Rudd Returns To RYR

Ricky Rudd received his Christmas present a couple of days early.

On Thursday, Robert Yates Racing officially announced Rudd's return to the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series as the team's second driver for the 2007 season.

"When I took a break from racing at the end of 2005, I knew that I would return to competition if the right opportunity presented itself," Rudd said. "Returning to Robert Yates Racing was the ride to get me back into competition full time."

Rudd will take over the seat last occupied by Dale Jarrett and although no official word has been released, the car could switch back from the No. 88 to the No. 28.

"That's going to be a team decision," Yates said in regards to what number Rudd will drive. "It's one of two and the decision will happen pretty soon."

Masterfoods USA will step up its sponsorship at RYR by putting the Snickers brand as the primary sponsor for Rudd. Pedigree dog foods and Combos snacks will also sponsor the car giving M&M's full sponsorship of David Gilliland's No. 38 car next season.

Veteran Crew chief Butch Hylton is expected to pair with Rudd.

In his 31-year career, Rudd has driven for some of the most noted car owners in the sport, including Richard Childress, Bud Moore, Rick Hendrick and Yates.

He left the Yates team after the 2002 season and spent three years with Wood Brothers Racing before taking 2006 off as a full-time Cup driver.

"We are excited to welcome Ricky back to the team," said Yates. "We all realize Ricky's talent and to have him return to the organization is a huge plus for us."

Rudd did have the chance to get behind the wheel of a Cup car competitively this season at Dover when he relieved Tony Stewart on the first caution at lap 39. He also took some time to test Wyler Racing's Toyota "Car of Tomorrow" at Talladega in October. Recently, Rudd tested a Yates "COT" at Rockingham with teammate Gilliland.

Rudd, who holds NASCAR’s "Iron Man" title for most consecutive starts at 788, has raced in 875 races capturing 23 wins and 373 top 10s. His last victory came with RYR at Infineon in 2002.

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