Joe Ruttman Interview

JOE RUTTMAN - NO. 99 EXIDE FORD F-150 - ADDED A NEW TRACK TO HIS "BEEN THERE, DONE THAT" OR "I'VE RACED THERE LIST THIS WEEK WHEN HE FINISHED FOURTH AT MEMPHIS. HE WILL MAKE ANOTHER ADDITION TO THE LIST THIS COMING WEEKEND WITH THE NASCAR ...

JOE RUTTMAN - NO. 99 EXIDE FORD F-150 - ADDED A NEW TRACK TO HIS "BEEN THERE, DONE THAT" OR "I'VE RACED THERE LIST THIS WEEK WHEN HE FINISHED FOURTH AT MEMPHIS. HE WILL MAKE ANOTHER ADDITION TO THE LIST THIS COMING WEEKEND WITH THE NASCAR CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES EVENT AT GATEWAY INTERNATIONAL. HE TALKS ABOUT THE LIST, AND THEN ABOUT HOW THE TWO ROUSH TEAMS CAN END UP WITH SUCH DIFFERENT PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING RESULTS WHEN BOTH TESTED AT THE TRACK PRIOR TO COMING IN FOR THE EVENT. TEAMMATE GREG BIFFLE WAS ON THE POLE THIS LAST WEEKEND AT MEMPHIS, AND HAD BEEN CONSISTENTLY AT THE TOP OF THE PRACTICE SHEET. RUTTMAN QUALIFIED 29TH AFTER HE AND THE TEAM STRUGGLED TO FIND THE RIGHT SET-UP IN EVERY PRACTICE SESSION. JOE FINISHED FOURTH IN THE RACE AND GREG ENDED UP 22ND AFTER A MISTAKE IN TIRE MANAGEMENT AND A BLOWN TIRE PUT HIM FOUR LAPS DOWN TO THE FIELD IN AN EVENT THAT HE HAD DOMINATED THROUGHOUT THE FIRST HALF.

"I really don't have any idea how many tracks I've been to. I really need to set down and put them all together. Years and years ago it was 180-some. And then I bought the National Speedway Directory, and I kind of counted up again, and I was at 250. I've got to believe it's now about 350 tracks I've raced at. It's kind of neat, and this week I'll add two more."

THE ROUSH TEAM TESTED AT MEMPHIS. HOW CAN THERE BE SUCH A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO TRUCKS HERE? "There's that much difference between the drivers (laughing). No, really there is a difference between the drivers. But here we were totally on a different path than what Goss (Greg Biffle crew chief Randy Goss) was with the 50 truck. After qualifying we were, not forced, but we pulled back and were probably more conventional which is probably closer to what Goss has in the 50 truck. I wish that we could have continued our route that we were on and tested with. I think ever truck has it's own little personality differences, and that is one of the things we have really set out this year to try to determine. All the little differences, maybe a 16th here or an eighth there doesn't seem like much when you set out to try to measure it with a measuring stick, but it is a huge difference with the way the thing performs on the race track. It's not impossible, but it's difficult to set two trucks up and expect them to do exactly the same thing. And the difference in driving style comes into effect. And then whatever the ultimate goal is also plays a part.

"Greg probably has the best truck out there right now. I've told the guys that when I'm running with another good truck, I'm not shooting to catch up, I'm shooting to get better. Sometimes you are successful. That's always been my motto, I want to be better. In other words, if he's real good I want to beat him. I don't just want to stay up with him, I want to beat him. And to do that, if you do exactly the same that he's done, at best, chances are you are going to catch him. And that's what we've been working on this weekend - a system where we can be better. It didn't prove out in qualifying. With the peer pressure between the two teams, a lot of the stuff that we tried we took off the truck so that if we did run poorly here it wouldn't ruin the opportunity down the road where we can try it again. I want to get a step up. I want to be number one, and even as good as you think you can drive, you want to have mechanical advantages if you can, and that's what I was aiming at - mechanical advantage, and it didn't work out in qualifying.

"We talked about it this morning and decided if we ran poorly with something oddball in it, we might never get to try it again. They worked on the truck, and Matt (Chambers, Ruttman's crew chief) told me in the driver's meeting that we have the more conventional set-up in the truck for the race. This is good, but we weren't afraid to try something new. But when you look at overall results and with our goals for the championship you have to be a little bit conservative. They had to make the call because I'm just the reverse. I'm a gambler and I would put it on a number an roll it. So if we're bad today it won't be the fault of the set-up we had in the truck."

YOUR RACING EXPERIENCE HAS TO PLAY A PART IN MAKING CHANGES. "What's neat about it is that all the guys working on the truck, Matt and the rest of them are young guys and they want to try stuff. That's one of the joys of running with them. If I come up with a hair brained idea, or they do, we can try it. What we've been working with is something that might give us an advantage down the road. The trouble is, it is easily seen so if we are successful with it everybody will copy it. But if you can do better, that is a leg up for a couple of races."

DID YOU TEST DIFFERENT TRUCKS AT MEMPHIS AND GATEWAY THAN YOU PLAN TO RACE AT THOSE TRACKS? "In talking to Greg, he has two trucks that he thinks are a little better than the other. I have to ask Matt which is which. They all look the same, and they're all built right there at that shop on a fixture. There could be factually one truck that has certain little tweaks about it that are better than the other trucks. From what I gather, Matt probably would have brought the truck back here that we tested, but there was some reason he didn't. We ran a little bit better with the truck that we tested, but the conditions were a lot different than they are now, so I'm not blaming that on our poor qualifying. What we did might have hurt us qualifying, but it might have helped us in the race. I was the first one to get cold feet, and say whoa we better not continue along this route. We will have a different truck at Gateway, not because this truck is bad, but from a maintenance standpoint. The guys are working so hard, that it is better for them to bring another one. They number them, and they are working two, three weeks in advance and say this truck is for here, this one for there."

WHAT DID YOU THINK OF GATEWAY? "I did not test good at Gateway so it will be interesting to see how we do. But I'm looking forward to going back to Gateway. We've compiled some data, and maybe there are some things we can try and maybe improve on it."

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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Greg Biffle , Joe Ruttman