Ricky Rudd and Wood Brothers announcement

August 20, 2002

Go to our forums to discuss this article

Ricky Rudd
Photo by Ford

EDDIE WOOD, Co-Owner --21-- Motorcraft Taurus -- "I'd like to thank everybody for coming. I know it was short notice. This deal just actually went together about 11:45 this morning. It started yesterday about that time, so it's kind of a 24-hour window that we had and, fortunately, got it done."

JUDI MORITZ, Motorsports and Events Marketing Manager, FCSD North America Business Development -- "I have the pleasure of the first announcement, which is that on behalf of Motorcraft we are very excited that we have been able to come to a three-year agreement with the Wood Brothers and continue our sponsorship and partnership as a racing team. Their family further accentuates the Ford family and our presence in racing and we are very, very excited to continue that."


RICKY RUDD --21-- Motorcraft Taurus -- HOW LONG IS YOUR DEAL FOR WITH THE WOOD BROTHERS? "This came together very, very quickly, so I'm trying to figure out exactly how to say this. It's a three-year contract, so, again, real quickly, I'd like to make some comments.

"First of all, I'd like to thank all the car owners. I had a tremendous number of opportunities presented to me by a lot of great car owners in this sport and it was one of the toughest decisions I've ever had to make in my life. Usually, you're not presented with this many options. In the past, you've got one opportunity on the table and you take it and you make it work and turn it into something. This time, it was a little confusing because we had so many great opportunities. To have the chance to drive for the Wood Brothers was sort of a dream of mine when I was a kid just getting started. I grew up in Virginia and, obviously, these guys are on the western part of the state, but watching David Pearson win a lot of races as a kid I noticed it was a family team that I always wanted to be a part of. It was a tough decision, but after sorting through it and looking at all the opportunities and looking inside and out at all these teams, my number one priority was to get with a race team that could win races right of the box, that could challenge for a championship, and these guys do it every week. They've got a great pit crew on top of that. It takes a whole team effort. I think just today to show their support, I had no idea that we were gonna be represented by the whole Wood Brothers operation. Not only from Eddie and Len and Glen and Leonard, but the entire 21 team is here, so that's a tremendous honor to show the support these guys have behind me. This is an operation that, for me as an outsider looking in, has been under construction for awhile and it's continued to get stronger and stronger. It was able to win at Bristol last year. I've watched the performance of this team and of this Motorcraft group qualify week in and week out and they just about out-qualify me every week in the Yates operation. The days that they seem to have a strong run going, they end up having some kind of a problem, an accident or just misfortune on that day and they haven't been able to captalize on some of the good runs that they've had shaping up. Before I go too much farther, I'm not doing a good job because I'm leaving out Motorcraft Quality Parts, a sponsor that I have a history with from way back in the mid-eighties -- a team I was associated with -- so I know a lot of friendly faces and good friends at Motorcraft and I'm looking forward to working with these guys again. I think they see how competitive Winston Cup racing is and the Motorcraft folks have given these guys the support it takes to go out there and put a car on the race track. It's not cheap do that. It takes a lot of money to it and to do it and step up the program and increase the engineering from Ford Motor Company, the list goes on and on about the reasons why I did this. But there's a family atmosphere, a good group of people that want to win as badly as I do and I think that pretty much sums it up."

HOW CLOSE WERE YOU TO SIGNING WITH SOMEONE ELSE LIKE CHIP GANASSI? "Chip and I had talked -- not only Chip, but I talked to many different teams. With Chip Ganassi, that's a fine operation. Chip's a winner. He's been a winner in every sport he's been in and he's winning in Winston Cup. He's obviously leading the Winston Cup championship right now, so that's a very strong effort that he puts on a race track week in and week out. Chip and I simply couldn't come to final terms and, believe me, we tried. There was a couple of weeks of negotiations that went on and, contrary to what you might believe, it wasn't over money and it wasn't because I gave Chip a right hook in his office one day. Just to lay that to rest, Chip and I -- for your information -- have never met in his office. We've never had a harsh word. We just simply could not agree on terms. There were several toss ups there and you go back and you've got to align yourself with the right team, but you've got to go with the team that you feel comfortable with. I'm not gonna sit here and tell you that Chip Ganassi is not a great person or a great race team, it's simply that we couldn't come to terms. Again, it wasn't over money. There were other teams I could have signed with. If I was just looking for the money, there were some other teams out there that had some tremendous incentives and bonus checks out there, if I wanted to join with them. Again, this is not to belittle this team. All along, I said, 'Pay me market value for my driver services -- a top 10 driver,' and we never had an issue with any of these teams over money and, again, this is gonna be the end of this. I'll be glad to talk to you tomorrow about any of this other stuff, but, right now, this is about the Wood Brothers and the effort they put on out there week in and week out. I'm proud to be a part of it. I'll get into some of those other things a little later, but, I'm not gonna get into a negative mudslinging contest back and forth with somebody. I'm just gonna simply stick to this statement, but, again, I'm not sure where these stories develop. I have no idea. Again, the one with Ganassi and him and I having harsh words in his office -- it never happened. I never met the man in his office. I've been to his race shop one time three weeks ago and that's the end of the story."

EDDIE WOOD CONTINUED -- RICKY WAS YOUR FIRST CHOICE FROM DAY ONE WASN'T IT? "Yes, sir. All you people in the media, I want to thank you for being kind to us. You always asked the question, 'What's going on?' And I gave the same answer from day one. I said, 'Until Ricky Rudd is in a seat, we're not gonna do anything. I had dreamed and hoped he would be in our seat. There were times you didn't know whether it was gonna work. You hoped it would, but then it would go away and come back, it would go away and come back. Fortunately, we caught it on one of those days it came back. But I'd like to thank you guys in the media for bearing with us. He was, of course, the first choice and we just waited it out and it all worked out for us. I'd like to say one thing, which is kind of on a different note. I know you in the media and the people that watched the race at Michigan, heard Dale Jarrett comment on thanking us for his win 11 years ago to the day. I'd like to thank Dale Jarrett in that two years ago this week, he introduced us to Motorcraft. We were a team without a sponsor. It happened at the Indy test. He rounded the corner and I rounded the corner and we hit. He said, 'Have you got a deal done?' And I said, 'No.' He said, 'Well, you need to talk to the Ford people.' So the next day I called them and I think in 10 days we had that done, so I want to thank Dale Jarrett for that. He's thanking us for all that stuff, but he's done some stuff back and we appreciate that. This is the greatest sponsor we've ever had."

RUDD CONTINUED -- HOW CLOSE WERE YOU TO RETIRING? "I would say back during the winter after having back surgery, that was probably the time that maybe I considered it the most. We came out of the box this year and we weren't very good as a race team. It wasn't a real pleasant place to be. I guess there were a lot of expectations that, considering the way we had run the previous year, there are no guarantees in this sport but I think there were a lot of expectations that we would come out of the box and be challenging for a championship right off the bat and that didn't happen. Our guys rolled their sleeves up, everybody went to work, we pulled together as group, and we took a five or six weekend delay in that but then we started to get our act together and started getting our act together and became very competitive again. I guess I have to look at the situation. I want to go out on the top of my game. I don't want to go out where I'm a hindrance to a race team, where I'm holding a team back. That was a lot of consideration. There are many other things in that, but I guess after coming out and being part of a team that basically rebuilt itself from the beginning of the year and became competitive and still has a chance at a Winston Cup championship, I guess it motivated me. I woke up and I think leading some races and dominating some races this year and then winning at Sears Point, I think, if anything, it kind of renewed my interest and I guess my confidence in myself that I haven't lost it yet. I've got a few more years. I don't know when that's gonna be, but it made me have the desire to want to stick around a little bit longer. Certainly, there are some family issues. My young son, the problem has been not watching him grow up. That's a concern. I've got a seven-year-old that will be eight in about two weeks. It's not an easy decision. I'm basically gonna try as hard as I can to keep my family around me as much as I can. We're gonna make it a point to try to do that, but it's gonna be an effort for the next three years and there will be some sacrifices, but the way I look at, I'm glad to be 45 years old with an eight-year-old son, versus if I would have been 20-years-old and had him because I would have never seen him grow up. I'm still fortunate that I'll be able to see him grow up. We talked about it as a family and that was probably the toughest decision was sacrificing the family time." IS THIS A THREE-YEAR COMMITMENT FOR YOU TO DRIVE THE CAR? "I don't know how much these guys want to talk about the nuts and bolts about the contract, but it's a three-year contract and I guess you're asking if there are any escape routes, is it gonna be a one-year or a half-a-year. I'm committed to the Wood Brothers and I guess I'm gonna leave it at that. I'm committed to three years I hope. I guess if they've got to kick me out of the seat, I'm not doing my job, I'll be there for three years. If I'm not doing the job and I'm holding this team back, I'll be the first to step aside."

EDDIE WOOD CONTINUED -- WHY RICKY RUDD? "Everything about Ricky fits us. I was at the first race he drove at and I think he was in Bill Champion's car -- number 10. Ricky's got Virginia ties as we do and it's a perfect fit. We just got done doing the young driver development deal. It worked out, but we didn't get to finish it, so we were looking for a veteran that could come in and help our race team. With his knowledge and his experience, that brings a lot to the party for Pat (Tryson) and all the people that work on the car. He's got a tremendous feel. Every race track we go to Ricky is capable of being a dominant factor, if we do our job and we've got to do our job. We're gonna do that. For us, he's just a natural fit. It's a dream come true for us to have Ricky in our seat. When this thing started, it snowballed in 10 different directions. I think I called Ricky the first night -- when the news really broke to you guys -- I think it was the weekend of The Winston. I called him at home and the funny thing about it was the guy that gave me his phone number was Elliott Sadler. I don't know where he got it, but he gave me the phone number and it all worked out. We're just tickled to death and we're looking forward to it."

RICKY RUDD CONTINUED -- IS IT SATISFYING TO CONCLUDE YOUR CAREER WITH A VIRGINIA-BASED TEAM? "I think it definitely has a lot of magic to it, especially as a kid growing up and coming into the sport in the early years and watching these guys and David Pearson win everything there was out there to win. The only races they didn't win were the ones they didn't enter that year. I can't imagine the determination and strength it takes as a group of people and as a family to go through all the tough years and seeing Winston Cup racing change like it has. But you go into the shop and it's a very state-of-the-art shop and it's all about racing. You can tell right quick there are no big egos. I don't think the family atmosphere would allow for an ego to take place there if it wanted to, but there's not a guy in there that doesn't want to win as badly as the next. I think that's what I think of when I think of the Wood Brothers -- determination and perseverance. They're tough people and they want to win. These guys have been in it a long time. They could go fishing and close the doors any day they wanted to and have life very, very easy, but here they are. The second generation is working on the cars, along with Leonard. I don't know a lot of the guys' names in the shop yet, but I'm sure there are guys that have been there since the Wood Brothers started racing. A lot of people that don't have to do this, they're there because they want to do it and they just don't want to be there, they want to win. I feel like maybe where I fit into the equation, and it's no disrespect to Elliott Sadler. I think that's one of the finest young guys that has come up in a long time and he's got a lot of raw talent, but sometimes you get into the big glitzy operations and sometimes grass is greener on the other side. I've been on both sides. I look at strictly where I can go to be competitive. What are the raw ingredients they have here. They've got a heck of a motor program with Jack Roush which is second to none. They've got engineering support from Ford Motor Company and they've got people with the desire to want to do it. And they've got a crew chief like Pat Tryson. The last time Pat and I worked together we won at Rockingham, which was 1998. Pat was turning the wrenches on my car and I wish he hadn't gotten away from us because that was about one of the last times we won a race with our own car. But now I'll have a chance to work with Pat again. It's not a huge organization. It is not a multi-car team concept. I've been a part of that and, believe me, more them don't work than do work. They have certainly gotten better over the years, but they also have the assistance of the Roush camp. If we get to a race track and we're stumped for ideas, that information is available and we can use that and tap that resource, so I don't feel like we're here in the Wood Brothers camp and it's us against the whole world. I really feel like we've got the support and if there are any shortcomings about being a single car operation I think that's made up for by the association with the Roush camp." HOW DID YOU DO THIS IN 24 HOURS? "I think it's real simple. The Woods have a lawyer that is very efficient. They worked through the night. I don't know how much sleep they got last night. Our guy is very dedicated and I think when you have two parties that want to work together, you work through differences. It's no different than a complex business people. You see the contract. I don't know how thick that thing is, but that's pretty thick and you think about how many times they had to start over again on several areas. But what I found out was when you have two guys that want to make this deal work -- and that being the Woods and myself -- and then attorneys that wanted to work together, through a lot of midnight oil we were able to put this thing together in a very short period of time. I don't think some of the teams are as efficient. Maybe that gets back to big not always being better. If you're a little lean, sometimes you can move a little quicker."

EDDIE WOOD CONTINUED -- "That's how it came together. You have two groups that want to make it happen. The way Ricky said it, he said, 'If you write down my gripes, I'll write down my gripes.' I never heard that term in a contract, but when we looked at everything there were very few things that even mattered. The nuts and bolts of it was there, so it was easy to put together. There was a lot of paperwork, but the lawyers got through it and, even if things hadn't been as easy, we still would have stayed with it until we got it done. We may have had this tomorrow, but we were gonna stay with it until we got it done. Fortunately it all worked out."

RICKY RUDD CONTINUED -- "I'd like to follow up on that. I think the trick is that paperwork is paperwork. When you get it done, it usually goes in the drawer and that means it's a good association. If you have to start throwing out the papers and start looking at things, you're probably doomed from the beginning. Like Eddie said, we talked about listing our gripes. This doesn't need to be a one-way street for either party and I think that's the key -- it's all about compromise. It's not a one-way street. I didn't want this thing all my way. As an owner, I can see some of their concerns maybe a little bit easier than a guy that is just a driver. I've been there before and I understand timelines and deadlines maybe a little more than the average guy, and I think maybe that background of being an owner maybe helped speed things up when you see it from both sides. But the key is it's got to be a good deal for both people going in. If it isn't, then it's not gonna work."

EDDIE WOOD CONTINUED -- "On another note, my kid races. He races for Jack. I didn't drive. My dad did, but I didn't. I've seen things that he does and the way Jack does things that I know are important to drivers that I never knew. It's kind of like you can be sympathetic with what he wants and he can be sympathetic with what we want because he's done what we do and I've seen what he does and it just works. We could have done this with a handshake."

RICKY RUDD CONTINUED -- "Let me say one more thing. When I say it's a two-way street, it's really a three-way street. Obviously, you've got to have a race team. You've got to have a driver and you've got to have a tremendous sponsor that is willing to not only use its resources, but to understand where we're coming from -- me as the driver and Eddie as the team itself. It's got to make sense to these guys (Motorcraft) because, really, without the money and financial support, we wouldn't even be here today talking about this. These guys felt like this is a smart pairing and they feel like they can make it work in their business and I certainly hope so. I hope we can sell more Motorcraft parts because of this, but it gets more complex. It's not an owner and driver, it's more of a three-way thing. It definitely takes participation by a sponsor that wants to be a part." HOW MUCH DID MOTORCRAFT STEP UP AND DID FORD KICK IN A LITTLE EXTRA? "Let me just say from where I'm coming from, and I'm not gonna get into details, but all the car owners I talked with, we never got into, 'I want this.' I just wanted fair compensation. I didn't ask for Winston Cup championship driver's salary. I didn't ask for top-three driver salary or even probably top-five. Don't get me wrong, I'm not cheap and I want all I can get, but I'm not sure exactly what went on with Eddie and the sponsorship requirements. From day one, I told Eddie what I wanted to drive and what I based it on and how I came up with the figures and none of the car owners that I ever talked to actually got into any disputes about driver salary. I think more from a car owner's perspective, it's probably, 'This is a salary we're gonna have to pay to get a top-10 driver.' Then Eddie as a car owner he's got to look at it and say, 'Gosh, if I pay this to a driver and it's more than I've been paying, now we can't buy motors or we can't buy tires. It doesn't make business sense. So that's where the sponsors and car owners have to get together. I didn't get involved in that side of the relationship, but from day one, when I sat down with Eddie I told him what I wanted. All I can say is, as a driver, they didn't get me cheap. I didn't cut my price. I sat down and told these guys I wanted the same thing that I told every other car owner. I've had some car owners that came up and said, 'Hey, I can pay you more than that,' and I said, 'No, I'm not asking for more than that. Pay me what fair market value is. If you've got more money, put it in a bonus fund for the crew or something. I'm not asking for more and I'm not going to one team and playing one against the other. I'm not gonna get into that. So, that being said, I'll let him decide how far he wants to discuss that."

EDDIE WOOD CONTINUED -- "Here's how it went down. When Ricky became available, that's where we wanted to go. Like I told you, it would go away and come back. It would go away and call back. Well, Judi called me and she told me, 'If you can get Ricky, we're committed. You go do it.' I got on the phone at that moment and called Ricky Rudd and I said, 'We can do it, you just tell me how.' And that's how it started. That conversation with Judi -- from the time I asked, 'Do you think we can do it?' 'I'll go check. Yes, we can do it' was less than 12 hours. So that shows the dedication that Ford Motor Company and Motorcraft is giving us, Ricky Rudd, and our whole group as a whole because, like I said, before Ricky Rudd even came here we wouldn't be sitting here had they not come on board. That gets back to the thing I said about Dale. I remember Motorcraft when they were with Bud's car (Moore) and Ricky was driving it. They were treated very, very well there as we are treated. We owe our existence to Jack Roush. He has helped us through the last 10 years to get us back on track and we also owe our existence to Ford Motor Company and Motorcraft, and now we're gonna take it all forward and make it happen with this guy." HOW CLOSE WERE YOU TO GOING TO PLAN B? "I never really had a plan B. We had plan B's, but it's like we said, until he was in a seat -- whether it was ours or Ganassi's or whoever, we weren't gonna go to plan B until Ricky was in a seat, signed, done -- press conference. We weren't gonna give up on Ricky until the very end, so that persistence, I guess, prevailed. Like my grandmother used to say, 'Good things come to those who wait,' so, here we are."

RICKY RUDD CONTINUED -- HOW MUCH OF A RELIEF IS THIS? "This is very important to me. I wouldn't say it's hard to do both. I would certainly say there are a lot of sleepless nights trying to figure out what the future was gonna allow for myself and the family. I just wanted to make the right choice and I didn't want to be pressured into making a hasty decision. I wanted to, I guess, kick the tires and look at these teams inside and out. As far as feeling pressured and hurried to make a decision, I guess the only thing that bothered me were a lot of the comments that were coming out. I think a lot of people were anxious to get things laid to rest and I respect that 100 percent. If everything would have worked correctly, a lot of the Robert Yates stuff that we were working on would have been behind the scenes, so the public would not have known that Ricky was taking 30 days longer than he should to make a decision or 60 days. That would have been behind the public's view and it would have been out of sight, and it's the same thing that goes on with just about every driver and every team owner when they go to make business decisions. But with today's modern technology and the internet and everything that things are today in technology, news travels very fast. I can't believe how fast. It's overwhelming how fast it travels, but some of it's true and some of it's not true. The parts that are not true can really put a damper on things. I'm very pleased with what we have going here." IS THERE ANY CHANCE YOU AND ELLIOTT COULD SWAP RIDES BEFORE THE END OF THE YEAR, IF YOU FALL OUT OF THE CHAMPIONSHIP RACE? "Wow, that's a good one. I don't know, I guess I've got to look at that. That's something to think about, I guess. I would like to go out there and do some testing and get ready for next year. I'd like to work on that now, but I'm not really sure what our agreements will let us do and not do. Even if I don't drive the cars, believe me, the conversations will be going on. Like today, we sat down and it was like, 'What kind of steering box do you use? What type of brakes do you like?' We can kind of sort through some of that stuff, so when you do go test the first time, you can pretty much hone in on the little subtle difference between the drivers and what driver preferences they like. But, back to the championship deal with Robert Yates, I don't think that's a dead-end issue. I think the championship is up for grabs right now. We're something like 165 points back in sixth place. We were second in the point last year at this time, but we were some 300 points back. We stayed second just about right until there were three races left in the season, so that just shows how the competition has closed up. It's very competitive and the championship is up for grabs. I'm not giving up. I know how hard it is to get in these positions and I'm gonna fight as hard as I can this year to try to win that championship to do my part. I won't say we'll wait until the checkered flag falls at the last race, but we'll definitely be putting things in gear for next year here, but not where it becomes a distraction to either side. These guys have races they want to try to win. I'm not sure where they can finish in points, but they can probably get as high as 13th or 14th."

EDDIE WOOD CONTINUED -- "We were 18th three weeks ago and have had a couple bad races and that dropped us back, but he's still got his job to do there and we've got our job to do. I'm sure we're gonna be testing. I think I read on the internet that Elliott is actually going to Kentucky with the 28 sometime in the next couple of weeks. I saw that before I left."

RICKY RUDD CONTINUED -- "That's good news (laughing). Here we are running for a championship and they've got somebody else driving my car (laughing). I'll fix that. I'll double bolt all those little seats I've got in those cars and that big boy won't be able to get in there. He's young. He's chomping at the bit. Elliott Sadler is a friend of mine. I'm not gonna sit here and beat up on Elliott Sadler. He's got his dreams and he's going after it and I just hope it works out as good for him as he thinks it is and that's all I can say."

EDDIE WOOD CONTINUED -- "It'll all work out in the end. People asked us that first week, 'What's gonna happen now?' It'll work out. It always works out."

The author can be contacted

Go to our forums to discuss this article

e-mail us:

Back to the top

AutoRacing1 is an independent internet online publication and is not affiliated with, sponsored by, or endorsed by CART Inc., NASCAR, FIA,  FedEx, Winston, or any other series sponsor. This material may not be published, broadcast, or redistributed without permission.
User agreement & disclaimer

Copyright 1999 - 2002, AutoRacing1, Inc., Hamilton, NJ