Updated: Wednesday, 13 Jun 2012, 12:56 PM EDT
Published : Tuesday, 12 Jun 2012, 11:44 PM EDT
CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) - Baseball has its Iron Man in Cal Ripken, Jr. While his consecutive games played streak is impressive, so is NASCAR's version of the streak, owned by Ricky Rudd .
In his 32-year racing career, the Chesapeake native started 788 consecutive races, making him the sport's Iron Man.
"I had a long career, much longer than most people, so when it came time to wind down, I was ready for it," Rudd reflected.
Rudd hung up his helmet in 2007 so he could spend more time with his family.
He was back in his hometown Monday speaking to the Chesapeake Sports Club.
Rudd got his start at Langley Speedway in Hampton and quickly moved up the ranks.
He won 23 times on NASCAR's highest circuit.
But near the end of his career, the sport became too demanding.
"Racing became a very small percentage of what you did. I was in racing because I liked to race, but all the things that came with that, which are very necessary because of all the sponsors and all the money that they put into it kept you really hopping; really took away from my family life."
Rudd currently lives in Cornelius, N.C., and spends most his days riding his mountain bike with friends.
Since walking away from the sport, he's realized that the world does not revolve around racing.
"You sort of assume the whole world is watching. So when you step aside and step out of the sport, you realize it's not unusual for your neighbors to not know anything about the sport, which is not a bad thing because you're not talking racing 24 hours a day."
Rudd still keeps a close eye on NASCAR and says engineering has too big a role in the sport.
"It's become a much more science-based sport than it used to be and that does not mean the racing is always better," he said. "They are having a hard time trying to hold back the science of racing and get the racing back to where it used to be and I don't think that is possible."
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