Iindy Notes:/I Rudd Rocked

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SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Ricky Rudd ran into some early trouble in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Sunday, trouble he hadn't seen for quite some time.

At it cost him bigtime in the NASCAR Winston Cup points standings.

A belt came off Rudd’s engine, causing it to overheat and spew water onto the track.

The troubles brought out the second caution on Lap 21 and forced Rudd to the pit area. Rudd’s crew replaced the belt, but the engine was hurt and Rudd went to the garage area where he stayed for a long period of time. When he returned to the track later, he was 53 laps down to the leaders.

Rudd wound up finishing 39th and lost 139 points to Brickyard 400 winner Jeff Gordon in the standings. Rudd is now third in the standings, 179 points behind Gordon.

“It threw the fan belt off for some reason,” Rudd said. “It’s kind of a crazy thing to have happen, but the first thing I knew is I lost all of my power steering.”

The crew replaced the cylinder heads on Rudd’s car so he could return to the race, but he was only able to make up two spots afterward.

“This is probably one of the hardest hits you can take, to come to Indy and have this happen,” said Rudd, who won the Brickyard 400 in 1997.

More problems for Houston: Rudd wasn’t the only guy to have trouble early in the race. On the third lap, rookie Andy Houston spun off Turn 2, joined by Matt Kenseth. Before the smoke cleared, the cars of Robert Pressley and Mark Martin were also involved.

“Obviously, the car just jumped around on me,” said Houston, who dropped out and finished last. “I don’t know if I had any help from behind. It felt like I could have had some help because the car was sticking really too good to just jump out like that.”

Houston’s team announced this weekend its sponsorship from McDonald’s was being cut back this year. It has struggled just to make races in 2001.

“Struggling and running bad is one thing, but to have it happen like it’s happened the last few weeks is hard,” Houston said. “Sometimes things just don’t work, and you can’t explain why…we’ll go and do what we need to do these next seven races, and then we’ll regroup and do something different.”

Long weekend for Green: Jeff Green completed a torturous Saturday by finishing sixth in the Kroger 200 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Green practiced and qualified his Winston Cup car, drove in the IROC race and practiced and competed in his Busch Series car – all on Saturday.

“I’m pretty good right now,” Green said. “I asked for a bottle of water during the red flag (of the Busch race), but I guess NASCAR thought they were going to bring me nitrous or something, so they wouldn’t let me have one. It was hot when the car stopped. It was a good day for us.”

Green said he’d try such a busy day again, “but I’m not going to plan it. If it happens, it happens, but I’m not going to plan it.”

Green completed his tripleheader weekend by finishing in 21st place, on the lead lap, Sunday in the Brickyard 400.

Labonte reaches milestone: It is believed Bobby Labonte became the first driver to win in two different series at Indy when he won the IROC race Saturday. Labonte also won in the Winston Cup series last year. Of course, for years the only race at IMS was the Indianapolis 500.

“Sounds pretty good to me,” Labonte said. “I mean that is a great accomplishment winning both the race and championship – and after I won the race last year. I mean, it's not like they run five times a year up here. So, you know, it's pretty hard to do and goes back to the history of this race track.”

Giving back: In appreciation of his Winston Cup title and other achievements last year, Pontiac presented Labonte a 2001 Pontiac Grand Prix to donate to his favorite charity. Labonte picked Kyle and Pattie Petty’s Victory Junction Gang Camp, and presented the car to the Pettys this weekend in Indianapolis.

“Kyle and Pattie are special people, and what they are putting together with Victory Junction is great,” Labonte said. “I appreciate Pontiac giving me an opportunity to do this. I’m proud of everything we accomplished last year, but it’s just as satisfying to be able to help out Kyle and Pattie.”

The camp, which is slated to open in 2004, was founded by the Pettys in honor of their son Adam. The camp is for children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses.

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