Winston: Ricky Rudd preview

Rudd'S streak made possible thanks to race in Charlotte. CONCORD, N.C. - After starting 655 consecutive races, Ricky Rudd is finally starting to look back on his illustrious NASCAR Winston Cup career. Appropriately, Rudd and the No. 28 Havoline...

Rudd'S streak made possible thanks to race in Charlotte.

CONCORD, N.C. - After starting 655 consecutive races, Ricky Rudd is finally starting to look back on his illustrious NASCAR Winston Cup career. Appropriately, Rudd and the No. 28 Havoline Racing team will spend the next couple weeks competing at Lowe's (Charlotte) Motor Speedway.

That is because on Oct. 5, 1980, Rudd's career took a major turn. After several seasons of off-and-on racing, a fourth-place finish at Charlotte set Rudd on course to becoming one of the series' biggest stars. Had it not been for the quality performance that afternoon, he would never have obtained the full-time ride for the 1981 season which started one of the most impressive streaks in modern motorsports.

"Prior to that race, we ran a limited schedule with our family's car," Rudd said. "We were about finished - out of money, out of time and just about out of racing."

However, Rudd was visited by legendary crew chief Harry Hyde who stopped to offer Rudd help for the weekend's race.

"Harry stopped by and he was not doing anything for the Charlotte race. He looked at what I had going on and offered to help. He sent one of his guys, Jimmy Makar, over to help me work on the car."

Hyde had Rudd's only engine sent over to Randy Dorton's place to have it worked on while Makar, now Bobby Labonte's crew chief, and Rudd worked on the car. It was an all-star team, as Dorton now serves as the Engine Director for Hendrick Motorsports.

With no testing, the team went to the track and qualified second. Rudd raced near the front all day and ended up fourth when the checkers fell. The next day he quickly realized what the strong performance was worth.

"That Monday morning, the phone was ringing off the hook," Rudd said. "Everyone wanted me to drive for them. I went from nothing to nearly everything."

Rudd ended up taking a ride with the DiGard Racing team in 1981 where he first worked with his current team owner, Robert Yates. Since that first race with DiGard, Rudd has not missed a start and has won 22 races and 27 poles for seven different owners, including Rudd himself, when he served as owner/driver from 1994 to 1999.

Now as he returns to Charlotte he will compete in his 16th all-star event (The Winston) this weekend. Rudd competed in 15-straight The Winston events from 1985 through 1999, finishing a career-best of third in 1995. It will be the first time that Rudd will carry the famed Havoline No. 28 in the event, the car that Davey Allison drove to victory in the same event in 1991 and 1992.

All this leads up to Rudd's 656th consecutive start in next weekend's Coca-Cola 600 and the conclusion of May Speedweeks in his longtime residence of Charlotte while setting NASCAR's new "IronMan" record. For Rudd, it will mark a career that has come full-circle.

-ryr/pprp-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bobby Labonte , Robert Yates , Davey Allison
Teams Hendrick Motorsports