Rudd Back In The Hunt

13985Jpg
Maybe now Ricky Rudd can once again start talking about retiring at the end of the season.

If Rudd – who won Sunday’s Dodge/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway and crept to within striking distance of the points lead – can win a NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship this season, the thought of hanging up his driving shoes might look a whole lot more appealing.

Sunday’s victory – coupled with some bad luck by leaders Sterling Marlin, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon – allowed Rudd to gain 146 championship points on Marlin. That vaulted him into seventh place in the standings.

Heading into the Pepsi 400 at Daytona on July 6, Rudd now stands 148 points behind Marlin. Sunday’s victory was Rudd’s first since last September at Richmond, his first road course victory since 1990 (at Watkins Glen) and his fourth road course triumph overall.

Rumors have significantly swirled around the veteran 45-year-old driver (he’ll be 46 in September) and whether or not he’ll retire at the end of the season much less be back in the No. 28 Ford in 2003. He’s talked about the subject openly, and says he’ll most likely make some sort of decision by the middle of next month.

Rudd has never won a Winston Cup title since officially joining the circuit full-time in 1981. He finished second to Dale Earnhardt in 1991 while driving for Rick Hendrick.

Winning on the Infineon Raceway road course was certainly good medicine for Rudd and his team.

“It certainly feels good to be in victory lane,” he said. “Again, I’m sort of contemplating the retirement situation, but my deal about retirement is not about being competitive anymore, it’s more for personal reasons. I don’t feel like I’ve lost anything. I don’t feel like I’m any better than I used to be. I don't feel like I'm any worse than I used to be.

“Somewhere along the line that’s gonna happen. I don't know what the age is – it might be 50, 60 or 70. I know my dad is 77 and he works harder and is in better shape than I am, so I think our family history has been such that age really hasn’t affected much. Again, it’s more of a personal decision, more family time and things of that nature.”

Rudd finished fourth in the Winston Cup points standings a year ago, and, in his third season in the No. 28 Havoline Ford with Robert Yates Racing, he was considered a prime candidate to win this year’s Winston Cup championship.

He began the season on a sour note by finishing 38th at Daytona and didn’t have his first top-10 finish until running third at Bristol, but he slowly climbed upward in the points standings and broke into the top-10 with a fourth-place finish at Texas.

“Yeah, the points deal, we never counted ourselves out,” Rudd said. “We knew what the situation was and kept watching where the lead was. That 300-point gap is not a big gap this part of the season. I know we kept talking championship all along and nobody probably took us very seriously when we were 10th in the points, but we looked at the math.
“Steve Post, our PR guy, he looked at it coming into this weekend’s race. If we had just finished the last 60 laps at Richmond, the last 10 at Dover and the last five at Pocono –even if we had run second on those days – we would have only been 45 points behind Sterling coming into this weekend’s race. So we've been kind of silently back there plugging away.
“Yes, we woulda, shoulda, coulda won two or three races by now, but when you have misfortune you just have to keep plugging away. (Sunday) unfortunately for somebody else (Jerry Nadeau, whose car broke a rear end gear with three laps to go), it went the other way and, all of a sudden, we inherited a race today that we were gonna run second in.”
At Richmond in May, Rudd was leading the Pontiac Excitement 400 and appeared to be on his way to a strong finish if not a victory when Rusty Wallace, a lap behind, lost control of his car, hit Rudd and sent Rudd into the wall, relegating Rudd to a 39th-place finish.

Rudd finished fourth at Charlotte, and was then running second at Dover in the waning laps when he felt a vibration and was forced into the pits. He wound up a disappointing 19th.

At Pocono a little more than two weeks ago, Rudd led 60 laps but had a left rear tire go flat while leading with less than 10 laps to go, allowing teammate Dale Jarrett to win the Pocono 500.

Whether he’s had the finishes or not, no one can dispute the fact that Rudd has had one of the stronger cars on the track over the past couple of months. Whether that can continue only time will tell, but Rudd is now within striking distance of the championship lead.

Rudd said he would continue to contemplate his future in the next few weeks, but that he’ll also enjoy the upcoming off-week.

“We’ve got a weekend off, and we’re gonna go down (to Florida) and just take life easy,” Rudd said. “We're gonna go down to Disneyworld for a couple of weeks. That almost sounds like a commercial. True story, I've got (his son) Landon and all of his neighborhood buddies. We’re gonna go down and have a big family deal down in Daytona and Orlando and figure out what we want to do – just kind of enjoy things and get racing off my mind for a couple of weeks and then come back to Daytona.”

By then, Rudd might just have made up his mind about his future. As for the rest of the season, Rudd certainly wouldn’t mind going out in style – with a Winston Cup championship.

Photos

  • Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
  • Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
  • Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
  • Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
  • Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
  • Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
  • Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
  • Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
  • Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
  • Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
  • Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
  • Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
  • Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
  • Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
  • NASCAR Sprint Media Tour

Advertisement

  • © 2015 MRN. All Rights Reserved

    FacebookTwitterDiggDeliciousLinkedInGoogle BookmarksYahoo BookmarksLive (MSN)

    ISC Track Sites