Enter The Iron Man
by Adam Sewell
May 15, 2002

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Rudd sported many different paint schemes in 655 races, but none wilder than this Tide variation at Martinsville. Photo: Ford/Wieck

This past week at Richmond, a NASCAR milestone was tied, though it didn't make many headlines. When Ricky Rudd, driver of the #28 Texaco Havoline Ford took the green flag, he tied Terry Labonte for the record of most consecutive starts in NASCAR's premier series. Rudd is set to break the record at the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte. 

Rudd's streak began way back in 1981 at the road course in Riverside, California. Rudd ended up taking a ride with the DiGard Racing team in 1981 where he first worked with his current team owner, Robert Yates. Since that first race with DiGard, Rudd has not missed a start and has won 22 races and 27 poles for seven different owners, including Rudd himself, when he served as owner/driver from 1994 to 1999. Since that race, Rudd has been in every Winston Cup race to date. Though he has been in his share of different cars, whether it be for Richard Childress, Bud Moore, Rick Hendrick, or Robert Yates, Rudd's commitment to the sport has remained unchanged. 

"I'm very proud of this record," Rudd said. "To me, it says that I've worked hard and have been determined to do what I'm hired to do each week. Hopefully that says something good about me personally. I love racing and am very proud to be known for such a long run of consecutive races. 

The Richmond and Charlotte areas are very special places to me. I've lived in either the Chesapeake, VA. or the Charlotte area all my life, so these are my two home tracks. I really couldn't think of any better places for me to earn this accomplishment. 

This record and my 16-season consecutive win record are very important to me. My fans were able to brag for years that we would get a win and they also knew that we would be there working hard to be present on race day. I have a lot of pride in these two records."

Captured in more familiar colors, Rudd in California earlier this year. 
Photo: Mike Veglia

Now as he returns to Charlotte he will compete in his 16th all-star event (The Winston) this weekend. Rudd competed in 15-straight The Winston events from 1985 through 1999, finishing a career-best of third in 1995. It will be the first time that Rudd will carry the famed Havoline No. 28 in the event, the car that Davey Allison drove to victory in the same event in 1991 and 1992. 

All this leads up to Rudd's 656th consecutive start in next weekend's Coca-Cola 600 and the conclusion of May Speedweeks in his longtime residence of Charlotte while setting NASCAR's new "Iron Man" record. For Rudd, it will mark a career that has come full-circle.

The author can be contacted nascar@autoracing1.com

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Others by Adam

Enter The Iron Man 05/15/02

Here Come the Night Races 05/03/02

Early Surprises on the Tour

Can a team get a bigger restrictor plate

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