RUSTY WALLACE-2-Miller Lite Taurus Part II MIKE HELTON SUGGESTED LAST WEEK THERE MIGHT BE TWO SETS OF RULES, ONE FOR LIKE ATLANTA AND HIGH-BANKED TRACKS, AND ANOTHER ONE FOR LIKE INDIANAPOLIS AND CALIFORNIA, THE LOW-BANKED TRACKS. "Well, maybe...
RUSTY WALLACE-2-Miller Lite Taurus
MIKE HELTON SUGGESTED LAST WEEK THERE MIGHT BE TWO SETS OF RULES, ONE FOR LIKE ATLANTA AND HIGH-BANKED TRACKS, AND ANOTHER ONE FOR LIKE INDIANAPOLIS AND CALIFORNIA, THE LOW-BANKED TRACKS. "Well, maybe so. Maybe the air dams would be something they'd change for places like that. I just wish the tire would get a little softer. This hard, hard tire is something that I don't like because it's just causes single-file racing."
HOW? "It doesn't wear out. It doesn't wear, it just runs forever and everybody runs the same speed. Everybody sets their car up differently, and some guys fall of more than others. But when the tire doesn't wear out, none of the cars fall off, and everybody tends to find themselves running bumper to bumper. I've never in my life been to Bristol where guys run 140-some laps on tires. That just doesn't happen. That's part of the excitement at Bristol, the pit stops, the passing, the excitement. When you just don't pull off the race track and you stay running around in circles it's just not cool."
DON'T THE TIMES FALL OFF ON OLD TIRES? "No, not much. They don't fall off as much as the softer tires, that's for sure. And they sure don't wear as much."
IS THE AERO PUSH BECAUSE THE CARS ARE MORE AERODYNAMIC? "I think the aero push is because the cars have gotten a lot more downforce in the back than they've ever had. I don't think we need that much downforce. If you remember three or four years ago, we went back to, I can't remember the exact number but I'm gonna say, five-and-a-half-inch tall rear spoiler. And that was too loose. When you get side by side with a car you get spun out. A lot of guys were doing that. We'd be in practice. At Michigan four or fives years ago, Earnhardt and I went into turn one together, I was underneath him. My car kicks sideways up into him, he crashed, I didn't. And then the year before that, the same thing happened with him and some fellows down in three and four in Michigan. We needed a little bit more downforce, but we went from five and a half all the way up to like six and a half. We need to be somewhere in the middle."
IS THERE A CONCERN FOR FORD DRIVERS THAT THEY MADE A CHANGE FOR THE CHEVROLETS GOING INTO TEXAS? "No, that doesn't concern me. That was a real minor change. Everybody likes to put their bodies forward, backwards, and overall length of the car, it might be something small, but I don't think it's something huge."
AERODYNAMICS IMPORTANT AT A TRACK LIKE BRISTOL NOW? "Absolutely. We're running 130-some miles an hour in the straightaways here, and I think aerodynamics at that speed are very important. I've seen a lot of guys with front ends torn up in the race, still digging along and doing okay, but qualifying, when you're talking about from the number one position to last position only being a half second apart, aerodynamics are very, very important."
WERE AERODYNAMICS AS IMPORTANT AT BRISTOL, SAY, 10 YEARS AGO? "Not near as much. It's more important to build a nice lightweight car than an aerodynamic car, I would think most people would think. But now everybody's building lightweight cars and very, very aerodynamic cars trying to create all the downforce you possibly can on a short track."
DOES THE LEADER HAVE TROUBLE LAPPING CARS. LAST WEEK THERE SEEMED TO BE SOME PROBLEMS. WHAT ABOUT HERE? "You gotta remember, I guess, the guy that's getting lapped, he's not wanting to get lapped, and he's not in a good mood because his old hot rod's not running too good that day. He's probably not the most jolly guy out there at that particular point. When you're lapping a guy, you can't get real aggressive with him because he's not in a good mood anyway, and you gotta give him some respect but you gotta know where to pass and when to pass, how long to follow, how long not to follow. And I think every driver is different that I have to deal with out there on the race track. I understand their personalities are all different. There are some that are just a pain in the rear end to pass. There's no respect out there. They'd rather fight you for 20th position instead of just get out of the way and fall in line. I found it's much, much better if I'm getting lapped, man, a guy catches me, to let him go and then tuck right in his bumper so we both don't lose time. But if guy's who lapping you just keeps wrestling with you and wrestling with you and all of sudden you're looking ahead of you and the guys are driving away and the guys in your mirror are getting closer, it's ridiculous to race that way, but it does tend to happen a lot that way, and some guys are more courteous than others. But it creates aero pushes, it creates loss of patience, it creates a lot of instances out there."
ARE YOU MORE COURTEOUS THAN YOU WERE AS A YOUNGER DRIVER? "Yeah, I think I'm a pretty courteous fellow. When I race with Mark Martin and Jeff Burton, even when I used to race with Earnhardt of late, I think we all understand that we're not gaining any ground by racing each other when you're getting lapped. You just gotta get out and get back in line, keep a single-file line and get truckin' to the front so you don't lose much time."
HOW IS THE COMMUNICATION WITH YOUR NEW CREW CHIEF? ARE THINGS GETTING BETTER BETWEEN YOU TWO? "They've never, ever been bad, ever. My crew chief and I, Billy Wilburn, were probably best of friends. He's been with me a long, long time, over 10 or 12 years, total, and he works real good with me. I guess I've had to keep him getting more aggressive with the guys at the shop. With two teams we've got just an abundance of cars, a lot of cars, and when I need something done - the car I brought up here is a good car but it's not exactly what I wanted and I told him, 'I wish we could've tested so we could've found this out,' and we paid a little bit yesterday in qualifying. I think this is one of the worst qualifying runs I've ever had at Bristol. I'm always in the top-five or top-six or something like that. I've told Billy get in there and if I need a new car and the fabricators are saying, hey, this is what we can't do, just tell we don't use no for an answer. I got him real aggressive with the people to get the pieces and parts done. There's a lot of work going on back there right now, we've got over 110 people working for us. We're not accustomed to two teams, but we're learning and it's just a lot of work to get these old hot rods ready to go."
MORE ON BILL WILBURN. "He's not going to change me much. He's a new crew chief, but he's staying behind Ryan Pemberton now for eight years. Billy might have some different ideas on what he'd like to see done, you know, but there's not a whole lot that I'm going to change. But I do listen to what he says because he does have a different opinion. He was always screaming and hollering up there on top of the tool box, disagreeing with Robin a whole lot of times. Now I say let's try it. Where were we at not too long ago? I think we were at Daytona, I don't know, one of these runs where we put two tires and we should've put four tires, and I said, 'Now you know what it feels like.' Because Robin would make those mistakes every now and then, doing two when he should've done four or four when he should've done two or pit when we shouldn't have pitted. But that's a hard decision to make sometimes. I really think Billy's doing a great job. I was on his butt last weekend. We had great pit stops at the beginning of the year and all of a sudden last week our pit stops were horrible, they were like in the 15- and 16-second bracket and I said, 'What is going on?' I looked up one time, my jack man fell over a tire, was rolling on pit road, lug nuts were falling off, lug nuts were falling off, all hell was breaking loose. I said, 'I can't have that going into Bristol, man.' I said, ' I gotta be spot on,' and so all week long, they practiced all week, changed stuff around and they came right back to low 13s, 13.20s, 13.30s, just consistent, and I said, 'You all better not forget what you did. Let' not screw it up this week.' They'll be fine. I'm confident. The one neat thing I like about him, the one big job I gave him when he came with us was 'I want world-class pit stops. I want you to be my lead guy to have the fastest doggone pit stops you can get out there.' Because he's been the number-one right-front tire changer forever. His peers have always voted him number one as being the very fastest guy, and now Billy's not doing that, he's on top of the box. But everytime we have a bad stop he's ready jump off the box and shove the guys out of the way and do it himself, which he could still do it."
IT'S BEEN ALMOST ONE YEAR SINCE YOUR LAST WIN... "Yeah, well it's been real frustrating, but I think that thing will come around real quick, I do. We got a lot of brand-new cars coming out, we'll have a brand-new car for Richmond, we'll have a new car for Pocono, we'll have a new car for Charlotte. We got two new speedway cars completed. We're gonna test here for the second race. We'll be back here testing - because I want to win that night race, bad, because this is one of my favorite places. I'm taken one of my best cars to California, taking one of my best cars to Texas, I'll be testing there. Nowadays, when you look at the competition, it just gets tougher every year. I would've never though we'd have 19 different winners last year, like we did. There were guys who won races last year that I never dreamed would've won races. It is tougher, but the good thing is, when I look at last year, you know, you can look at the wins or whatever, but I look at how the car ran, all the time, thick and thin. We led the second-most amount of laps last year. We led a ton of laps. You look at those two doggone Richmond races, they got away from me. Right there, lead 295 laps or something in each race and lose it right at the very end. That Kansas City win got away from me, I sped leaving pit road with a half lap lead. Go into Michigan last year in the second race, had a 35-car length lead and blew an engine. But the performance is there, the old hot rod's running up front and leading races, and I just gotta bring it home. But if I was just out there in the back of the pack all the time, or if I was seventh, eighth, whatever, I'd go, 'Man, this is not getting it,' but it's fast, it's been fast. One thing I gotta do is get my qualifying better."
Wallace Part I