RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Intrepid) NOTE: Wallace will make career start No. 608 on Sunday. The 46-year-old St. Louis, Mo., native is riding a 71-race winless streak, the longest of his career. His last victory came at California...
RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Intrepid)
NOTE: Wallace will make career start No. 608 on Sunday. The 46-year-old St. Louis, Mo., native is riding a 71-race winless streak, the longest of his career. His last victory came at California Speedway on April 29, 2001. Coming off an eighth-place finish two weeks ago at Martinsville, Va., that moved him to 16th in the series standings, Wallace will start seventh in Sunday's Auto Club 500.
"Generally we'll run a 45-minute practice on Saturday and then have a break and run another 45-minute practice. By doing that there really isn't a lot of rubber on the race track like you're going to experience on Sunday. By running this first practice we'll get a good idea of where we're at and what we need for the second practice session. It's different here. They're going to run a race between the two practice sessions, and that should put some extra rubber on the race track. That might give us a little better idea of how the car is going to handle on Sunday. It's a little different than what we're used to and it might play into everyone's favor.
"This is the last race I won two years ago. I've got a great car, and I can't wait to try to win it again. I think I can do it. I'm looking forward to practice and see how everything is going to feel and try a lot of different things. Bill Elliott went through a four-year slump and Earnhardt went through a year and a half slump. You just keep on doing it and it'll pop. I'm not in a performance slump. I'm in a not having won slump. A lot of people get that confused. A lot of people say, 'I'd love to have the year you're having.' And I say, 'my year stinks compared to my standards.' I want to win. As soon as we win, it'll make a lot of people happy, that's for sure.
"This is a real horsepower race track, and I've got a lot of power under the hood. Let's hope that's going to play in our favor. The Dodge has been really good. Everywhere we've gone, I feel like we've made more power than we did last year. It's handled good, and the Dodge technicians have been really helpful with the wind tunnel they've got and all the extra technical advice they've given us over what we had last year. It's really neat. The Ford guys were really good to us, but the Dodge guys are really, really good to us.
"It wasn't much of a learning curve switching to Dodge. It's just that things were different, different body locations this year. The brand and the engine didn't really have a big effect. It was just the body location. We had different tire combinations and another year at the track with things constantly changing.
"Winning a pole brings you some short term morale booster. It gets you fired up and then you start the race and it's another race again and you're either running really good or really bad. All of a sudden everything you did on Friday goes out the window. We're starting seventh, and that's a great starting position. I think I qualified eighth here last year. You can win easy from seventh.
"At Martinsville, I led for awhile and ran in the top three almost all day long. Right there at the end on a very key pit stop, I came in and they couldn't get the jack under the car. I lost five positions and only got four of them back. I ended up finishing eighth, and I really thought I had a shot to win the race. That damn jack not going under the car really killed me. Nowadays you've got to be perfect. You've got to have a car that handles well that can come back from all kind of problems, a bad pit stop or getting a lap down, but if everything is going smooth, everything still has to go right. All our guys are focused this week. They've got a lot of pressure on them, and they know it. We've got to perform. We've got to get the job done. I'm putting extra pressure on myself but not undue pressure. Sometimes people perform badly under pressure, but sometimes it's time to get it on and right now it's time for us to be really focused and get these victories.
"I've never gone two years in my life without winning in any series. Because of that, you've got to look around and make sure you've got the right support staff behind you and make sure you've got the right people behind you and make sure everybody is doing the job. The sponsors don't want to hear anything else. They want to win.
"Rockingham was a good race for us. The car really flew. We had a big lead and I was really optimistic to be running that good in only the second race of the year. We had a good car at Atlanta and I got it in the wall all by myself. I've had some ups and downs. The car didn't handle right at Texas. We missed the setup there, but it's been pretty close everywhere else.
"Bill Wilburn (crew chief) and I are working as good as we can. He's feeling the pressure like I am. He doesn't like hearing that he's the only crew chief I've ever had that I haven't won with. There's pressure on him, and there's pressure on me to make sure I keep making the right decisions. I think he is the right decision. I think the competition has changed that much and it's that much tougher to win. The first thing I told him when he came on board was that I wanted first-class pit stops. Last year he got a C on that. This year he's getting an A. Bill made a guarantee the first of the year that we'd win this season. I hope he's right."