We sort of were resigned to the fact that we ran out of time and were gonna run second today and, all of a sudden, his misfortune -- he pulled over -- and we won the race. It's not something you want to go bragging about and be proud of it, but, again, we've lost some. We've had some races where we led the most laps and didn't win the race."


I think a lot of people, it's not that they don't want to come out and test, the problem is you're limited to test dates. So, if you test here -- it didn't even used to apply to Watkins Glen -- but now you can carry the same car because you guys have been working on the race track and making it much easier to drive this race track. A car that works here will work at Watkins Glen. So you look at your seven test dates and you turn around and go to a race track where that knowledge will only apply to two race tracks, sometimes it's not a very smart or productive way to burn a test. So, that's why a lot of guys elect not to come out here and that's been our reason over the years. But we came here and tested a month ago. This is a brand new car that we did test. We missed the boat when we started the race. The heat really played a factor. We misjudged the track conditions and the first part of the race we faded back pretty hard to about eighth or 10th and then we made some adjustments on the pit stop and our car was good again, but it took all day long to get track position after that."


Yeah, the points deal, we never counted ourselves out. We knew what the situation was and kept watching where the lead was. That 300-point gap is not a big gap this part of the season. I know we kept talking championship all along and nobody probably took us very seriously when we were 10th in the points, but we looked at the math. Steve Post, our PR guy, he looked at it coming into this weekend's race. If we had just finished the last 60 laps at Richmond, the last 10 at Dover and the last five at Pocono -- even if we had run second on those days -- we would have only been 45 points behind Sterling coming into this weekend's race, so we've been kind of silently back there plugging away. Yes, we woulda, shoulda, coulda won two or three races by now, but when you have misfortune you just have to keep plugging away. Today, unfortunately for somebody else, it went the other way and, all of a sudden, we inherited a race today that we were gonna run second in."


I think that's the way we justify it is that we've had some races in very similar conditions and we were just snakebit. Jerry was right down at the end of the race when he broke. You're gonna have problems -- that just happens in Winston Cup racing -- but the real gut-busters are those ones when you get inside five, six laps to go and it looks like you've got the race won and, all of a sudden, something takes you out. Mechanical problems happen all the time, but when you get inside that last five or 10 laps, those are the ones that are really hard to take."


It certainly feels good to be in victory lane. Again, I'm sort of contemplating the retirement situation, but my deal about retirement is not about being competitive anymore, it's more personal reasons. I don't feel like I've lost anything. I don't feel like I'm any better than I used to be. I don't feel like I'm any worse than I used to be. Somewhere along the line that's gonna happen. I don't know what the age is -- it might be 50, 60 or 70. I know my dad is 77 and he works harder and is in better shape than I am, so I think our family history has been such that age really hasn't affected much. Again, it's more of a personal decision, more family time and things of that nature. If the retirement deal comes up, that's what's controlling that and, again, the next couple of weeks, hopefully, we've got a weekend off. We're gonna go down and just take life easy. We're gonna go down to Disneyworld for a couple of weeks. That almost sounds like a commercial. True story, I've got Landon and all of his neighborhood buddies. We're gonna go down and have a big family deal down in Daytona and Orlando and figure out what we want to do -- just kind of enjoy things and get racing off my mind for a couple of weeks and then come back to Daytona."


I don't know if they moved over or it was just that some of the cars could run good on old tires and some could not. I think it's a psychological disadvantage if you're in front and you're on old tires and your crew chief is saying, 'Hey, the 28 is coming and he's got new tires.' Right there, it kind of puts a psychological block in your mind and you say, 'Hey, I can't hold this guy, he's on new tires.' I had to race a couple of guys. I got into it with Tony, but Tony probably had new tires on, I'm not sure. We got to beating fenders and everything there for a while and then I'm watching the leaders just sort of check out on both of us. I didn't think it was time to race that hard, but everyone's got their own mindset at when it's time to go and, obviously, it was maybe Tony's time to go maybe a little bit sooner than it was my time to go. But some of the guys, we were able to get by. As far as the blocking goes, that's pretty much road racing. I say road racing. You only pass each other under braking. That race track is three lanes wide in some places when you go to brake and the trouble is, like Tony says, if someone moves over on you and starts braking and you have to go to the outside, certainly you can pass him but coming off turn 11, where most of the passing happens, it's real greasy and slippery out there. You certainly would have cleared the man had he not pulled out in front of you, but that's just sort of the way it always seems to go here at road racing. It's something you deal with and you go on."


I don't know. I don't believe in superstitions or nothing, but one of our fans sent out a package of four-leaf clovers and it did happen to make the trip all the way out to California and Linda (Rudd) did happen to remind me to rub on it this morning before we got in the car, so maybe that's the trouble -- I didn't carry this four-leaf clover around with me enough for the bad luck. I don't know how to explain it. I've never been so snakebit in my life -- the things we've had happen to us late in the race. Circumstance. You're going by Rusty Wallace late in the race and he blows a right-front tire and runs into you. You go to Pocono. There are 42 other cars out there and I'm leading the race, and with six laps to go I'm the guy that picks up the debris. That's just bad luck, that part is. The wheel left loose at Dover on a pit stop, that was human error. I can't blame that on bad luck, but there are two of them that right there that sort of slipped away from us. I don't know. You've just gotta keep plugging away and when it's your day, it's your day. You certainly look back and say, 'Man, I could be sitting here with four wins right now,' but it just wasn't meant to be and you pick up and go on."


The only thing that enters your mind when you start thinking about it is that I've worked for 27 years to get a team and a crew chief and a sponsor and a car owner where everything clicks like it does here. You can go out and recruit the best driver in the world. You could take a Jeff Gordon, a Tony Stewart and you can put them around in different situations and it's not always successful. You can take and pair the top crew chief that everyone would pick in the garage area, and the best driver, and sometimes it just doesn't click. This deal is sort of not made up with any superstars. I know Michael McSwain came with me and Robert Yates says, 'Who do you want to crew chief?' And I said, 'Fatback, I want to bring him on.' He said, 'Well, I don't know about that.' But I knew that the chemistry was there and it worked, and it certainly speeded things along pretty good. Again, that's the hard part when you start thinking about retirement. 'Man, this thing clicks so well. It's a championship caliber team.' Yeah, you hate to give that up after working for 27 years at a shot at it."


Yeah, it is frustrating. Everybody works hard to have the best car, but strategy does play a factor in road course racing. Today, for much of the race, we had a fourth or fifth-place car, but there was another group of cars -- I guess -- that were equally fast and pitted out of sync or something and they're in the middle of the pack. They're on the other side of the race track and we're up front and it can become a little frustrating. It is different. It's always been that way -- road racing -- it's always been that way and it's just what you expect. I've come in here before and had a fast car and didn't win the race. I've come in here before and had a slow car and won the race. It's just the way the conditions shake out. A lot of it is pit strategy. If you look, crew chiefs, I don't know what happened to Jeff Gordon, but it's not all luck that he's up there winning all these road races when he comes out here. There's some strategy involved in that. They obviously have good cars and a good driver, but there is some strategy that goes into that. So, the guys in the pits, they sit down and plan strategy and they'll come in with a game plan that will work at the road courses more so than anywhere else. The tire management situation, the driver has got to use his head. He knows he's got to run to like lap 35 or 36 -- whatever it was -- we weren't pitting no matter what until lap 35 or 36 today. That was just the way the deal was gonna work. My car was pretty loose. I wanted tires really bad, but you look at the race and you run it backwards and you count how many stops. You've got to do it in two stops or three stops and you plan your pit strategy and your track position according to that. It sounds easy, but it does confuse me too. Believe it or not, there is some rhyme or reason for certain guys always running toward the front at the end of the race."


Ricky Rudd press conference Part II

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Jerry Nadeau , Robert Yates