- September 12, 1956
- United States
- Not Active
Ricky Rudd is one of the greatest legends in the history of NASCAR. He was active for 32 years in the premium NASCAR series, recording 906 starts between 1975 and 2007. He was the race winner 23 times but never clinched the championship title. His best result was the second place in 1991 Winston Cup season when he lost the title from the great Dale Earnhardt. In 1992, Rudd was a winner of the International Race of Champions and it was his only championship title in a career.
Stock car racing debut at the age 18
Richard L. Ricky Rudd was born on September 12, 1956, in Norfolk County, Virginia. Ricky's father Alvin R. Rudd was an owner of the Al Rudd Auto Parts, so Ricky was involved in motorsport from an early age. As a teenager, he was racing with go-karts and motocross bikes, debuting in the stock car racing at the age 18.
He made his NASCAR debut on March 2, 1975, at North Carolina Motor Speedway in Rockingham, driving the #10 Ford for the family friend Bill Champion. Later in the season, he ran three more races for Champion Racing, finishing in 10th place at Bristol. In 1976, Ricky participated in four NASCAR Winston Cup races driving the #22 Chevrolet for his father's team. The tenth place was again his best result, at Daytona's Firecracker 400.
In 1977, Ricky was the Rookie of the Year
In 1977, Ricky was driving the #22 Chevrolet for the full season, reaching his first Top 5 finish at Talladega, where he was fourth. At the end of the season, he won the Rookie of the Year award and finished 17th in the overall classification. Although he showed a potential, Ricky didn't have money to compete during the 1978 season.
In 1979, Ricky was driving a full season for Junie Donlavey, taking four Top 5 results in the #90 car and finishing 9th in the points. A part-time season followed in 1980, with three different teams.
Collecting pole positions but without wins
In 1981, driving the #88 car for DiGard Motorsports, Ricky reached his first pole position, at Martinsville. He didn't win any race but he improved his career-best season's result, finishing 6th in the points.
One more change followed in 1982, when Rudd joined Richard Childress Motorsport, to drive the #3 Pontiac. He finished in second place two times, at Martinsville and Riverside. In 1983, the season started with three consecutive pole positions in first three races, including at Daytona 500, but he again failed to win.
Maiden NASCAR win for Rudd at Riverside in 1983
Ricky finally scored his maiden NASCAR victory on June 5, 1983, at Riverside International Raceway, after leading 57 laps in the Budweiser 400 race. The second victory followed at Martinsville in September. Despite two wins, he was again 9th in the points, same as the year before.
In 1983, Rudd also started in three Busch Series races, winning at Dover. Thanks to that victory, it was his only season with three wins, later in a career, he won 21 more times, but never more than two races in a year.
Rudd and Earnhardt swapped the cars in 1984
For the 1984 season, Ricky Rudd and Dale Earnhardt swapped the teams. Earnhardt jumped into Richard Childress Racing's #3 Chevrolet while Rudd moved into Bud Moore's #15 Ford. Ricky participated in the season-opening Daytona 500 despite the fact that he suffered a concussion in a horrific crash in the Busch Clash event one week before the main race. For Daytona 500, he put tapes on his face to keep his swollen eyes open. In the second race of the season, at Richmond, Rudd scored the first victory with #15 car. It remained his only win in 1984 and he finished 7th in the points.
Ricky Rudd was driving for Bud Moore Engineering for three more seasons, winning five times (one win in 1985, two in 1986, two in 1987). In 1985, he improved his career-best result, finishing fifth in the championship points. The next team in Ricky Rudd's CV was King Racing. Driving the #26 Buick Regal, he won one race in 1988 and added one victory in 1989.
Joining Hendrick Motorsport in 1990
For the 1990 season, Ricky joined Hendrick Motorsports. Driving the #5 Chevrolet Lumina, he won one race, at Watkins Glen and finished finish seventh in the points. The season was marked by a fatal pit road accident at the season's finale at Atlanta. Ricky spun into Bill Elliott's pit and crushed one of Elliott's tire changer Mike Rich, killing him almost instantly.
In the second season with Rick Hendrick's team, Rudd was victorious just in one race (Richmond) but his other results were better than a year before, so he collected more points and finished as the championship runner-up, behind Dale Earnhardt. Rudd took the controversial victory at Sonoma but he was penalized after the race, because of tapping Davey Allison's car, so he was moved to the second place.
Winning the Race of Champions in 1992
In 1992, Rudd participated for the first time in the International Race of Champions, Although he didn't win any race, he was the IROC winner ahead of Dale Earnhardt and Al Unser Jr. Later in a career, Rudd participated in four more IROC events, finishing in fourth place in 1993.
After his career-best NASCAR season, Rudd spent two more seasons with Hendrick Motorsports (1992 and 1993), with one victory in each of those seasons. Ricky started his own team Rudd Performance Motorsports in 1994.
Six seasons with his own team
He was running Tide-sponsored #10 Ford and the first victory came in July at New Hampshire International Speedway. In six seasons with his own team, Ricky scored six wins. His best finish at the end of the season was the sixth place in 1996.
In 1999, Ricky didn't win any race and it was the end of the 16-season streak. When Tide left the team, he decided to close the team. For the 2000 season, Rudd joined Yates Racing to drive the #28 Ford Taurus. Although he still did not win any race, he had two poles and twelve Top 5 results, moving to the fifth place in the points standings.
Last Winston Cup Series win in 2001
In 2001, he was even more successful, winning two races (Pocono and Richmond) and finishing fourth in the points. It was his best season's result and he finished as the runner-up in 1991. Rudd spent one more season with Yates Racing, scoring his last victory in a career at Infineon Raceway, Sonoma. He led for just three (out of 110) laps in the Dodge/Save Mart 350 and took the win ahead of Tony Stewart.
In the next three seasons (2003-2005), Ricky was driving the #21 Ford for Wood Brothers Racing. In 2004, at Talladega, he scored his last pole position. In 2006, he participated only at Dover's race, where he qualified Joe Gibbs Racing's car for Tony Stewart.
Final season with Yates Racing
In 2007, Rudd returned for one more final season to the Nextel Cup Series, driving the #88 Ford for Yates Racing. His best result was the seventh place at Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. In his last race, at Homestead-Miami, he finished 21st.
Ricky Rudd retired from racing at the age of 51, after 32 seasons in the NASCAR premium series. Immediately after a retirement, he was inducted into the Virginia Hall of Fame. In 1998, while he was still active, he was selected into the 50 Greatest NASCAR Drivers of all Time, in a panel which was a part of NASCAR's 50th-anniversary celebration. In recent years, Rudd was working as an analyst for motorsport news program SPEED Center.