Ricky Rudd became more acquainted with the Wood Bros. team by shaking down his new No. 21 Motorcraft Ford during a one-day test at Kentucky Speedway.

The team battled temperatures in the low 30s and snow flurries to get a head start on working under the new NASCAR Winston Cup Series rules for the 2003 season.

"This is only the third time we've tested together as a team, so we're trying to get used to each other," Rudd said. "We're having a pretty good test, it's just that the snow isn't cooperating. It's kind of a 'shake down' cruise. We're here with some of the cars built for the new rules."

Rudd, who tested at Kentucky last month with a 2002 machine, said he's quickly adjusting to changes in the car's performance. "(The new rules) pretty much require that all the race teams cut the bodies off their existing race cars and put on new bodies. It's not a 10-minute deal, it's about a two- to three-week process and it's pretty involved. This car has been in the wind tunnel with the old body and been back with the new one, so we pretty much know what to expect. There's some trial and error involved, but a lot of it is reading the data and doing what the data says we need to do," he said.

He also stated that NASCAR's reduction in the number of times teams can test at Winston Cup tracks has made Kentucky Speedway a valuable preseason research tool. "Kentucky is really the only speedway we can run that's a major, very fast, superspeedway that does not count against the NASCAR test policy," Rudd said. "For the 2003 season, we're only allowed five tests at Winston Cup tracks. Besides, there is a ban on winter testing at Winston Cup tracks until January. (Kentucky Speedway) gives us a chance to get a little bit of November and some of December in without counting against our (official) test days. This track will suffice for Las Vegas, Michigan, Fontana and several different racetracks. We can learn a lot by being here."

As he works through new set-ups with a new team, Rudd becomes more and more impressed and comfortable with the Wood Bros. approach to racing.

"These guys are racers, they don't have other business distractions to occupy their time. This race team is their baby and they spend all their waking hours working on it, massaging it," Rudd said. "I think a lot of the successful cars sort of started that way, but as time has gone on, they've migrated to two- and three-car teams. Even though those owners would like to spend more time with the race team, they're spread thin. With this team, all the resources are concentrated right here, so it's a little more hands on from an owners' side, which is something I've enjoyed.

"Time well tell, but this team is going to do well this coming season. This is the time of year all the drivers are bragging about their new teams, but I'm real excited. I know the opportunity that this team presents and it's not going to surprise me to see two or three wins out of this team next year," Rudd concluded.

The 2003 Kentucky Speedway season begins May 9-10 when the ARCA RE/MAX Series makes its only appearance at the speedway for "The Channel 5-205." The race will feature the return of the first four-time champion in ARCA history, Frank Kimmel, who has won three of the last four series events at Kentucky Speedway.

Season ticket packages are on sale now and can be reserved by calling 1-888-652-RACE. Single event ticket sales begin Monday, January 6, 2003. Phone Kentucky Speedway or visit www.kentuckyspeedway.com for details.

~ Kentucky Speedway ~