Sonoma: Winner's press conference, part II

Ricky Rudd Sonoma Winner's press conference Part 2 of 2 RICKY RUDD --28-- Havoline Taurus WHEN YOU DO DECIDE TO RETIRE WILL YOU SKIP A YEAR FROM THE CIRCUIT? I don't know how to answer that. What I would really like to do when that time...

Ricky Rudd Sonoma Winner's press conference
Part 2 of 2

RICKY RUDD --28-- Havoline Taurus

WHEN YOU DO DECIDE TO RETIRE WILL YOU SKIP A YEAR FROM THE CIRCUIT?

I don't know how to answer that. What I would really like to do when that time comes is take a year off and don't do anything -- just hang out and get totally bored just sitting around twiddling your thumbs and then figure out what I want to do. This is all I've ever done. I've raced since I was a kid. My only job, I guess that I really had, I worked for my dad. I've been really fortunate. So I look at the options. I can always go back. He's still got a delivery parts truck and I probably still have my delivery route waiting on me if I need it to deliver parts, but it would be a little different if I go back and deliver parts. I would be delivering them because I want to, not because I have to. I don't really know. There are some tough questions that we're facing -- not only me, but Linda. We've got some serious things we need to think about. There is gonna be a time when I obviously step out of a race car. Tony Stewart is gonna face that. Heck, I thought he was in his twenties. He told me today he's 31. He's getting to be an old man now compared to the kids that are coming up, so everyone is gonna face that. I think the only reason I'm facing it maybe more so than the other guys is not that they're older than me, it's that my contract comes to an end this year.

"One of my biggest fears is that you hang in there too long and you become unsuccessful. Some of the predecessors in front of me, there were a couple of guys that hung in there too long. When I go out, I want to go out at the best of my game. Certainly, it would be nice to go out on top, but go out at the best of my game."

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE POINTS RACE HALFWAY THROUGH THE YEAR?

First of all, you guys have the stats. I think this is a pretty unusual situation to get to this point in the season and have so many guys knocking on the door with a legitimate shot at the championship. I know that last year we arrived at Indianapolis, which is not too far in the distant future, I think we showed up going into Indy and we were second in the points. Everybody looked around like, 'Where did they come from?' We were sort of lurking in the shadows. We had some problems. We got some momentum going and the cars ran better and better, but nobody really paid attention to us. Coming into Indy all of a sudden it was like, 'They're second in the points. They could be a factor.' This deal is a little different. I don't know how to read this year. I would have thought by now that there would have been some distance put in between guys. Instead, it seems like it's heating up. I've never ever experienced this many guys running this close to a points championship. If you're 300 points behind right now, that's not too far out of it. When we arrive at the halfway point, that is not a big deficit. Now we're talking 148 between the top seven. It's gonna be interesting. You asked what do we look for, I think you'll start seeing with the stretch of 20 races when we come off the break. It's gonna get back to team preparation. NASCAR will play a big factor. If all of a sudden they give somebody a half-inch on the air dam or they take a half-inch away, or they give somebody this or that. I would say it's almost in NASCAR's hand who wins this championship, if, all of a sudden, they throw a rules change in there. You look at it right now, everybody is really close and we're doing it with kind of the current rules. If, all of a sudden, one manufacturer gets something, that could sway this thing one way or the other. We'll have to wait and see. Hopefully, everyone is content. I think the Pontiacs have got a little bit extra help the last couple of weeks. I know Bobby Labonte ran awfully good on the race track today. I don't think that half-inch of spoiler or whatever they got would make a difference here like that, but those are the things you've got to watch out for because here we are, we're prepared with the cars we've got. If a rules change comes in here, then all of a sudden we're thrown off-balance and we're searching in the middle of the season. That's not a good time to be searching for answers to handling problems."

YOU'VE TALKED A LOT ABOUT THE AGE DIFFERENCE. WHERE DO YOU STAND ON THAT NOW? "The age thing, again, my only argument was that if you've got a young guy leading the race and he's doing well, by all means, mention him. There are some great young guys. If Bill Elliott is up front leading this race today, or Rusty Wallace, call it like you see it. Again, it gets back to the guys that work on these race cars -- some of them 24 hours a day -- they live and die by that television coverage so their buddies and their friends can say, 'Hey, I saw your car on TV the other day.' They take a lot of pride in that. That was my only argument. I've never had a problem with age or gender. I've raced against girls during the early part of my career. They were some of the best go-kart drivers I ever raced against. My theory is you always get in that race car, put that helmet on, put that window net up and you can't tell if you're a girl a boy, black or white, 10 years old or 100 years old. Hopefully, the best driver, the best team and the best preparation will win the race."

WHAT ABOUT THE 20-WEEK STRETCH?

It can tend to be a grind. You've got to mentally block out a lot of that. It's not as hard on the drivers as it is the crew members. The pressure comes within the organization. If you have a bad weekend, the guys feel it, they sense it, but you've got to keep the sense of panic out of the equation and go back to your gameplan and keep doing what you're doing. If you have a bad race, you have to evaluate but you also quickly have to put to rest what your problems are -- whether that means going out to Kentucky and having a test to identify your problem and make sure it's remedied. You can't stumble down the stretch. You can't break anything. That's the heartbreaker, if you break parts."

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO WIN ON A ROAD COURSE?

It feels good to win on a road course. Again, I wouldn't say we didn't take them seriously. I know we talked about testing and stuff a while ago and special cars. Maybe we didn't them as seriously as maybe we should have, but the biggest equalizer in this garage area was the changing of the transmission situation. You hear us speak about it with the Jericho's and the Textile transmissions. When they came out with those shifters. You say, 'Well, how can a transmission do that?' The biggest thing it does -- everybody in this garage area goes into the corner on an oval, gets out of the gas, puts their left foot and plants it on the brake pedal. You could not used to do that when you had the old style transmission. It's awkward to tell a driver to brake with his right foot as it is to anybody in here to switch hands. If they're used to writing with their right hand and switch to left-handed. It's that awkward. It throws your timing off and you don't feel the race car. That transmission, most of these guys come out braking with their left foot. They do on ovals. They don't have to change that now, so the transmissions were really the biggest equalizer in the garage area and that's been in play since the early nineties. There are also a lot of guys that run good on the road course. There are a lot of good guys that come in and get it done. Jerry Nadeau spent his early racing days over in Europe. You've got Boris Said and Ron Fellows. These guys, they should be good because that's what they do for a living. It kind of throws an extra challenge in there. I enjoy racing against them because it gives you a chance to see what you're made of as far as road racing ability."

SO DO YOU HAVE TWO OR THREE OPTIONS AS FAR AS NEXT YEAR? IS ONE RETIREMENT, TWO ANOTHER TEAM AND THREE WHERE YOU ARE NOW?

I don't know if it's here, I really don't know. I don't if the option of coming back with Robert Yates is here. I truly don't know that. It's a little difficult, let me just say that because I really don't know what's going on there. I don't hold the cards there, Robert holds the cards. If you've ever talked to Robert, you can talk to him for three hours and you leave there and say, 'What did he say?' It's not because he's not wise. He purposely can talk in a circle better than anybody I've ever seen. So, I'm not getting answers out of him. I really don't know. I don't know if that seat is available or not. That would be my number one priority for me to come back because the chemistry clicks. There are some awfully good options out there, if I decide to stay put and not retire. There are some really good race teams. When you start talking about going with, not necessarily new race teams, but anytime you plug a driver into a new equation, you've got new crew chiefs, sometimes that can take a little while to develop that relationship -- two years, one year. Of course, Jimmie Johnson has proven it doesn't take any time. So the way the teams are structured today, I don't think it would take as long as it has in previous years to have a driver switch and have it go well just because of the way teams are structured nowadays. You asked about three options. Robert could be an option, I don't know. If I stay, that would probably be my number one priority. Two would be retirement and I guess three would be the option to go with another team. There are some pretty heavy thoughts on my mind I have to kind of figure out. There is all kind of talk in the garage area and I've talked to some different people, but there is nothing that's been finalized at all yet."

DOES THAT MEAN YOU'VE BEEN CONTACTED BY OTHER OWNERS?

I've got contracts in hand and I've been very up front with everybody. I've told everybody, I want to sort through this retirement deal. I want to go to the best place that Ricky Rudd can go and win races and, hopefully, try to win a championship. That's my number one priority. That's kind of where we sit. In the meantime, like Robert's deal, a lot of people feel like that ride with Robert has already been signed by Elliott Sadler and that's not an option for me. Everyone wants to get their ducks in a row in case that deal falls through. I wouldn't say it's a race to get me in their car, but the domino effect will start falling. Unfortunately, it hinges off what I do. I think there are a lot of people's future kind of waiting on the side to see what I do if I stay.

"Every driver out there just wants the best equipment that he can get in and then the pecking order will go from there. I don't know if you'll see a lot different things next year. You might see some different drivers in different race cars that maybe you're not expecting. There might be a couple rides open up that maybe you're not expecting."

WHO ARE THE FOUR BEST OPERATIONS?

I don't know, that's a tough question. You look at most of them and very few have two solid teams up there. You'll see like a Hendrick's operation. Gordon, to me, is not on the par that they have been in years past and then they've got Jimmie Johnson that surprises everybody that team is as solid as it is. But then you've got Terry, he struggles at times and then shows brilliance at times with the car. Gordon has struggled a little bit and then you've got the 25. For some reason, that car just never seems to run. I know you could put anybody in that car and, for some reason, it doesn't click there. You have to go through all those organizations the same way. I like the way that thing runs. You've got Sterling out there and everybody kept waiting for him to fail. Obviously, today I guess he had a motor failure or something, but that team is really solid. I guess I'd have to look at the points and look at them. The Roush teams have come on tremendously this year. You didn't even really count them in the equation last year. Now, all of a sudden, you've got Kenseth out there, that team is really solid. You've got the 97, Kurt Busch, that deal is working and Mark's team is working. The Yates teams, we struggled but we're coming on now. DJ did win the race a week ago or so and he ran second the other week, so it's really hard. There's not really any teams, to me, that has shown dominance every race week in and week out, so there are some good teams out there."

-ford-

Ricky Rudd press conference Part I

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bill Elliott , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Boris Said , Jerry Nadeau , Kurt Busch , Ron Fellows , Jimmie Johnson , Robert Yates , Elliott Sadler