RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Intrepid) - third-place interview "I really thought I had a great shot to win the race. Our problem was early on we ran out of fuel and came in a little short. We couldn't get the car refired and finally...
RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Intrepid) - third-place interview
"I really thought I had a great shot to win the race. Our problem was early on we ran out of fuel and came in a little short. We couldn't get the car refired and finally got it started. We went back out 16th and drove it up to ninth. Right there at the end we two-tired it and took the lead and that was the key move. The car really handled good on two tires. I was racing really hard, trying to keep the lead. Dale Jr. was trying to get his lap back. He got behind me and got me really loose. We fell back to third after that, but that was just racing there.
"Right there at the very end coming at the flag, I guess there was two laps to go. I took the lead down in three. I flew up the race track a little bit. I just could not hold that bottom line. I let the 97 get underneath me. I tried to get him back in three. I drove it in real deep and slid up again and that was it.
"Bobby got past me coming to the line for second. The white flag is waving, the caution flag is out, all hell is breaking loose and I was hustling down through there. I didn't get out of the throttle. There was a big drag racing coming out of turn four and he beat me by six inches. It was a cool race. I had a great hot rod today. We have a winning team right here. Our cars are running great. We just haven't won yet. We're getting closer and closer back to victory lane where we need to be. I think we chipped away pretty good in the points today. That was good.
"I don't think that was everything (stalling car on first pit stop). I already had the lead once. I got through that and took the lead. I guess the biggest problem was when I was racing the lapped car, racing the 8 car. That really screwed me up there. I fell from the lead back to third. That was a big one there. There again, I had an opportunity to get it back and take the lead going into three. That last two laps was probably the most dramatic I'd been in a long time racing because I hustled down in there four wide going into three and everybody was going nuts behind me. I slid up and 97 goes underneath me. It was a cool race. I know the people in the grandstand had to be loving this race. It was exciting. People ask what makes this a better race. I think the race track is maturing a little bit. It's getting grayer. Things are getting slippery.
"Once you see a softer tire out there, once Goodyear and NASCAR finally see fit to soften this tire up you're going to see a really good race then. I know what I'm talking about. These tires nowadays are real, real hard. They're like four or five steps hard. Once we soften them up, it'll get much, much better.
"I saw two or three grooves out there today. It looked real good to me. Last year, it was one groove. In fact, when I was holding Bobby Labonte off I was using the whole race track up. He knew it too. I would go all the way up to the top. The air was everything. You'd lose the air so bad you had to be in the front. It was a great race.
"I never saw the 97 coming at all. When we went down into turn three with two to go and maybe it was Bobby pushing me. I don't know who it was, but somebody pushed me right through there. I took the lead going into three and said, 'man, I'm finally going to win a race.' I was real excited. I went in and that thing pushed up, and I still didn't think the 97 was there. I came off turn four and where the hell did he come from?
"The first three laps after a restart is the toughest part. If you can get through that and get the stuff off your tires and get going.... That's what we kept talking about. If we get through that, that's all right. I knew Dale Jr.'s car was pretty good. When I was leading the race and he got on my bumper, it just about turned me around. That's when I went from first to fourth, but I had another shot to get it back. I should have just gone in that corner a little bit easier.
"All the teams have got money, and all of them have got good people. You look at qualifying and it used to be a second and a half apart when I started doing this. Now the pole can be a 29 flat and last place can be a 29.40. It's that close. It's closer than I've ever seen it. If you win a race nowadays, your planning has been right and you've done right.
"It just looked like he couldn't get it hooked up and I saw him going up and I saw Ryan on the outside. I saw Park still going and Ryan on the outside wall. I didn't know if Steve didn't see him on the outside or what. I went to the bottom of the race track because I thought those two were going to bounce off on me. I looked up in the mirror and I saw everybody spinning, but I could see it coming in the middle of one and two when we started the race. Something went wrong with Steve's car."