Fifty Isnt Nifty For Rudd

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CONCORD, N.C. – 0-for-50. Geez, when you say it that way…

In the 26 years Ricky Rudd has been racing NASCAR Winston Cup cars at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, he has never been to victory lane. Fifty times on the track, fifty times a disappointment.

Frankly, Rudd is getting a bit tired of that statistic. He wants to change it, and he wants to change it Sunday in the UAW-GM Quality 500. He’ll start from the 19th position, alongside Jeff Gordon, who Rudd is chasing in the Winston Cup championship standings.

Rudd had the very same statistic going at another track this season until he snapped it with a triumph in June.

“I kind of put Charlotte in the category of a Pocono,” said Rudd, who enters Sunday’s race 222 points behind Gordon. “We had been going to Pocono about 50 times before we won a race there. It’s been a good track for me over the years and we’ve run really well, but had never won at Pocono before. I was sort of surprised that we hadn’t. We had a photo finish for second or third there before was our best finish, and then Charlotte is sort of the same way.

“I think Charlotte, when you start looking at the big races of the year you definitely have to put Charlotte up there. To me, I’ve always thought the World 600 (Coca-Cola 600 in May) and the race in October in Charlotte were equally as important. Certainly, the 600 at that part of the year is 600 miles and has a lot of history behind it. But this time of year, things are not 100 percent settled for next year. You get a lot of pressure riding on this race.

“This is one of the last big superspeedway races of the season and we still look at this as one of the last big races of the season left on the schedule. Everybody wants to do well because it has a lot to do with what happens for next year. I’m pretty well squared away, but there are always associate sponsors and smaller associates to be signed and a lot of times it hinges on what happens here at Charlotte. Setting all of that aside, just the importance of being able to win at Charlotte would mean a lot. It’s definitely a big race.”

Rudd isn’t the only driver who has struggled during his Winston Cup career at Charlotte, however. Dave Marcis will finish his career 0-for-46 at LMS. Sterling Marlin is 0-for-42 heading into Sunday’s race.

Michael Waltrip is winless in 34 Winston Cup points races at Charlotte, and Brett Bodine hasn’t won in 30 attempts. Bill Elliott has only one victory at LMS in 49 races (the fall of 1987), and Terry Labonte has only one trip to victory lane in 46 previous races at the 1.5-mile intermediate speedway.

One of Rudd’s best chances for victory at Charlotte was last fall, when he led several laps of the UAW-GM Quality 500. With 28 laps remaining, he had a fairly sizable lead when a caution flag fell.

Rudd got shuffled back in the pack and wound up finishing a disappointing third after a hard charge in the final few laps.

“This race last year, we led the majority of the laps and got right to the end of the race and we were checking out on the field,” Rudd said. “We started to stretch out the lead a little bit with 18-20 laps to go, and the caution came out that re-grouped us and threw the different pit strategies at everybody. So where we finished was kind of disappointing. I felt like that was our race and the caution came out when somebody wrecked late in the race.”

At that point, Rudd had not won a race with his new Robert Yates team. This year, however, he’s got two victories under his belt heading into Sunday’s race at LMS.

“We’re going to the race track almost every week now with a car that is capable of winning the race. If we communicate correctly and get the chassis to where we can perform to the best of our ability, we know we’ve got the horsepower and we know we’ve got the handling. It’s all about the tuning. Nobody hits it 100 percent every weekend, but it seems even on our off weekends we’re still a good top-five car.

“On our good weekends we’re a winning car, so that was another reason for the test is just coming over here and making sure we could tune this race car as good as we possibly could. Hopefully, we can have a good weekend, instead of a slight off weekend. Slight off weekends are almost equal to my best weekends I used to have years ago, so it’s just nice to have winning equipment every time we go to the track.”

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