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After slump, Rudd now contends

By KEVIN KELLY

© St. Petersburg Times,
published May 31, 2001


At one point in his career, Ricky Rudd couldn't seem to lose.

Now it is a struggle to win.

But the 44-year-old isn't complaining as much as one would think, considering he once went 16 straight seasons with at least one Winston Cup victory. Being in contention for a first career championship helps.

"Everything is going good as far as a championship run," said Rudd, who drives the No. 28 Ford and ranks fifth after 13 races. "We're really consistent. We've been good on the superspeedways. We've been good on the short tracks. We've been good just about everywhere we've been. We need to be maybe just a notch better, you know. We'd like to be able to be a winning factor in every race.

"We run about three or four races, and all of a sudden we become a factor. Three or four goes by, and all of a sudden we're good again, you know, a chance to win."

Rudd has three top-five finishes and eight top-10s this year and four career wins at Dover Downs International Speedway, site of the MBNA Platinum 400 on Sunday. A fifth could trim the 144-point difference between him and teammate/points leader Dale Jarrett.

"We're in this thing," said Rudd, whose best championship finish was second in 1991. "It's kind of exciting again to see that it's in reach, especially this early in the season. A couple of bad races or a couple of good races one way or the other, we could find ourselves in the lead."

CART MEETING: As part of his group's efforts to hold a CART race at the Florida State Fairgrounds in 2003 or 2004, Michael Perry and one other representative from Birmingham, Ala.-based International Racing Associates will submit their proposal to the State Fair Authority today.

Perry is scheduled to meet with CART officials Friday in Milwaukee.

"We'll present them with what our plans are and detailed information of Tampa and the Tampa Bay area and the facility," Perry said. "A lot of it's going to be educational material and demographic material to substantiate the fact that Tampa is where they ought to be."

CART added races in Monterrey, Mexico, and Rockingham, England, this season. The fairgrounds hosted a sports car race on its 1.8-mile road course from 1989-91.

MILWAUKEE MAGIC: Chip Ganassi went 0-for-4 in the Indianapolis 500, but the CART team owner should have a shot at victory this weekend at the Milwaukee Mile.

Ganassi's team has won two of the past three races at the track, which hosts the Miller Lite 225 on Sunday. Juan Montoya won last year, and Jimmy Vasser won in 1998.

"I am really starting to enjoy the ovals," said rookie Bruno Junqueira, who is 12th in the CART standings. "I feel I am getting better and better with each race, and it is now just a matter of time until I get my first win. I am excited to race on another oval this weekend, especially at a track where the car that I am in now won last year."

GOODYEAR UPDATE: Indy Racing driver Scott Goodyear, who sustained a fracture in his lower back during the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, received a back brace Monday and took a few small steps Tuesday.

Goodyear was injured in a crash involving Sarah Fisher on the eighth lap. Recovery will take 8-12 weeks.

"Obviously I'm disappointed because this stops me from testing for the Cheever Indy Racing team and Infiniti, and I know I will miss the IROC race at Michigan next month, but this accident does not change my planning process at all," Goodyear said. "I'm hopeful that I will be cleared to drive in the IROC event at Indianapolis (in early August), and after that I'll continue testing and planning for 2002."

RESTRUCTURING: PPI Motorsports, which owns the No. 32 and No. 96 Fords driven by Ricky Craven and Andy Houston in the Winston Cup series, announced that 14 employees were released as part of companywide restructuring.

Also, Joe Garone will resign as crew chief of Houston's team in July to take a job with NASCAR's research and development center in Hickory, N.C.

- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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