Rudd Lays Blame On Self

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Ricky Rudd says he’s got nobody to blame but himself.

He’s not going to blame the media for all this talk about him retiring. And he’s going to try and answer all of the media’s questions about it.

After all, Rudd said, he himself is the one that brought it up in the first place.

But he did have a little bit of help. All of the recent talk about Rudd’s retirement from Winston Cup Series racing, he said, stems from a couple of things:

One is the “Iron Man” record of 656 consecutive starts, which he’ll accomplish by taking the green flag in the May 26 Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. The other, Rudd said, is the rumor that Elliott Sadler – who recently announced that he was leaving the No. 21 Wood Brothers team at the end of the season – was headed to Robert Yates Racing to take over the seat of Rudd’s No. 28 Havoline Taurus.

“Because of this milestone, because of all the races that I’ve run, the next thing that comes up usually is, ‘how much longer are you going to be around?’” Rudd said. “To be honest with myself, I’m not really sure. But all of this really got stirred up with this consecutive start record.

“That’s a lot of races to run. I’m not 20 years old anymore. I’m 45. I’ve got nobody to point fingers at but myself. When I was asked, ‘how much longer are you going to be doing this?’, I said, ‘I don’t know. I’m going to take it on a year-to-year basis. That’s kinda how I got started, and I’m sticking to that.’

“So, it’s really my fault, because when you say something like that, it’s difficult not to look at it in a deeper sense, and people want to know exactly what you meant by that. You’ve got to tell them what’s what. So I think that’s the way that all of this gets cropped up – because of this award and being around so long.”

Rudd has mentioned retirement in the past, but never mentioned any specific time frame. Tuesday at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, he hinted that there was a chance he would retire at the end of this season, and that it was possible that he might not be in the No. 28 Havoline Taurus at Robert Yates Racing, but not by his choice.

“I’m 45 years old, and I won’t be doing this when I’m 50, that’s for sure,” said Rudd, who’s 10th in the Winston Cup standings heading into Charlotte Speedweeks. “So, somewhere in the next four or five years, I’ll be sitting on the sidelines.

“I don’t know if I can even get into that (retiring at the end of this season). It’s probably 60 percent of a chance that I’ll be back (next year) and 40 percent that I won’t. Really, I’m going to wait until July to see if I’m still healthy, and then make a decision on that. It doesn’t do anybody justice if I’m locked in on a contract long-term. If my health or my heart isn’t in it anymore, it just doesn’t make any sense for me to be there just to be out there. I’m not going to go out there and just make laps like some of these guys are doing.

“I’ve still got a lot of determination, and I still want to win races. That’s still my number one motivation. Again, I won’t know until I get to around July what I’m going to do the following year. I’d love to stay with Robert Yates Racing, but I’m not so sure. They might need somebody with a longer-term commitment, and I’m not going to be able to be the guy that’s going to do that. We’ll just have to wait and see where that leads us.”

Rudd’s contract with Robert Yates Racing is up at the end of the season. He’s been with the organization for two-plus years and has more-or-less been a full-time Winston Cup driver since 1979.

He’s won 22 races, including two with RYR last season. He tied Terry Labonte for the most consecutive Winston Cup starts – a streak that began in 1981 – last weekend at Richmond.

He’s never won a Winston Cup championship – something he says he’s ‘learned to live with but still wants to accomplish’ – but it “won’t be the end of the world if he doesn’t.” He said he’s feeling fine, so, physically, he’s capable of carrying on, but whether he wants to is a different matter.

“I’m 100 percent, and we’re just now getting this Havoline Taurus to run like we want it to,” Rudd said. “We got off to a slow start this season, but we’ve made a lot of gains. I take each race one at a time now, and I look at each race with the determination I had as a rookie. The determination is to go out there and get the very best finish we can. If the Havoline Taurus is up to par – and we know the motors are going to be up to par with the Yates organization – then we’ll go out there and try to win each and every race.”

Rudd said he can’t wait for Charlotte to be over and done with, just so all “Iron Man,” and perhaps the retirement talk, will die down.

But knowing the way scuttlebutt circulates around the Winston Cup garage area, he also knows there’s little chance of that happening.

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