Tuesday, Aug. 17,2004. Dodge Motorsports Teleconference RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) NOTE: Wallace, a 48-year-old St. Louis native, has more wins than any other active driver at Michigan International Speedway with five. He ...
Tuesday, Aug. 17,2004.
Dodge Motorsports Teleconference
RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge)
NOTE: Wallace, a 48-year-old St. Louis native, has more wins than any other active driver at Michigan International Speedway with five. He also leads all active drivers with 15 top fives at the 2.0-mile track in the Irish Hills. Wallace will also compete in Saturday's Busch race at MIS. It'll be his first Busch start since Oct. 19, 1997 at Fontana. Wallace's last double dip weekend with Cup and Busch came at Lowe's Motor Speedway on Oct. 7 and Oct. 8, 1989 -- Wallace's championship Cup season. He has 34 Busch starts with eight top fives. He finished second at Daytona in a Busch race in 1989 and second at Darlington in Busch competition in 1985.
THREE OF YOUR WINS AT MICHIGAN WERE IN MILLER-SPONSORED RACES. COMMENT ON THAT.
"I've thought about that. Maybe we should make 'em all Miller races. This is an important weekend for me. I'm running my personal Busch car that I own. We tested up there last Monday and Tuesday. The Cup car is in really good shape, so I'll be double dipping this weekend. It'll be a real busy week, but we'll be up for it."
WHAT'S YOUR THOUGHT PROCESS OF RUSTY WALLACE RIGHT NOW?
"My thought process right now, I've had an unbelievable year. Yeah, we finally got back to victory lane, but I would have never thought we'd had this many DNFs with crazy things going on. This past weekend we had ourselves in great position and then lost the transmission. At Sears Point we ran out of gas. We blew a motor at Michigan. It goes on and on with the crazy things that have happened, but the good thing is the performance has been there. The car has been running great all year long. We just can't seem to close the deal. I don't know what it is. With 14 or 15 races left to go or whatever we've got I feel like we're going to win some more races this year and move on up. Mathematically we're still in it, and I'm not a quitter, so we're going to keep digging and try to get ourselves in the top 10."
COMMENT ON REPORT THAT NEXT YEAR WILL BE YOUR LAST
"I'll tell you this. Right now, my mind is 100 percent on racing. If I do make that call, one of these days, you guys will be the first to know because I want to celebrate it in a proper way and have a good time. Right now, I'm not prepared to talk about retirement."
BUSCH FIELD AT MICHIGAN LOOKS LIKE AN ALL-STAR FIELD
"Yeah, the Busch race will be pretty tough this week. The reason I'm running it, Jamie McMurray is driving my Busch car all year long and he had two previous commitments he had to do for the newly-designed Chip Ganassi team. That was to run Phoenix and Michigan. I was going to have to put a driver in for those two races, and I said to heck with it, I'll do it myself. I was able to go test at Michigan and got the car running good and racing good. I did a lot of qualifying attempts and got it feeling good there. I feel like I'm prepared. Bobby Labonte is going to be there. Kevin Harvick is going to be there. A lot of Cup drivers are going to be in it. It's going to be a fast and furious Busch race, no doubt about that."
HOW DO YOU BALANCE YOUR TIME?
"That's a great question. I'm not doing a real good job at it right now. I find myself doing a lot of things I probably shouldn't do. I say yes to a lot of things because I'm trying to do all the right things for my career and sponsors. Aviation has helped me a ton, being able to move around the country and get things done. Many times I've made two or three stops in one day because of aviation. I'm trying to do more quality things instead of just a ton of things. I'm trying to integrate things also and sit back and see which ones are important."
COMMENT ON CONFLICTING SPONSORS IN VICTORY LANE
"To me when you win a race it's all about victory. It's never crossed my mind to guard this or knock this off or do this or that. Personally, I think you're getting a little cocky when you do things like that. I think it needs to be celebrated. You need to have your crew with you and your family with you and have a big time doing it instead of worrying about turning it into a commercial event. I'm not all for what's been going on with that stuff."
ARE YOU JUST RUNNING TWO BUSCH RACES?
"I'll be running the Busch race in Michigan and Phoenix. We'll be at California with our Busch car, but Jamie McMurray will be driving it."
WHAT DID YOU LEARN TESTING BUSCH CAR?
"I learned a lot of things. I got to work with every single one of my employees. We've hired 'em all and they're all great guys, but I've never got to interact with them on a test basis or right there at the racetrack looking at everything making sure it's looking good. This time I'm driving the car, and I got to say, 'let's change this spring or let's change this shock.' I got to see every one of them work, and I was really impressed with what I saw. Blake (Bainridge, crew chief) did a great job. We had a really intense two-day test session at Michigan. I came back and Roger Penske called me and asked me what I learned. He asked if I learned anything for the Cup car. I said, 'I don't know, but I learned a lot of things.' Now I understand why these guys like to run Cup and Busch. There are things you can learn. The cars have different wheel bases and different horsepower, but now they've got the weight closer. I was able to make changes that I think can cross over to the Cup car, and it might benefit it."
COMMENT ON JAMIE McMURRAY DRIVING YOUR CAR WHEN YOU DO FINALLY RETIRE
"Felix Sabates and Chip Ganassi are my personal friends. Those guys are great people, and I would never do anything like that even if anybody on my team would want me to do that. I'm honored enough that Chip was able to let Jamie drive my Busch car. No way would I go back down the road and try to steal Jamie from Chip and Felix, and that's just the way it is. All the internet reports, everybody can go update their reports right now from what I just said. Jamie's got a contract with Felix for the next two or three years at least. Once his contract runs out, maybe we'd be interested, but no way in the world am I going to get in a bidding match to try to steal Jamie away from those guys. Felix and Chip are just too doggone good friends of mine."
ANY INTERESTING STORIES ABOUT WHEN YOU CHANGED TEAMS?
"After I won the championship (1989) my first opportunity was to drive for Junior Johnson. I was going to drive for Junior and at the last minute decided to start our own team with Roger Penske. It's been real successful and turned out well for us. Everybody is always trying to position themselves to get the best driver in the car they can, at the right price, too. Right now I'm in the car. I'm driving the No. 2 car for at least a couple more years. Our stable of drivers is safe right now."
IS THERE A LOT OF BEHIND-THE-SCENES TAMPERING WITH DRIVERS?
"A lot of these things with McMurray got started because he's driving my Busch car. Everybody just put 2 and 2 together and came up with 12. A lot of rumors got started like that just because Jamie is driving my car. They think I'm going to retire right now and stuff like that. There's no truth to that. As far as behind the scenes, I really can't comment on that. We really don't have any behind the scenes type stuff to talk about."
COMMENT ON RACING UNDER THE LIGHTS AT DARLINGTON
"It's going to be exciting when they turn the lights on at Darlington. It's going to be much better to race at night there. The track will be cooler. It's going to be not as slick. That place is always miserable during the day there. I think it's the hottest place in the world when we run that Southern 500. One of the last times down there I lost 11 pounds. It was 104 degrees when we started the race and I'm thinking I'd rather be dead than be here right now. When they said they were going to put lights up and run at night, I was all for that."
DO YOU THINK DARLINGTON HAS LOST SOME OF ITS MAGIC?
"Yeah, I'd say it has. It's a place I enjoy going it. It's fun, but look at the new California Speedway or Texas Motor Speedway. They're big, big superspeedways compared to Darlington. Darlington is still the same track. There's a lot of nice people down there, and it's a real historical track to run on, but it's in dire need of some work. The track needs repaving really bad. It's awful rough, real course on tires. It's getting there, putting the lights in. I don't think it's going to be capable of supporting two races a year with all the competition it's got out there right now. ISC owns the track, and I think they made the right call doing what they did. They would have made the wrong call if they had taken all the races away, but I'm glad we've got a big race down there. It's a fun place to race, and when you win there you really feel like you've done something."
ARE MECHANICAL DRIVERS A DYING BREED? DOES THAT TAKE SOME PERSONALITY OUT OF THE SPORT?
"Some drivers don't have much of a personality and they'll be that way for a long time. Unfortunately their careers won't grow because of that. I'm a mechanical guy. I don't know how to race other than that. I try to make a lot of the chassis calls. That's one thing I liked about McMurray when he came over to the Busch team. He's really mechanical. He's really into the shocks and springs. He knows exactly what's in his car. He's really involved in it. A lot of guys are really good drivers but they've put it 100 percent with the crew chief and engineers and stay out of it. I just can't do it that way. I'm not going to agree that that's a dying breed. I think the tougher the sport gets that these guys are going to have to get back in the game and understand more about the cars rather than saying, 'I don't know, but I'm a great driver, fix it for me.'"
DO YOU THINK IT'S BECAUSE SOME DRIVERS DIDN'T HAVE TO WORK ON THEIR CARS EARLY IN THEIR CAREERS?
"Mark Martin, myself, McMurray, Matt Kenseth, those guys all grew up in the American Speed Association (ASA) circuit and we drove our own trucks and trailers. We designed our own cars. We built them, packed wheel bearings, understood the shocks, really knew all about the car. Some of these drivers coming in now from other forms of racing have never done that before. There's nothing wrong with that. It wasn't put in front of them. It wasn't how they had a race, but it's how we had a race. It's how we taught ourselves to do that. If you're going to be a consistent up front running in this sport, you've got to be well rounded and understand all that stuff."
ELABORATE ON WORKING WITH BLAKE BAINRIDGE AT BUSCH TEST
"Blake Bainridge is a crew chief a lot of guys haven't heard about. He's worked with Joe Gibbs and a lot of other teams. He's part of the Alabama Gang down there with Bobby and Donnie and those guys. I heard about him, interviewed him and hired him. He's 24 or 25 years old and a real new-age style crew chief, really into computers and engineering. I got to work with him the first time, and I'm glad I got to work with him. I had a lot of questions about him, but when I worked with him at Michigan, he was making changes and suggesting changes that I drove and felt. It was really cool. I'd never experienced it. I've got a winner in Blake Bainidge, no doubt about that. I got to take a look at it first hand. I hope we can go to Michigan this weekend and have a really good run with that Busch car for Blake and the team. We've really built a world-class Busch operation. Now it's time to lay some numbers on the board. We're in the process right now of putting a lineup together for next year to run the whole Busch Series. We'll probably use two drivers to do it. Blake and Barry Dodson will definitely be the guys leading it. Barry is our general manager and Blake is the crew chief."
HOW DID BLAKE REACT TO YOU DRIVING THE CAR?
"He was excited because Billy Parker is the kid I hired to start with. He's a great kid. He's good, but we wrecked some. We had a tough time explaining to Billy how the car was handling. We had a couple of wrecks, four or five wrecks, and I finally said to keep the team morale high and sponsors happy we've got to make a driver change right now. I really believe in Billy, but when I got in the car and Jamie got in the car it was a breath of fresh air for Blake. He felt he had two guys who could drive the car, and he got it rolling."
WHAT WILL BE THE TOUGHEST THING TO LET GO OF WHEN YOU RETIRE?
"This retirement thing from racing is going around in my head all the time. I guess the toughest thing I'll have to give up is the pure enjoyment of racing. I love racing and I still love racing. I feel like I'm at the top of my game right now. You wouldn't know it from the poor finishes we have because of mechanical problems, but the performance of the car has been good. What will happen, I'll have to weigh what's going on. My kids are growing up. Steven is racing right now. I've got the car business I'm heavily involved in. We're building a new state of the art new Penske race shop. I won't to be more involved with that. There will be a time when it crosses. You think about things like that. Right now, I finally broke into victory lane at Martinsville and after that I knew I could win a lot more this year, I would have never thought I'd go to Talladega and get caught up in a crash. Go to California and get caught up in a crash, blow a motor here, blow a motor there. I never dreamed I'd be 17th or 18th in the points. I thought I'd be eighth or better easy, but it didn't happen. Right now I'm clawing my way back to the front. My main goal right now is to make hay out of every single year I can, but I don't' have all the answers about the retirement thing. It'll be something I'll talk to Penske, my wife, Don Miller and we'll have big discussions about it. I don't plan on quitting right now. I'll go for another couple of years, but I'm not guaranteeing anything after that. That 38-race schedule will wear a person down. There's a lot of life out there rather than living in a motorhome every weekend at a racetrack."
COMMENT ON UPCOMING RACE AT BRISTOL
"I don't think it can get any wilder. The night race at Bristol is always a wild race. I know I'm taking a new car there. Ryan is up there right now testing. My Busch car was up there last week testing with Jamie driving it. I'll take the new car with the same setup I almost won the race with. I know I'll have to adjust a little bit on it, but I'm going to run the race like I'm oblivious to the points. I'm going to drive hard and be on my crew to make some good stops. Larry knows he's got to make some great calls. Track position is important. You can pass at that place like you can't at some other places, so that will be good."
COMMENT ON LAST 10 RACES. WHAT WILL ROLE OF GUYS WHO ARE OUT OF THE RUNNING BE?
"You'll see people probably letting their teammates by, but you're not going to see any blocking. If you try to block, you're going to get your butt knocked off the racetrack. That's just the way it's going to happen. There's no blocking going to happen in this deal. There'll be a lot of who-do going on like letting your teammate go and racing another guy harder, but as far as blocking, that won't work."
COMMENT ON CUP DRIVERS IN BUSCH RACE
"We're out there pounding the pavement hard for sponsorships and stuff. These sponsors don't want to get involved with anybody unless they know the car can run up front. They want to be involved with good drivers. That's just the way it is. These things take megabucks to operate. It's really, really hard to sell sponsors. The sponsors want it all. They want to know they've got a good owner and driver and when they go to the racetrack and they're going to invite 300 or 400 guests, they want to know their car is going to be in the race. I'm looking at it in a whole different light than I used to look at it, and it's purely financial. Those sponsors don't want to go out and run second. They want quality people in there, and it's different now."