09/05/2007 3:00 pm Concord, NC
Photo by: Jeff Kluss/SIT File
Kenny Wallace will fill in for the injured Ricky Rudd as driver of the No. 88 Snickers Ford Fusion this weekend at Richmond, marking the first time in Rudd’s 900-race Cup career that he has missed a race because of an injury. Rudd suffered a shoulder injury during Sunday night’s race at Fontana. Wallace says he is looking forward to the challenge ahead.
KENNY WALLACE – No. 88 Snickers Ford Fusion – STEPPING IN FOR AN INJURED DRIVER IS NOT UNUSUAL TERRITORY FOR YOU. “No, this is not unusual territory for me. I feel like this is the craziest month of my total career, with Kyle Petty breaking his wrist, and Ricky stretching his ligaments and tendons. I think what makes me feel comfortable about this is that Ricky was at the shop this morning (Wednesday) and we had a really good talk, and I told him that he could help speed my process up by showing up at the race track and helping me with the lingo with Butch Hylton, the crew chief. Ricky was super good about it, really nice, so that makes me feel real good about it. It’s a lot easier situation when the driver that is hurt is really behind you – and I’ve known Ricky for so long. Actually, when Ernie Irvan got hurt, and I drove the 28 car, Ricky, at that time, when I was driving the 28 car, Ricky was very supportive of me, and I’ll never forget that. It’s a strange opportunity, but nonetheless it’s all business right now. I’m fighting to save my career and try to get a ride, so this is a great opportunity for me.”
YOU SEEM TO BE FAMILIAR WITH THE YATES ORGANIZATION. WHAT IS YOUR COMFORT LEVEL RIGHT NOW? “My comfort level is at an all-time high. I feel very comfortable. I’ve known Robert and Doug Yates and Robert’s brother, Richard, I think, since 1989, and, actually, I’ve come into the shop here and most of the crew I remember. The employees have been here for so long. Me and Davey Allison were good friends, and I’d come in and they’d say, ‘Hey, Herman!’ So, my comfort level is at an all-time high with this particular team because I’ve been through this with them before, in ’94. And, believe it or not, there’s still a handful of employees here from back then.”
ARE THERE ANY PARTICULAR CHALLENGES THAT RICHMOND, JUST A FEW DAYS AWAY NOW, POSES FOR YOU? “I think the only challenge I have in front of me is the challenge to be successful. Every week you’re out there to prove your self–worth. I’m going in there to do business. There’s nothing funny about this situation at all. I’m dead focused because, like I said, I’m fighting to have a ride next year, and hopefully I’ll be able to prove my self worth.”
Robert and Doug Yates, owners of the No. 88 Snickers Ford Fusion, have decided to put Kenny Wallace behind the wheel for Saturday night’s NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Richmond International Raceway, replacing the injured Ricky Rudd. Doug Yates cited the fill-in job Wallace did for the team in the nineties as one of the reasons he was selected.
DOUG YATES – co-owner, No. 88 Snickers Ford Fusion – WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT RICKY RUDD’S CONDITION AT THIS POINT? “Basically, Ricky has got some stretched tendons and he needs a little bit of time for them to heal on their own.”
KENNY WALLACE WILL FILL IN THIS WEEKEND, AND HE’S HELPED OUT YOUR ORGANIZATION IN THE PAST. “He sure has. When we were transitioning in the ’90s when Davey [Allison] had his accident, Kenny drove for us for a little bit. We had some pretty good performances, and we had a good time – obviously, Kenny’s a talented race-car driver, but he’s also a lot of fun to be around.”
WHEN YOU GO INTO A RACE WEEKEND WITH A FILL-IN DRIVER, DOES THE TEAM’S MINDSET CHANGE? “I think the big focus for this weekend is to try to come away with a decent showing and maintain some points. We’re not expecting Kenny to go out and do any more than the car will do, but we feel like we’ve done our homework and we’ve tested this car a lot, so we feel like we’re pretty prepared for this weekend at Richmond. So, really, just go out and try to make the most out of the race and see what we can come away with.”
DOES RICHMOND POSE ANY PARTICULAR CHALLENGES FOR A TEAM WITH A NEW DRIVER? “I think of any of the tracks that you’re going to go to that fit Kenny, the short tracks are probably some of his best tracks. I know we had some really good runs at Martinsville with him, and I believe at Richmond as well, so this kind of suits his style. That should make it even more interesting for the team, and hopefully we can do a good job together.”
IS RICKY RUDD EXPECTED TO MISS MORE THAN ONE WEEK, OR IS THIS A WAIT-AND-SEE-TYPE DEAL? “It’s a little bit of a wait-and-see-type deal, but it didn’t seem like it’s going to be that long. But, then again, everybody heals differently. Ricky Rudd is probably one of the toughest guys out there and always has been known for his never-give-up attitude and tenaciousness. Hopefully he won’t be out of the car too long, but at the same, we respect his healing process, and we’ll get through it as a team.”