Rusty's Last Call from Daytona Monday Aug. 30, 2004. Rusty Wallace Announces Retirement after 2005 Season RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) "I'm not going to regret getting out of the car. It's going to be a hell of a loss in ...
Rusty's Last Call from Daytona
Monday Aug. 30, 2004.
Rusty Wallace Announces Retirement after 2005 Season
RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge)
"I'm not going to regret getting out of the car. It's going to be a hell of a loss in income, but I do a lot of cool things. I'll make it back. Once I'm out, I'm out. The 2005 season will be my last run. I plan on really getting involved with Team Penske. There's a lot I can lend to it, but there's a lot of things I can do that I can't do while I'm in the car. Once I get out of the car I know there's a lot of things I can help the team with. I'll be 100 percent focused on that, my dealerships. There are a lot of things around the country that I want to do.
"I hope I didn't mislead anybody too much when I said I plan to drive a couple more years. I was counting this year. I know everybody wants to get the first story and talk about it, but I really wanted today to be a special day for everybody. I just couldn't spill all the beans right then, so it's this year and next year. That's two. That's my story and I'm sticking to it."
WHEN DID YOU MAKE THE FINAL DECISION TO RETIRE?
"I made the decision, I guess when it was all said and done and there was no turning back, was two months ago. The decision to retire was probably eight months ago and I was on again, off again. I talked to a lot of people. I listened to once you get out it's not that bad. I felt comfortable with it. I'm at peace with myself right now and I feel good about my decision. I know I've got half a year this year and another year next year. I hope I'm healthy and hope I'm driving strong, which I know I will be and get through next year with a lot of victories, hopefully, or at least a couple. Wouldn't that be great, and then I'll be ready.
"Definitely my No. 1 thing as far as my decision was, I've accomplished so much if I just kept going it was just doing more of the same old thing. I won 55 races, so there's 56 and 57. Every race is important and fun to win, but it's not like your first win. It wasn't like my 50th win and it wasn't like my sought after for so long 55th victory that I had. Again, there's a lot of things in life I want to do. I want to play more golf. I want to spend more time with the team. I don't want to live in a motorhome every single weekend at a racetrack. I want to grow the business more. Probably No. 1, I don't want to get hurt. I don't want to push it too far."
WHAT'S GOING TO BE THE HARDEST THING TO LEAVE BEHIND?
"What's going to be hardest to leave behind? Probably the hardest would be getting in the car all the time and racing and stuff like that, being with the guys at the track. A lot of people would say it would be financial things, but that's my own destiny. I've got a current style of life I like living and I don't want to pull away from that too much."
COMMENT ON FINAL CHANCE TO WIN DAYTONA 500
"This is my last shot at the Daytona 500, and I've come close to winning that thing many times. I've got to get really actively involved with that team because I've got to go to Daytona with the best car I've ever had in my life. I've got to have the most horsepower, I've got to have the best car, I've got to be well tested. I've got to have a real commitment from my team to get it right because this is my last one. You're going to see me real focused, very much paying attention to that race. I've won about everywhere. Heck, I felt like I won the Brickyard 400 about five times. How many times have I been leading that race only to finish second? The Daytona 500 is still the granddaddy of them all. It's the race I haven't won, and I'm going to try my (best) to win that one."
WHO WILL TAKE YOUR PLACE BEHIND THE WHEEL?
"Whoever will take my place, that's definitely going to be a decision between myself and Don Miller and Roger Penske and John Erickson. We'll sit and talk about it. I don't think we're in the mood to go through a lot of growing pains. We need to get a hotrod, a young guy who's kicking butt right now and put him in it. Miller Brewing wants to continue on sponsoring the car, but they'd like to have a young hot shot get in it and fill the seat. I told the guys let's not get crazy right now. We've got a year and a half to make that decision. We'll look at some guys out there and see what we can do. There's been absolutely no decision made on any driver at all."
COMMENT ON SAFETY ISSUES
"It was important for me not to have to go through the struggles that some of the guys have gone through. Every week I'm running in the top five and something crazy goes wrong. We were running fourth at Sears Point and ran out of gas. We were running third at Michigan and leading the race at Bristol and ran out of gas. It's just crazy things, and I know I'm at the top of my game. I want to go out on top, and above all I want to spend a lot of time with Patti and the kids, and I don't want to be some invalid or hurt and killed because of something that went wrong.
"I'm very concerned about safety, and it bothered me a lot when Dale got killed because him and I were good friends. He was the guy that every single time I went to the track I looked at him. Even if he qualified 30th, as long as I qualified 29th, I felt good. I felt like I beat the best. There are a lot of good drivers out there right now, no doubt about that, but he was the one I always looked up to. He was probably influential in this decision. In the back of my mind, I probably didn't say much to Mr. Penske or Patti or anything, but that did bug me. I'm thinking how can that happen?
"How safe can you be hitting the wall head on at 200 mph? You can use the best seat belts, best helmets and try everything you possibly can, but there's some things you can't avoid. Hopefully I won't have that problem. Things are safer and we're all doing stuff, the restraint systems and soft walls and all that have been wonderful. To know if you hit a soft wall right now and it takes 40 percent of the impact off your body is pretty neat. You're still running fast."
TALK ABOUT SOME FAVORITE MOMENTS ON THE TRACK
"I guess I've had a lot of favorite moments for sure. Winning the championship was good. The wild bump and run in the '89 Winston was crazy. I guess one thing that really sticks out in my mind, and there were many, but the race at Michigan when the track was repaved but it wasn't cured up real good and it was coming up real bad. I remember I led that race all day long and I ran out of fuel. I hit pit road and my crew chief then, Bubby Parrott, was squirting ether down the carburetor trying to get that thing lit and trying to get that thing running. The whole team was pushing me down and that baby relit and they kicked it in gear and Buddy got his shirt caught on the car. I pulled him down pit road about 20 feet and he did about six barrel rolls. We had 12 laps to go and I'm running 12th. I passed a car every single lap. I went into turn three with the checkered flag waving and Dale Earnhardt was leading the race. Coming off of turn four I passed him and won the race. That was a heck of a race. I'll never forget that one. I don't know what year that was, but it was a dramatic race. All the guys peeled Buddy Parrott up off the ground, and he was bumped and bruised and bleeding, sitting in victory lane with his hat on sideways like he had been beat to death, so it was a good one."
DO YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF AN OUTSPOKEN DRIVER?
"I speak the truth. I've learned when to say it and when not. I've tried to carry the torch that Dale left behind and tried to be a good representative with all the rest of the drivers. There are a lot of good ones out there right now. I know Mike and John Darby and Mr. France trust me when I say something I believe in. I think they trust that. I've got a lot of things planned. I've got three or four things in concrete. I'm very interested in doing TV. That will be one thing I'll probably be involved in. I haven't talked to anybody about it yet, but it's in the back of my mind."
WHEN DID YOUR RIVALRY WITH EARNHARDT GET STARTED?
"The Dale and I story started in 1980 when he won the Atlanta 500 and I finished second the first time in a NASCAR car. Roger was on the car. It was a lot of fun. That was a cool race. Then I go get my butt kicked in about four more of those races. I decided I needed to go out and get some more experience. Finally Roger and I met back up later on, but I'd say some of those wild times I remember with Earnhardt was when we'd be riding together. One wreck in particular was at Rockingham. He was a lap down. I was leading the race, and he was trying to get his lap back. We went flying into turn three, and I'll never forget it. I lost the car and got into his quarterpanel. He slid completely sideways. He's got his rear end completely backed up against the wall. I'm totally on the brakes trying to get stopped to let him save it. I looked up and I promise you I saw his eyes because he had those old bubble goggles, and I saw the whites of his eyes. His eyes got so big. I saw him jam it in first gear, and he burned rubber from the top of the track all the way down trying to run through the side of me because he was so mad at me. When I saw that, I nailed the throttle, and who comes by but Sterling Marlin. He drove right through the side of Sterling Marlin. I can go on forever with stories like that. After that race I never will forget running up the grandstands and going over to the other side to get in my airplane and go home. Three ladies chased me down with their bag of souvenirs trying to hit me in the head they were so mad at me. Those days are gone. Nowadays the sport is a lot different. Some people care about those stories and some of the young ones don't care about 'em, but that's OK."
ARE YOU PROUD OF YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS?
"I'm real proud of what I've done for the sport, and I'm going to continue doing all I can for the sport. A lot of that stuff gets overshadowed right now with the hardcore racing. A lot of things are going on and some of the young guns showing up and all that. In the back of my mind I chuckle a little bit because I started that. I made that happen, and I did this and I did that. It feels good saying that. Again, I'm honest with my beliefs in it, and I want to continue in the sport and make everybody happy."
ARE YOU STILL IN FAVOR OF THE SOFTER TIRES?
"I've been a big advocate of soft tires and shorter spoilers. I think it's going to make for better racing. I might be wrong, but I don't think so."
COMMENT ON 1989 CHAMPIONSHIP
"That was a wild one with Barry and Beadle and the Dodson family and Harold Elliott and all those guys. It was an unbelievable year. I was the first driver to win the R.Y. Reynolds $1 million payoff. I'll never forget sitting there watching a blimp flying around saying I'd won a million dollars. I couldn't believe that. It was an amazing championship. I guess I'm proud of it. I guess I set the standard. Nobody had parties at the Waldorf before. I was the first one to have a big one there, and they still talk about that one. A lot of firsts in my career that I feel happy about.."
WAS THERE A DEFINING MOMENT ON RETIREMENT?
"There really wasn't that one defining moment. I guess the defining moment was when I was at Action Performance in Phoenix, Ariz., and we hired all these people to run this tour, and then when we asked Mr. France to help us put it together, I said, 'oh boy, I can't turn back now.' I guess that was the defining moment."
HOW DID YOU PICK THE RETIREMENT ANNOUNCEMENT LOCATION?
"We thought about Rockefeller center in New York City. We thought about the South Lawn at the White House. I said, 'I'm a racecar driver, and that's what I do for a living. The right place to have it is at the World Center of Speed -- Daytona.' This is my career and this is the headquarters, so I wanted to do it live from here."
DO YOU THINK YOUR RETIREMENT WILL AFFECT OTHER DRIVERS?
"I feel like drivers are going to retire earlier. I think there's more money out there. I think there's more opportunity to not have to go as long as we did. I'd say that that will happen."