Rudd Speaks out on the Earnhardt/Labonte Goody's Finish
August 31, 1999 - Excerpt from NASCAR
Rudd was behind dueling leaders Dale Earnhardt and Terry Labonte in the closing laps and was caught up by Labonte's spinning car when Labonte was tapped from behind by Earnhardt in Turn 2.
"All I know is I took the white flag figuring I had a great chance at winning the race," said Rudd. "I knew what was going to happen, and I think everybody in the place did. In my mind, I was either going to win the race or, at the worst, finish second. It all depended on who survived what was going to happen. I just didn't see both of them getting out of the second turn.
"I saw Terry get sideways and saw the hole, but it closed. If I'd been able to get through there, we would have been watching it all from Victory Lane. Instead, the car was pretty well tore up and we were able to come on home third. That's still a pretty good finish considering the fact we started 35th, should have won the race and nobody is mad at us for the way we raced."
Rudd says that, although he doesn't feel Labonte did anything wrong, there was a better way to handle Earnhardt in the closing laps -- a way that would have resulted in victory.
"I think the mistake Terry made was passing him," said Rudd. "He should have just run square with him and then blown him away in the fourth corner and he'd have had the race won. He should have used just a little bit of head there. I mean, he did what he needed to on (new) tires; he had tires and he was coming. But you have to look who you're dealing with. You don't give him an opportunity to get you back."
In light of the hubbub that resulted from Earnhardt's tactics at the end of the Goody's 500, Rudd noted the irony of the NASCAR Winston Cup schedule this week.
"Who would have ever thought we'd need a race at Darlington, especially the Southern 500, to calm everybody down?" he said.
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