Prior to this morning’s scheduled race, Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 88 Snickers Ford Fusion, met with reporters in the infield media center at Michigan International Speedway to discuss his “retirement” following the 2007 season. Rudd said he is done racing full-time, but would consider a part-time ride in the future. But, for 2008, he said, list him as retired.
Image by: Jeff Kluss/SIT
RICKY RUDD – No. 88 Snickers Ford Fusion – YOU’VE BASICALLY SAID THAT YOU’RE LEAVING THE 88 AND DON’T WANT TO RUN A FULL SCHEDULE. ARE YOU LOOKING FOR A DEAL LIKE WHAT MARK MARTIN HAS, OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT? “I’m not looking for anything, to be honest with you. I decided I wanted to call it quits, and the only way I would get out of a rocking chair would be for a limited schedule, competitive, winning operation, ready to go, and for some unique situations they needed someone to help fill in the gaps. I’ve heard mention in the past of taking, like, three senior guys, or maybe two senior guys and a rookie. If that was with the right situation where you weren’t committed to running an entire schedule, you can kind of pick and choose your own races, and, again, it was a team that would be running for the full year, I would take a look at that. I’m not out looking for a job right now. And I don’t see that happening, to be honest with you. But if it did, I didn’t want to look like an idiot coming back and, ‘Hey, I thought you said you were retired.’ But that would be the only way that I would take a look at the situation – and if it was competitive and would do good, then I’d probably take a look.”
IN ALMOST 30 YEARS IN THIS SPORT, OF WHICH ACCOMPLISHMENTS ARE YOU MOST PROUD? “I guess I’ve been fortunate most of my career to be in competitive equipment and good solid runs, some wins along the way, I think 23 wins or so – probably the Brickyard 400, if you look at it statistical-wise, as being a big thing for me. But, I’d have to say things like the IROC championship we won in the early ’90s was a big thing, the guys that were in that series that year; coming close for a championship, I know we finished second to Earnhardt in ’91 or ’92. I don’t know; the years sort of fly by. No matter what you’re doing, you put your heart and soul into it, the next thing you know, you take a look around and 20 or 30 years have gone. I guess just proud of the fact that I’ve been able to, knock on wood, stay healthy all these years, and thanks to NASCAR for looking after safety first. When I was a kid, I wanted to go Indy or Formula I racing. Looking back, if I had been able to make it to that league at that time, I would not have had a career span the way I’ve had it, with 30 years in Cup racing. I don’t know if the sport chose me or I chose it, but it turned out to be a good thing, I guess.”
Image by: Jeff Kluss/SIT
WHEN YOU STEPPED AWAY AFTER 2005, YOU INSISTED YOU WEREN’T RETIRED. WHAT WORD WOULD YOU USE NOW? “In ’05 I didn’t want to use the retirement word because I didn’t know. The ’06 season I sat out and I purposely sort of stayed away from the sport, just to see after 29 or 30 years of racing, could I live with out the sport – certainly the sport could live with out me, but could I live without the sport? And I found out, all in all, I actually enjoyed the time off. Then, near the end, around September, I started getting bored, a little restless, and opportunities were popping up, so I said, ‘Maybe I owe it to myself to give it one more chance and find out what Ricky Rudd really wants.’ My family was supportive; they didn’t want to make the decision for me.
RUDD – “Linda, my wife, was telling me, ‘That’s your decision. I’m not even going to touch that, because if I say you need to stay out or you need to go,’ then she’s going to be sort of the bad guy. So this is a decision to that I was able to make, come back on my own, and when I came back with Robert Yates, it was never discussed, the long-term situation. It was discussed the one-year arrangement. And, really, the reason we’re having this discussion now is out of fairness to the team. A lot of things have taken place within the team with the merger with the Newman Haas Lanigan Indy Car operation, they’ve now merged teams, and they’re trying to build future plans. So I thought like I owed it to those guys. There was a place for me if I chose it, but they needed to know as early as possible so they could get their plans solidified for this upcoming season and ’08.”
“I think using the word ‘retirement’ would be the right thing to do, and it would be a rare situation that I would come back. So, I think ‘retirement’ would be the proper way to list me for next year. Retired.”
THIS MAY BE YOUR LAST RACE AT MICHIGAN. WHAT ARE SOME MEMORIES? “The first time I came up here was my rookie year, 1977, and just loved the place from the first time I came here. It’s just a great race track to race on. I’ve always enjoyed it through the years. We had one win here, and had a couple, maybe, of close calls to win it. But it’s always been a good solid race track for us. It’s a fun track because it is so wide, and you’ve got plenty of racing room. And, we’ve gotten to know plenty of people up here. I’ve got some good friends from up in this part of the country, and we just really like the Michigan area. A lot of times we’ll come up early, go up to Silver Lake and run dune buggies or ride four-wheelers or quads or dirt bikes, and in the wintertime we’ve been up here and been snowmobiling. So, we like this part of the country.”
WHO’S BEEN THE BIGGEST INFLUENCE ON YOUR CAREER? “Probably family in the beginning. My father was very supportive and that’s the way we got our foot in the door – I say entire family. In recent years, the one that’s been the most supportive all these years has been my wife, Linda. We’ve been married about 28 years now. She’s been the most supportive over the years. She was with me when I raced motorcycles and dirt bikes when we were high school kids. Her and I traveled to the motorcycles races and she was pretty much my pit crew, medical staff, everything wrapped up into one, because you needed someone who could keep you bandaged up there in those days. So, she’s been the most supportive.”
WILL THESE LAST 14 RACES BE A NOSTALIGIC PERIOD FOR YOU? “I’m kind of low-key guy. I really don’t like the attention of the press or whatever it might be. It’s good for my fans. I’ve had a lot of supportive fans over the years that really stood by me through thick and then. Hopefully, it’ll will be a time for them to see me race some during the rest of the season, because I had some when I stepped away in ’05, a lot of them were disappointed – ‘I can’t come to this race’ or ‘I’d go to that race to see you race one more time.’ I don’t look at it that way. I was hired at Yates to do a job, and my job was to try help re-build this team. I can see some signs of progress in recent weeks on the track, and by no means is the team back where it needs to be, but we’ve got 13 races after today.
RUDD “My mission is no different. I’m going to go out and try to do my very nest in every one of them, and look at the results at the end of the race and hopefully they’ll be good results, and go from there. But, as far as nostalgia, I probably will – this race today during the parade laps, I’ll probably look around a little bit, pay a little more attention than I have, and I’ve know this for about two or three weeks now, what I’m going to do, my decision. I notice when the checkered flag falls, there’s a race back to the pits to get out of the car; I’ve kind of looked around a little bit more on the way back down when the race is over – kind of take in a little snapshot, you know, the last time you run those race tracks.”
DO YOU SEE THIS AS A CLEAN BREAK FROM THE SPORT, OR DO YOU WANT TO GET INVOLVED IN A TEAM CAPACITY OR IN BROADCASTING? “Really, no immediate interest in it. I just want time to sort of breathe a little bit and figure out what that next chapter is going to be. And I don’t know what that will be, whether it will be in motorsports or what. The television situation never really has appealed to me, but I was asked to come up and basically interview last year, about the middle of the season., a broadcasting team. And I did so, and it was a little intriguing to see what’s involved; it was interesting. We looked at what was going to be required for the job, and they were very upfront and I was very upfront that I didn’t want that heavy of a schedule, traveling away from home. So, that got nipped in the bud, and didn’t pursue it much after that, the time away from home. I’m just sort of burned out on the road trips.”
Well one thing about it, Ricky Rudd has been an integral part of NASCAR for 30 years now and has been one of those drivers that has provided us with some great entertainment. If he is serious about retirement as he seems to be, we at Sports Image Times would like to thank him for the many years he has survived in this great sport. Wonder if he will be watching the races from the comfort of his La-Z-Boy at his oceanside home?