800 Not Enough

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ATLANTA, Ga. - Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus, will reach another milestone on Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway when he becomes just the fourth driver in NASCAR Winston Cup Series history to make 800 career starts. Earlier this season, Rudd became the first driver in series history to make 700 consecutive starts at Pocono in July. Rudd, who competed in his first NWC race in 1975, also shares the modern-era record for consecutive seasons with at least one victory, 16 (1983 - 1998).

"The numbers are adding up," said Rudd. "I would rather be talking about going to Atlanta with five wins, and obviously we haven't done that this year. I'm proud of the fact that we're at 800, but by the same token, I'd rather low-profile it because it seems like so many of things have been about the number of starts, and I'm proud of it. But I'm more proud of my win streaks, like the 16 years in a row. My career is winding down, there's no secret about that, I've got a couple of years left in this business, and I would rather be thought of for the win streak and things like that, than the guy that went out there and ran 10,000 races."

With 800 in the bag, Rudd is still two-thirds of the way to Richard Petty's impressive record of 1,177.

"I don't see guys in the future running as many races," said Rudd. "You know, I got started in this business running Winston Cup when I was 18, so to arrive at 800, a lot of guys never see it because age gets them first. In this sport, until recently, you were considered in your prime in your mid-30s and your peak wasn't until your late 40s. So, those numbers are changing a little bit now, with a lot of the young guys coming in today. When I say young, most of these guys who are called young are in their low-to-mid 20s, the majority of them. So I don't think you'll see the younger guys today pile up 800 starts or 700 consecutive. I don't think you'll see that just because they're getting a little bit later start and I don't see them going and driving as long as I have or the guys before me have."

Ricky's first start at Atlanta was on March 23, 1975 coming in his third career start. Of his 23 victories one win came at Atlanta on March 15, 1987, and Rudd doesn't consider Atlanta one of his favorites.

"Everybody's got their strong tracks and weak tracks, and Atlanta has been one of my trouble tracks for years," said Rudd. "I've won there, years ago on the old track, but the new track, I just seem to struggle with getting the car set up correctly to run there. Hopefully, it's time to change that, and we're optimistic when we go back, I think some of the things we've learned in recent weeks, I think, can help us there. Again, it's probably the only track on the circuit that when I see it coming up on the schedule, I look at it and say, 'Man, I really struggle with that track.' That's the only one on the circuit that I can think of that gives me a fit like that."

Start time for Sunday's MBNA 500 is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. ET. TV coverage of the race on NBC starts at 12:00 p.m., with radio coverage on PRN beginning at 12:00 p.m.

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