NOTE: Five Dodge drivers finished in the top 10 at Dover, including all three Dodge Charger "Chase for the NASCAR Nextel Cup" entries: Rusty Wallace's No. 2 Dodge Charger notched its second consecutive top 10 run in The Chase, moving him up...
NOTE: Five Dodge drivers finished in the top 10 at Dover, including all three Dodge Charger "Chase for the NASCAR Nextel Cup" entries:
Rusty Wallace's No. 2 Dodge Charger notched its second consecutive top 10 run in The Chase, moving him up two spots to the second position in the points standings after finishing third at Dover. Wallace trails Chase leader, Jimmie Johnson, by just seven points. Wallace's Penske teammate, Ryan Newman, finished fifth, helping him maintain his third-place ranking in the Chase, where he sits just 12 points behind the leader. Jeremy Mayfield, Dodge's third entry in the 2005 Chase for the NASCAR Nextel Cup, earned a seventh-place finish that moved him up a spot to seventh overall in the standings.
RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) -- Finished 3rd
"I had the restart, which was all I could do. But, second gear was just a little too low, and those guys would beat me pretty good on the restarts, and I was spinning the tires and all that. But, I had a good handling car. It was a little too tight, but other than that it was a good run. I'm happy we brought it home with a top-three finish. So, for our last start at Dover that's pretty respectable.
"The crazy thing is I'm probably driving right now better than I ever drove in my life. I guess I don't need to be retiring, but hey, I've made the decision to do that. Still the thing I want to do is go out on top of my game, and I think we're doing a good job out there for these fans. I really love these fans, and I appreciate the job they're doing, pulling behind me."
Is it getting any tougher to step away from a sport you're still very good at?
"I think about that a lot. I really do, because this year I'm having better runs than I've had in a long time. It seems like every time we're on the racetrack we're top-five or top-six at worst. And, I'm driving better than I have in a long, long time. So it does make you think twice. But, on the other hand, I've made the right decision. I want to go out on the top of my game, and I'm doing that right now. There's a lot of good young drivers coming up to replace it. I'm really happy with the way I'm running. Heck, what am I second, by seven points? That's very strong, so I'm pretty happy with that. But, I do second-guess myself. But, I always second-guess myself, I just don't tell anybody."
Talk about the problems you had today, getting in and out of pit road...
"The problem I had -- usually you try to pick around somebody that you know is going to go a lap down, or somebody who's not as forward... So the problem I had is that Jimmie was pitted right behind me, so I had to come in at a big angle. And when I came in at a big angle to try to clear him and give him enough room to get out, the No. 38 car would come in and get me blocked in. It wasn't anybody's fault. It was just at that particular time there was three really, really good just cars compacted onto this really, really tight pit road. I had to back up six times today to get out of my pit area. So, it was just amazing how much time I was losing. Every time I'd come in I'd have to put it in reverse and back up. It was getting pretty frustrating, to say the least. So, it was just driving me crazy. To have to back up six times to get out of the pits, I'm like, 'Man, we screwed up here.' But, finally at the very end I was able to stop short enough to barely clear the No. 38 car pulling out. All day long, I guess the biggest problems I had throughout the day were definitely in the pits. The pit stops were fast, but I just couldn't get out of the pits."
Why are you driving so well right now?
"The reason it's happening is because of Larry Carter, my crew chief. There was two years, for, I guess 16 straight years I never was out of the top 10 or the top-seven I don't believe. And then I had a couple of new crew chiefs in there, I got a new crew chief in there, and we just kind of lost our rhythm. We couldn't get the cars handling. We couldn't get nothing right. We had a lot of DNF's. We had a lot of blown engines. I remember last year we had four transmission failures and three engines -- crazy stuff. And this year, we really just, all that rhythm that Larry and I worked on last year, this year it just got better and better. Our cars are handling better. We're really up on everything. We've definitely got the best car in the Penske stable right now. Our cars are definitely running really running good out of that bunch. But, I've got to hand it to Larry Carter. Everybody respects him. They love working for that guy. I think he's one of the best crew chiefs in the garage area right now. He's a big, strong guy. He just demands respect. The guys work for him. Anything I want out of that car, he'll make it happen, no matter how tough it is. So, I'd say the reason for the performance is definitely having the whole entire team intact. The whole entire team, we've kind of found our mojo, I'd guess you'd say."
We're you laying back on the final restart to see what would happen between Johnson and Busch?
"No, I wasn't doing that. My second gear in my transmission was really killing me today. I had a really old second gear, and when I'd go to third gear there was just too much of a spread, and the guys when they'd grab third gear they'd pull away from me. It was just hurting me really bad on those restarts. But, no, I wasn't laying back. I was hoping what would happen is what Kyle talked about. He was going to try to make him loose, get him up the track. I was going to try to follow through. Everybody was doing that to each other all day long. They were just sticking their nose right up underneath the tail and making the guys really walk the tail pretty bad. I saw all of us out there doing that today.
On Kurt Busch's position in the Chase:
"I'm really not looking at the competition, I'm looking at what I'm doing right now, and I'm seven points out of the lead. And that sounds better -- seven points -- than 174 out. So, I'm pretty excited about my run and what I've got going on right now, to tell you the truth. And this is the last hurrah for me in this car before I turn it over to Kurt. And, it's really running good right now. He's going to get a good ride.
Is it hard to stay calm at this point in the season, at this point in your career?
"I'm excited and calm, too. I've told everybody, I'm just treating every single race like it's the last race. I'm not looking three and four races down the road. I'm not looking at next year, because there is no next year. And I've taken that same strategy every single race now. And I think 20 straight races now it's been all top-five or top-10 finishes. The car has been that strong and the consistency has been that good. So, every single race to me is the most important thing in the world right now. The toughest one in all of the Chase for all the competitors is the one coming up next week. Nobody knows what's going to happen there. That could shake up everything. Once we get out of that one, I think everybody will feel like we've skirted a bullet there."
Is it a done deal that Kurt will drive the No. 2 Dodge Charger next year?
"Not that I know of. I know those lawyers are still fighting around, trying to get him out of that deal. I know he's going to be driving a car, and I know he wants to drive the car. I was with him last week up in Nantucket, golfing, and he wants to drive the car. They'll work it out, I'm pretty confident something will happen. Maybe not though -- I'm not Houdini. The deal about this, is when I owned the team I knew a lot of what was going on, but now I've sold all my interest in Team Penske back to Roger, and he's keeping that stuff very, very top secret everything going on. And I don't even want to know about it, to tell you the truth."
Did Helton's message before the race resonate with you at all?
"It did with me. We built this sport. It's a first-class sport. We set examples out there whether we're supposed to or not. And some of the stuff that happened out there last week wasn't cool, no doubt about that. And Helton will basically tell you that there's 50 guys who show up at every racetrack and he can get the job done with 43 of them, no problem at all. I'll never forget a long time ago, he said, 'We don't need you.' They've told every competitor, 'We don't need you guys. Go ahead and do your own deal. We can get this job done without you.' He didn't say that this time, but I knew exactly what he meant because I've heard that a long time ago. They just want some respect going on. We've got multi-million dollar sponsors and 150,000 people in the grandstands. He just wants all of us to act like men and represent NASCAR in the proper way. That's all he's asking."