Rudd Keys On Sears Point

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SONOMA, Calif. – Ricky Rudd figures he’s just about due for a NASCAR Winston Cup Series victory. In fact, he figures he’s overdue – long overdue.

Rudd and his No. 28 Havoline Ford team have run well the past few weeks and have seen a lot of time up front, but a trip to victory lane has escaped them. Rudd hopes this weekend’s road course event – Sunday’s Dodge/Save Mart 350 at Sears Point Raceway – will be the race he and his team finally get off the snide.

He took a good step in that direction by qualifying xxth Friday afternoon.

Rudd has done just about everything but win this season and has looked particularly strong since the beginning of May.

In early May, Rudd was leading late in the race at Richmond when a lapped car cut a tire and wrecked him. Two weeks ago at Pocono, Rudd looked to be on his way to his first victory of the season once again, when a slow leak in his tire forced him to give up the lead with less than 10 laps remaining.

Rudd once again ran strong at Michigan last week before finishing eighth. He’s now eighth in the Winston Cup standings, 294 points behind leader Sterling Marlin, with four top-five and six top-10 finishes.

“In the last six weeks, we’ve learned how hard it is to win,” Rudd said. “I’m glad we’re going to Sears Point with a car that I think is capable of winning the race. Maybe we can jump from the top five to victory lane.”

Rudd has always been solid on the road courses in general, but especially at Sears Point. He was the first driver to win a Winston Cup race at Sears Point, taking a Kenny Bernstein-owned Buick to victory lane in 1989.

He’s also won a track record four poles there (his last coming in 1995), one ahead of Jeff Gordon, who’s also won three races at the two-mile, 12-turn road course.

In 2000, Rudd’s first season with Robert Yates Racing, he started 10th and finished fifth. Last year, he overcame a 22nd-place qualifying effort to finish fourth.

“We’ve always been very good at Sears Point,” Rudd said. “We’ve brought this Havoline car home in the top five the last two years, but we want to win this year.”

Just how badly does Rudd want to win this Sunday? He did something recently he hasn’t done since the late 1980s – he tested at Sears Point. That says something, considering NASCAR only allows its teams to test a total of seven times all season.
And to burn one of those tests for a road course, of which there are only two road courses races all season, well…

“We probably haven’t taken it (Sears Point) seriously enough, I think, until this year. We went out and tested there for the first time in many, many years about a month ago and they’ve made some pretty good changes to that racetrack.

“It has a whole different look than it has before and I’m glad we went out there and tested because I think guys that haven’t are gonna have a few problems.

“I love road racing. The driver has a lot of control over his race and his communication with the team is important to get the car set up properly. It’s challenging getting these heavy Winston Cup cars to run well on road courses. But these guys have given me great cars at virtually every track we’ve raced at this year.”

Perhaps this time, however, the Havoline team will be celebrating a victory instead of just settling for a “strong run.”

The field is set to take the green flag Sunday for the Dodge/Save Mart 350 at 3 p.m. ET.

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