Texas: Ricky Rudd preview

Ricky Rudd To Move Up To Third Place in NASCAR Cup All-Time Career Starts Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft Racing Taurus, will reach another milestone this weekend when he makes 810th career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series start to move...

Ricky Rudd To Move Up To Third Place in NASCAR Cup All-Time Career Starts

Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft Racing Taurus, will reach another milestone this weekend when he makes 810th career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series start to move ahead of Darrell Waltrip into sole possession of third place on the series' all-time list. Rudd, who made his Cup debut in 1975, trails only Richard Petty (1,185) and Dave Marcis (883). Is Ricky impressed with this accomplishment?

WILL THE RACE AT TEXAS BE SPECIAL? "Not really. It'll just be another number. I've always looked at the quality of the races, not the number of races. And we have to work quite a bit on the quality part of it. The numbers will stack up as they may, but I get more concerned about the quality."

This week's fan questions for Ricky about Texas and other topics of interest:

HOW DO TEXAS AND ATLANTA COMPARE? ARE THERE DIFFERENCES OR ARE THEY THE SAME? "They are quite a bit different. They may be similar in three and four, but to me the tracks are quite a bit different. Texas drives like it is a lot flatter race track. It has a lot more grip than Atlanta has which requires a different set up. Texas is a place where you are always fighting to get the front end to keep turning all the time. You get 80 percent around the corner and all of a sudden the front end quits turning. It's kind of a community problem. Everybody fights it, but the guys that get that worked out are the guys that run up front and win races. You have to make that turn to get down the straightaway. It can be frustrating because of that, because you fight that anyway, and then you run up on traffic that you are faster than they are. And, it's really a single groove down in turns three and four, really at both ends of the race track. So when you catch guys that are slower than you it is really hard to pass them. And then there are the tracks where you get that aero push. Texas is definitely one of those that fits that category where you hear drivers talk about that aero-push issue. It's mainly because the race track is plenty wide, but there is really only one groove. It's a good race track, but it's starting to get a little bit bumpy; nothing serious. You've got a lot of grip. It's a fast race track and fun to race on. I enjoy it because the cars feel like they stick well there. You get a sensation of speed. The onboard computers during testing show nearly three G's of load in the corner and you feel that in your whole body. That's what makes you feel like you are going around there really fast."

DO YOU KEEP THAT "NEED FOR SPEED" WHEN YOU MATURE AS A DRIVER? "I don't think the speed is an issue. We raced at a lot of tracks where the speeds were down 20 miles per hour average speed over the years. It kind of contradicts why you think people go racing. It's not really about speed. If we were running 30 miles an hour faster, it wouldn't make a difference. What you really try to do is beat the competition. In Cup racing you've got the best of the best, and it's more about beating the other guy with the equipment you have available. It's not so much that it is 20 miles an hour faster or 20 miles an hour slower. You need to have the cars running slow enough that the handling doesn't go away when you are running in packs. That is part of the problem we have right now at the tracks like Texas, Vegas, Kansas City, Chicago - all these tracks where the speed is so high and you depend on the air so much to make the car work. When the race starts and you've got all that turbulent air the cars quit working. That's why you're not able to run real close together. They are bunched up on a re-start when the tires are good, but then you get them spread out single file that a lot of times it doesn't become a real interesting race to watch because the cars are too dependent on the air. But, back to the speed: It's not so much about speed, but about competition. I think we're all very competitive by nature, and that doesn't go away."

IS THERE AN ENTRY FEE FOR EACH RACE? "Yes there is, but I don't know how much. And, what a lot of people don't realize is that if you roll out a back-up car because of an accident you have to pay another inspection fee." ARE ANY DRIVERS OR TEAMS EXEMPT FROM THE FEES? "I don't think so. Everyone has to have a license, and when I owned my own team we had to have a big budget for licenses for the members of the team. That is something I don't think people realize is the amount of money we have to pay for licenses."

IF YOU HAD ENDLESS FINANCIAL RESOURCES, WHAT TYPE OF TRACK WOULD YOU BUILD? "I'd build a Richmond. I'd build a Bristol. I'd like to have a blacktop pavement at Bristol. At a Richmond, I'd seat 200,000 people there. I'd have a race track where the fans could enjoy good, side-by-side racing and the drivers enjoy driving it. To me those type of tracks are best. There are some mile tracks that fit that. Dover is not too bad. Rockingham is not too bad. Those are the tracks where you don't get into what they call the aero-push issues that keep the cars from running close together. I did pretty well on the bigger tracks when I was with Yates because they had a good aero program, but that's where things are changing so drastically in the Cup programs. The pace is pretty fast and aggressive right now. All of a sudden you see some teams like a Ganassi or a Ray Evernham have an advantage for a couple of weeks. A lot of that comes through the aero program because there is a lot of stuff that goes on underneath of the cars now. When I first got into racing it wasn't always about aerodynamics. It was about chassis and springs, and the only tracks that we run that fit that today are the tracks that are a mile and below, so I would build a mile or below track."

HAVE THE CUP CAR BUILDERS EVER EXPLORED THE IDEA OF PUTTING A FUNNY CAR-TYPE CAGE AROUND THE DRIVER? "I don't really know. I think they look at the Cal Wells seat sort of that way. Hydroplane racing used to have a capsule the driver sat in so that if the boat destroyed itself, the capsule would stay intact. The Cal Wells seat that two or three of the teams are running is sort of like that. It is kind of a self-contained structure. But that is about the extent of it. I haven't heard a whole lot discussed about it. There are different thoughts on that. Is it really better? Are those seats too rigid? There are some heat issues involved. The seats are built out of carbon fibers that tend to get very hot, I understand. The Indy Car guys kind of lay in their seat, and they have a foot well where their legs and feet are that is supposed to help if there is an accident. I know our cars now are looking more and more like an Indy Car now. There is actually a little tunnel that your feet got down in. Your feet aren't sitting on a floorboard like in a regular car. It can be cramped in there. The theory behind it that the leg braces that were developed a number of years ago now extend all the way down to the floor. It's like a tunnel. But, there is no top on it. In the Indy Cars there is actually a lid on it. But we have a foot well that is somewhat similar to the Indy Cars."

WHY CAN'T YOU PUT BRAKE LIGHTS ON TOP OF THE BACK WINDOW? "I don't know. It sounds simple, but I don't know what good they would do. A lot of times you pump the brake pedal before you get to the corner. I guess the thought would be if you see a brake light the driver would get on the brake, but if a driver pumps his brake pedal on the straightaway and you see it, you're not going to believe it. I've run sports car races and they have brake lights. That worked kind of good, but the only thing the brake light would do was if you were running a new track and you got behind somebody that really knew what they were doing, you would drive on their bumper pretty tight until you saw the brake light and then you back off. It was pretty good for a newcomer to a new track. You could see where the brake points were. Other than that, in competition I don't really think it would do you a lot of good. Maybe at Daytona or Talladega, it would not be a bad idea. But, those are about the only tracks I can think of where it might work."

IS IT TRUE YOU MIGHT BE BUILDING YOUR OWN CARS AGAIN?  "No, I'm not
involved in the car-building side of it any more.  Roush builds the
chassis.  When I had my own cars we had 'store-bought' cars.  We used
Hopkins cars mostly.  Then you would take them and do whatever you needed
to do to them.  Every team takes them and tweaks them a little bit, puts
their package on it.  That's pretty much what I did over the years.  I
never actually built a car from scratch.  We'd always start with a
store-bought chassis.  The majority of the teams still do that today."

-wbr-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Darrell Waltrip , Dave Marcis , Richard Petty , Ray Evernham