Indianapolis is exactly where Rudd wants to be

Veteran having rough year usually does well there

August 07, 1999|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

INDIANAPOLIS -- Winston Cup driver Ricky Rudd is Everyman. He's the hard-working family man who owns his own business and spends every minute of his spare time trying to get ahead.

His hair is gray from the effort, but he has earned everything he has and survived in good times and bad.

This season, in particular, has been particularly hard on the Tidewater Virginia native. And that's why he looks at his 14th starting spot in today's Brickyard 400 as lucky.

Aside from winning the pole at the Dura Lube/Big K 400 at North Carolina Speedway in February, and the outside pole for the Pepsi 400 at Daytona last month, this is the nicest thing that has happened to Rudd in some time.

But then, Indianapolis has been good to him before.

"I love coming to Indianapolis," said Rudd. "We always run top five or top 10 every time we come."

And in 1997, he won.

Today, pole-sitter Jeff Gordon will lead the 43-car field to the start of the 1999 edition. Behind him, fourth-place starter Dale Jarrett will be trying to maintain his 177-point lead over Bobby Labonte, while Labonte, Mark Martin and Jeff Burton will be trying to close the gap.

Rudd, back there in 13th, will be trying for his best finish and first win of the season.

"When things are going bad, I think it does help to know you've won this race and that people are going to remember you for that," he said.

He thought about history and his place in it for a moment. He said he would like to have a Daytona 500 to go with the Brickyard, but, if you want your career to be defined by a historic moment, then the Brickyard will do.

"All of us have some type of career expectancy and a time line there," he said. "One day that time line will be expired for all of us. But one day sitting around with a group of people, you're gonna reflect and say, `Hey, I won at Indianapolis. I won the Brickyard 400.' You're probably not even gonna have to say that; people are gonna introduce you by that. At Indianapolis, history is remembered. It's happening right now. I'm always being introduced as the '97 Brickyard 400 winner."

Rudd, 42, could be remembered for more than just winning the Brickyard one year. He is the possessor of the Winston Cup Series' modern era (post-1967) record for consecutive seasons with at least one win. For 16 straight years, Rudd has won at least once.

But this season, that record is in jeopardy.

He is 35th in the series points race, the worst standing in his 21-year career. Last month, he learned that Tide, his long-time sponsor, will not return with him next season.

And his best finish this season has been 13th at the Pepsi 400 last month.

"We've definitely struggled this year," said Rudd. "We've had a couple high points, but it hasn't been great. We're not having the season I think this team deserves, but we're just over halfway, so we have time to get some results."

Lineup

(w-former Brickyard winner; r-rookie):

1. (24) w-Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 179.612.

2. (6) Mark Martin, Ford, 178.941.

3. (41) David Green, Chevrolet, 178.902.

4. (88) w-Dale Jarrett, Ford, 178.859.

5. (7) Michael Waltrip, Chevrolet, 178.816.

6. (31) Mike Skinner, Chevrolet, 178.667.

7. (18) Bobby Labonte, Pontiac, 178.642.

8. (94) Bill Elliott, Ford, 178.547.

9. (33) Ken Schrader, Chevrolet, 178.518.

10. (43) John Andretti, Pontiac, 178.476.

11. (20) r-Tony Stewart, Pontiac, 178.348.

12. (22) Ward Burton, Pontiac, 178.324.

13. (21) r-Elliott Sadler, Ford, 178.147.

14. (10) w-Ricky Rudd, Ford, 178.130.

15. (28) Kenny Irwin, Ford, 178.052.

16. (99) Jeff Burton, Ford, 178.038.

17. (2) Rusty Wallace, Ford, 177.985.

18. (3) w-Dale Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 177.971.

19. (12) Jeremy Mayfield, Ford, 177.925.

20. (93) r-Dave Blaney, Pontiac, 177.708.

21. (40) Sterling Marlin, Chevrolet, 177.651.

22. (5) Terry Labonte, Chevrolet, 177.641.

23. (60) Geoff Bodine, Chevrolet, 177.627.

24. (44) Kyle Petty, Pontiac, 177.546.

25. (77) Robert Pressley, Ford, 177.522.

26. (50) Ricky Craven, Chevrolet, 177.459.

27. (25) Wally Dallenbach, Chevrolet, 177.288.

28. (9) Jerry Nadeau, Ford, 177.144.

29. (71) Dave Marcis, Chevrolet, 177.078.

30. (75) Ted Musgrave, Ford, 176.946.

31. (30) Derrike Cope, Pontiac, 176.835.

32. (1) Steve Park, Chevrolet, 176.744.

33. (42) Joe Nemechek, Chevrolet, 176.574.

34. (98) Rick Mast, Ford, 176.512.

35. (66) Darrell Waltrip, Ford, 176.478.

36. (58) Hut Stricklin, Ford, 176.433.

37. (4) Bobby Hamilton, Chevrolet, provisional.

38. (97) Chad Little, Ford, provisional.

39. (26) Johnny Benson, Ford, provisional.

40. (36) Ernie Irvan, Pontiac, provisional.

41. (55) Kenny Wallace, Chevrolet, provisional.

42. (23) Jimmy Spencer, Ford, provisional.

43. (16) Kevin Lepage, Ford, provisional.

Brickyard 400

What: 20th Winston Cup race of season

Where: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 2.5-mile oval

When: Today, 12: 15 p.m.

TV: Pre-race show, noon-1 p.m., ESPN; race, Ch. 2, 1 p.m.

Pole sitter: Jeff Gordon, 179.612 mph, track record

Defending champ: Jeff Gordon Pub Date: 8/07/99

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