Seth and Sutton Sharp
March 13, 2019
Keep It 35: What does a day in the life of Joe Ruttman consist of in 2019?
Joe Ruttman: My wife and I retired to a golf and resort community in Florida, even though I don’t play golf! There are a lot of motorheads who own vintage cars around here too, so I am constantly attending car shows and car club activities around this area in my ’57 T-Bird. Life is good!
Keep It 35: Talk about your climb up through the ranks and how your first NASCAR opportunities came about?
Joe Ruttman: Troy (His brother, former Indianapolis 500 winner) owned a 1962 factory Mercury and that allowed me to enter my first race, which was at Riverside in 1964.
After that, Booby Harrington and Jim Stacy gave me my next opportunities to race.
Keep It 35: Did you ever have a “Wow, I really made it!” moment?
Joe Ruttman: When I drove for Booby and Jim and then later on when Dale Inman was my crew chief. Those moments made me stop and realize that I had made it to the top Series. It was a special time.
Keep It 35: You hopped in the No. 43 for Richard Petty in 1987. What was it like to relieve him and how did you get picked to drive it?
Joe Ruttman: Dale Inman, who I call Kenneth Dale Inman, must have felt sorry for me and handed me the No. 43! I couldn’t wait for my first STP uniform. I ended up not getting my own uniform and wore Kyle Petty’s. Bummer. By the way, Richard is a great guy!
Keep It 35: How did you eventually end up in the Truck Series?
Joe Ruttman: I ran out of owners in the Cup Series.
Keep It 35: What was it like driving in the Truck Series for a successful Cup Series owner in Jack Roush?
Joe Ruttman: Not a great experience as it ended up.
Keep It 35: You stayed in the Truck Series and succeeded for a long time. Did you choose to stay in the Series or was that the only offer you had?
Joe Ruttman: That was the only offer I had at the time. My age was starting to become a factor and I wanted to continue racing. At the time, the Truck Series was a sure thing.
Keep It 35: What was your favorite track to race at? Did it differ in each Series?
Joe Ruttman: The greatest challenge was my favorite race track, any track that I had yet to master. It did not differ in every Series.
Keep It 35: Was there a ride offer that you received during your career that you look back on today and think “Man, I wonder what would have happened if I took that?”?
Joe Ruttman: I was offered a ride by the Wood Brothers, which at the time I passed on. Years later I realized that was the biggest mistake I made over my racing career. Fortunately, I was able to visit Glen Wood last October at his home. I told him to his face how much I regretted not racing for his team.
Keep It 35: Who do you feel helped out your career the most?
Joe Ruttman: Dale Inman, by far. He helped me out the absolute most in the garage.
Keep It 35: Do you still follow NASCAR today?
Joe Ruttman: I follow it somewhat. There is a problem with NASCAR today but I don’t know how to solve it.
Keep It 35: When was the last time you attended a race?
Joe Ruttman: I was at the ARCA race at Daytona at the start of this year.
Keep It 35: Is there a driver that you feel reminds you of yourself?
Joe Ruttman: Any driver who is struggling to make it to the top.