Thursday, Jun 08

Transcripts: Rick Hendrick and Rudy Fugle Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: We are going to go ahead and get started here with our post-race availability for this afternoon's Fold of Honors 500 here at Atlanta Motor Speedway. We've been joined by our race-winning crew chief, Rudy Fugle.

First of all, congrats on the win. We appreciate you coming in and joining us after the victory lane celebration. Tell us just a little bit about those final laps from your vantage point.

RUDY FUGLE: Thanks for the congrats. It's really exciting to be able to get a win. Just the restart and the final -- led to the final set of laps, and then we had one of the strongest cars, if not the strongest car.

But it's all about getting the pushes and trying to stay ahead of that. So our spotter, Branden Lines and William did awesome. They were able to control the lanes and go back and forth. Even just getting the lead back was phenomenal.

Holding our breath, hoping to get back to the lead, and then once we got there, just holding your breath to control it. So super proud of everybody.

THE MODERATOR: We've now been joined by Rick Hendrick as well, so we'll go ahead and open up for questions for both Rick and Rudy. I know I saw a few hands raised.

Q. Rudy, two things. First off, it was said over the radio after you won the race, and William said it in his TV interview, with the hard work that went in overnight in changing some things, working late. Can you walk us through the work that was done on this 24 car after what you saw in practice?

RUDY FUGLE: For the first time this year really we were off in practice. Just had some wrong philosophies, wrong setup items, and the way practice was we were just trying to get laps so William could get comfortable. But we really needed to work on the car more, but needed to make a plan.

Once we got out of here and got back to the hotel, our engineers, and even at the shop and here we worked until 9:00. We had some dinner, and then there was emails going out until midnight, so coming up with a plan.

Came up with a good plan thanks to -- we used a lot of the 9 stuff to help guide us and made good decisions otherwise, and then give that to the guys to come in this morning. And they got an hour and a half to pretty much rebuild the race car.

So they did phenomenal getting the car built, getting through tech and put a race car on the track capable of winning, and not dominating, but being really, really fast. Close to dominating.

Q. Did you guys come here with a super speedway philosophy in car setup, or did you come here with the typical Atlanta setup?

RUDY FUGLE: No, it was a blend. A lot of super speedway thoughts and then some Michigan, some Texas repave and just trying to -- and this car is still brand new, so there's a ton we're learning that you're trying to apply. So missed it on a couple of things, but it didn't take much to get it where we needed to be.

Q. I have a question for each of you gentlemen. Rudy, from your perspective as a crew chief, old Atlanta configuration and type of racing versus what we saw today. Your thoughts?

RUDY FUGLE: Yeah, it was -- I thought racing really was really good today. There's some things with the track, some big bumps and some character. It's difficult. It's stressful. It's a different type of racing.

Crew chiefs, we love coming to Atlanta just like drivers did because if you got it right, if you were perfect, you did your homework and you could go dominate. You could have eight, ten-second leads. That's snoozers for TV, but it's something to be proud of from our side of things.

So we really enjoyed that challenge of how hard Atlanta was and how much fun it was with tire falloff making it good. But when you have to repave tracks, this was a good product today. I thought it was really, really good.

Q. Rick, from a car owner's perspective, Daytona, Talladega races tend to be expensive. You guys tear up a lot of equipment. It seems like this is going to be kind of in that same vein. As a car owner, are you okay with adding two additional super speedway type races to a schedule and what may be your bottom line?

RICK HENDRICK: We have not had very good luck at finishing plate races. We've been in a great position, but we've seemed to get in wrecks all the time, and I don't think this is going to be quite as bad.

These cars are more durable, and you saw it today. Usually when you have a wreck down at Talladega, Daytona, it's just trashed. But a lot of cars were able to finish, and also I think it's going to be easier and better with this car and I think the speeds here at this track. I believe it's going to be a great show.

Q. I have one for each. Rudy, were you concerned at all about right rears blowing after seeing what happened to the others, you know, Goodyear said they were looking at it, but they didn't notice it was all Chevrolets and all ones who were running up front.

RUDY FUGLE: Yeah, definitely. The speed and having to run pretty much wide open to lead compared to 70% throttle for a full lap to be second or third is definitely putting a lot more stress on the tires, so it's kind of managing ourselves there.

I was trying to coach William into doing some lifts and just if we could lift a little bit and slow the pace down a little bit and not get passed, then we could save the tires. Definitely at a repave you are always worried about tires. You got hard tires because you have so much load, but eventually you put enough heat in them, and they blow out. Definitely on our mind.

We kind of knew because we share information. We kind of knew where some of these guys were and thought we may be -- we weren't in worse shape at least than they were. Just try to manage it.

Q. And, Rick, I would think that most of you feel that kind of four plate races is enough as far as when it comes to Daytona and Talladega. This kind of makes it six. Do you want to cap it, or is there any thought of some people say, well, if this works, then maybe they should do it at Texas or any of the other mile and a halfs?

RICK HENDRICK: No, I vote to cap it. With our record at plate races with finishing, I just -- I think this is enough.

Q. For Rudy. I believe this is the first win as a spotter for Branden Lines, so just the job that he did with a really chaotic style of race, and how important was it to get his first Cup win as a spotter?

RUDY FUGLE: It's huge. I'm really proud of Branden. I've known Branden for a really long time going back to Erik Jones' late model and truck days and kind of been friends with him since. So getting a chance to work with him is really exciting.

How much passion he has for racing and how much hard work he puts in during the week. He has been working really, really hard. Him and William have a good relationship, so they've been working outside of even what I know and this lingo, you know, all these -- like I said, he was -- I think he changed two batteries today because he talked so much. He talked more here than you do at Daytona and Talladega because when you get in that top riding lane in Daytona and Talladega, you know what to expect, and the runs aren't as quick. And here the runs were gigantic, and they were so fast, so spotter had to be on it, and Branden did a great job.

Q. Rudy, it looked like with about ten or 12 laps to go you might not want to be first the way the runs were taking place and all that, but William got out with some -- got some space. Was that the approach you wanted to take, or were you feeling pretty safe being in front there in the last few laps?

RUDY FUGLE: Yeah. William stated it during the first stage that he thought being second was a better spot to be, and we were -- the 1 was fast, and we were fast. I think it was the 8 we were kind of all making runs and just kind of learning.

If you get the right run, it's tough to be the leader for sure. But we just had a lot of things go right. And Mr. H talked about it before the race. Sometimes at some point things have to go right for you. We've had a lot of bad luck and bad circumstances this year that have kept us from winning races I feel like, and today we just had some things go right.

Some guys, Blaney and whoever got up together and got out a lane, and then the 20 going underneath the line with the 1 getting side-by-side, just kind of generated -- it stopped the runs from generating. It kind of worked out for us. I'll take anything we can get.

Q. I have one for Rudy and one for Rick. Rudy, two of William's three Cup victories have been on super speedway style racing. What makes him so good at that?

RUDY FUGLE: Yeah, no, he has become a great restrictor plate racer. He is really aggressive and knows how to use the runs and take the pushes and give pushes. I mean, it's hard to say what makes somebody great. You know, everybody talks about Denny when we come to these places, but you have to have good cars, you have to have good engines, and then he has just done an awesome job of learning what makes the car stay up front at these places. When we're not wrecked, he is usually up front.

Q. And, Rick, with William's victory three of your four drivers have now won three of the first five races. It's the first time that it's been done since Carl Kiekhaefer did it in 1956. What does this mean to you?

RICK HENDRICK: Well, you know, I'm awful proud of the organization and the guys the way they worked together, and we've been fortunate. We had a couple of breaks to win one of the races, but I'm proud of them.

And it's really hard today with the cars that we have and everything is equal, but I think the talent of our guys, like Rudy said, William has just been unbelievable on the plate races. I'm just proud of them. We might hit a streak here and not win one, but I'm really proud of the speed and the way they're staying up front, and hopefully we'll continue to win more races.

Q. Rick, already this season there's been a race in a stadium. You've got a super speedway race at a mile and a half track. You know, here in a couple of weeks you'll be going back to a dirt track. What do these changes mean, and what do you hope to see or what are you looking forward to more as the sport seems to continue to evolve?

RICK HENDRICK: I think it's great for NASCAR. The stadium brought a lot of new fans in. The dirt track, I've got people coming out of the woodwork wanting to go to Bristol now for that race, and I think it's exciting for the fans and the drivers are adapting well.

This car, we basically run the same car everywhere, and so I think it's great for the sport, and I would like to see a street race. Hopefully we'll just continue to work outside the box, and I think that's growing a lot of new fans for us.

Q. Why do you want to see a street race? And also, secondly, I know the Texas race ended. This one got started. I don't know if you had any contact with Jimmie or your thoughts of Jimmie having his top ten today?

RICK HENDRICK: I did not see the race. What happened to him?

Q. He was sixth.

RICK HENDRICK: We felt like when Jimmie got on oval he would be more competitive. I'm proud of him. I'm really proud of Jimmie for jumping into a sport and trying to relearn against all these guys or learn the sport. But I felt like when we got to ovals, when they got to ovals, he was going to be good.

Q. Why a street race?

RICK HENDRICK: I just think it's exciting. I think it's different. I think it would be why the Coliseum race? I mean, if there's a right street circuit that we could race on, I just think something different brings in a new level of fans. And it's exciting. It's something different to talk about.

I think keep changing it up, and it just seems to bring in a lot of new people that we haven't seen. The age group at the Coliseum were people -- I think they said, like, 60% had never been to a NASCAR race. I think just doing something different than you've done for years and years is good for the sport.

THE MODERATOR: For Rick and Rudy, congratulations again on the victory. Thank you, again, for joining us.



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