ATLANTA Ricky Rudd drove his first NASCAR Nextel Cup Series race in 1975 and hasn't slowed down since. His streak of 726 consecutive starts is a NASCAR record, and at age 47, he's still not afraid to tell people what he thinks. As the series takes Mother's Day weekend off, Rudd still had time to talk about his career past and future.
Question: What advice would you give a young driver who's trying to make it in racing?
Rudd: I guess it's twofold. Definitely go and get a good education. Don't sacrifice your education for going racing. It helps today to be up on what is going on. With these cars I think you need to look at some type of engineering background in school that will help you relate to the race cars better. Don't sacrifice that. I was very fortunate that I was able to make it into Cup. I didn't go to college. But you need to have something to fall back on in case your day job, racing, doesn't work out. And, you need seat time. Get whatever seat time you can. It doesn't matter if it is go-cart racing or motorcycle racing or local track racing. But not just at one speedway. You need to move around. You don't need to run at just one track all the time. And meet as many people and shake as many hands as you can because you've got to have somebody with financial backing, whether it be family or friends, somebody that takes an interest in you and wants to back you. Even if you've got the ability you have to have somebody that wants to back you.
Question: Fords didn't seem like they could pass the Chevrolets at the two restrictor plate tracks, Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. Is there a problem?
Rudd: I never saw a Ford that could get out and lead the draft for the lead. And the Chevrolets seemed to be able to do that. I think at one time we were like 10th, and we were the top Ford for a long time and we could tag along in the draft, but we couldn't pull out and pass. Everybody had a little trouble passing, but I saw some Chevrolets that could definitely pull out, and they had pushers behind them, but they could quickly drive to the front and I didn't see a Ford that could do that. I'm not really sure why. I don't know the answer.
Question: You drive for the Wood Brothers. Are they good enough to finish in the Top 10 this year?
Rudd: I don't know. If all of a sudden we got our act in gear and started running really good a top-10 is not out of the question. We see signs that we are improving, but we need to do better yet to think about the top-10. It is reachable, but we've got to get turned around. The qualifying effort at Talladega was really good. That was a good shot in the arm. But we need to be consistent week in and week out. The guys are trying so it is not for a lack of effort, but we're just not where we need to be looking at a shot at a top-10. We're just not there yet.
Question: Who are your friends in racing and who aren't?
Rudd: I'm friendly with just about everybody in the garage area. But any free time I get, I don't spend it with the competitors. I spend all the time I can get with the family. We travel around together, we're around each other a lot, say hello and like that. I'd say we are friendly with everybody, but I don't really consider anybody in here close friends. I elect to spend time with the family instead.
Question: When will Fords switch to the new cylinder head that was approved last October? Also, are they any other teams out there talking about switching to Ford?
Rudd: I'm sure that there are not many teams looking at switching. Each car manufacturer has many things they are working on. Just because Ford gets a new cylinder head that doesn't mean a lot will switch over. It's not that easy to do any more. The commitment that it takes, besides the financial resources, most teams have some type of legal arrangement with the manufacturer today. You'll see over the years different manufacturers come up with different pieces, and you'll never get in the right line if you start chasing that. As a team owner it is almost impossible to do. I don't think the cylinder head is allowed yet. I'm not sure exactly the time frame as to when it will be ready, but as of yet it has not been run.
Question: Drivers are happy with the Steel and Foam Energy Reduction barriers, but they weren't too happy about Darlington since it cut away three feet of the racing groove. What are your thoughts?
Rudd: Darlington is probably the only racetrack that I can think of that would fit into that category. That was a concern just because there is not that much racing surface there to begin with and they were worried about taking up three feet of wall space presenting a problem. But, the guys adjusted as the race went on, and it all worked out after the smoke cleared. You didn't hear much about it after the race.
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