Rudd goes flag-to-flag in second Twin 125 news services


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Ricky Rudd scored his first-ever win at Daytona International Speedway by winning Thursday's second Gatorade Twin 125 qualifying race for Sunday's Daytona 500.

It was nearly a carbon copy of the first race, won by Bill Elliott, as Rudd never came off the top spot of the 50-lap event in a race that was run caution-free.
Ricky Rudd
Ricky Rudd averaged 188.048 mph in leading all of the 50 laps.
There was virtually no passing in this race, either, which is a dramatic contrast from the past, when they used to be the most competitive of Speedweeks. However, sleeker cars and NASCAR's new spring and shock rules have eliminated opportunities to pass.

There was no passing among the top three cars. Rudd finished .468 seconds ahead of Mike Skinner. Ward Burton was third, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Michael Waltrip, Derrike Cope, Jeff Burton, Joe Nemechek and Kenny Irwin Jr.

John Andretti finished 15th -- the final automatic transfer position in the race.

"It looked a little easier than it was inside of the car," Rudd said. "The track was a little greasy and these shock and spring rules really affect the handling. But this whole group has done a fantastic job.

"We got some good information, good advice, from Dale Jarrett in the first race and that helped us get a pretty good start. We were coming up on traffic and I thought they were playing on the timing, where to catch me at the right time, so it threw his (Skinner's) timing off a little bit. I've never won here before, so this is great."

Dale Earnhardt, Skinner's teammate, has won 12 Daytona qualifying races, including an unprecedented 10 in a row before Thursday. He started ninth, finished 11th in the first race and will start 21st in the 500.

He criticized NASCAR's new shock-absorber rule, which requires all of the Winston Cup teams to use the same shocks and springs and allows only minor adjustments.

"They took racing out of the hands of the drivers and the crews," Earnhardt said. "We can't adjust and make the cars drive like we want. They just killed the racing at Daytona."

Elliott disagreed, saying he thought the first qualifier was interesting. Then again, his win put him in the No. 3 position for Sunday.

"The cars are so equal everybody's afraid to jump out until they get themselves in the right position," he said. "It's strategy."

Rudd, who earned $46,921, drove to victory at an average speed of 188.048 mph in his first win in the 125s -- his previous best finish was third. He also finished third in the Daytona 500 that year.

Skinner, in a Chevrolet, said it was futile to try to catch Rudd's Ford during the race.

"I heard a lot of people snoring up there," Skinner said of the crowd of 140,000 that witnessed the race. "You can't pass. No matter who was in the front, they probably couldn't have been passed. We have to get back to side-by-side racing.

"I couldn't get any help from behind; my car was really, really tight. If I couldn't get clean air on my nose, my car just wouldn't turn."

Ward Burton was the highest-finishing Pontiac in the race in third place.

"We'll start the 500 sixth, which is where we qualified, so it's a good start," Burton said. "Dale Jr. had a good car and it looked like he was going to make a battle, but he couldn't get close enough."

Rudd joined Robert Yates Racing this year and is Jarrett's teammate. Both Jarrett and Rudd will start on the front row in Sunday's Daytona 500.

"This is a great race team," Rudd said, "so I wouldn't rule out a Daytona 500 win."

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