RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) NOTE: Wallace, a 49-year-old veteran from St. Louis, will make his 706th and final career start in Sunday's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race at Homestead. Wallace has 55 victories, 202 top fives and 349 top...
RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger)
NOTE: Wallace, a 49-year-old veteran from St. Louis, will make his 706th and final career start in Sunday's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race at Homestead. Wallace has 55 victories, 202 top fives and 349 top 10s to go along with his 1984 rookie of the year title and 1989 series championship. He's eighth in The Chase, 399 points behind leader Tony Stewart.
ARE YOU EMOTIONAL YET ABOUT YOUR LAST START?
"A little bit, not totally yet. Right now my head is in it to do the best job I possibly can. I'd still like to have a shot to win my last race. I tested here and I tested good. I feel like I'm really prepared. I'm not sentimental yet. Once qualifying gets going on and all the accolades start happening and all the videos start playing and all that stuff, then it'll probably hit me. The drivers meeting, that'll be a tough one there, and then the start of the race, but it hasn't hit me exactly yet, but as the week goes on it will."
HAS FOCUS BEEN A PROBLEM?
"No, focus has never been a problem for me. I feel like I'm real focused right now. I'm thinking about getting the right amount of practice done today. I'm thinking about all kind of different things, mechanically. I'm really not thinking about the retirement, the racing aspect of it right now. I'm really not. It's going to be emotional. I feel like I'm a pretty tough guy, but it's going to be hard to hold it all back at the very end of this deal."
SUM UP RUSTY'S LAST CALL
"Rusty's Last Call has been a fabulous year, it really has been. We were locked in the top 10 two races before the thing was over. We went to Richmond and finished fifth. We went on to Loudon and finished sixth (and third at Dover to move into second place in the standings after the first two Chase races). We had a bunch of great runs and all of a sudden the world comes crashing in. All the things that could go wrong went wrong -- loose lugnuts, flat tires, miscue on a pit stop. It was like five races in a row -- bam, bam, bam, bam , bam -- ripped me right out of this point thing. It's been a really tough deal, but all year long it's been wonderful. How can you go all year long with no problems at all and then the world comes crashing in with five to go? It happened. That's the way it is I guess."
HAS THERE BEEN A SPECIAL HIGHLIGHT THIS SEASON?
"They were all highlights. We've had a bunch of great runs. Martinsville was a major disappointment, running second with 10 laps to go and get spun out. Weird things happen. The highlight has been all the consistent great runs and locking up my spot in The Chase for the Championship with two races to go. That was my goal, get myself back in the top 10 where we've always been and we did that. Three races into the thing and we're still second in the points. Then everything broke down."
WHY HAS THE SPORT EVOLVED LIKE IT HAS?
"It's popular and it just keeps getting more popular. The faces keep changing. New guys keep coming in. There's a lot of surprises as far as who's running good. I see young guys, 19 and 20-year-old kids like Kyle Busch last week doing really great jobs. I see sponsors come and go. We see new race tracks come on. It's a constant marketing machine. Somebody is selling something all the time and somebody is cutting a deal with somebody behind a corner and a lot of stuff is happening."
WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WHEN IT'S OVER?
"I'm not going to do anything until after Thanksgiving. I've got a couple of appearances in a row, and then we're going to take some more time off. We're putting some game plans together. I'll be working on my television stuff. I'll be working on the Busch team getting it revamped, getting it competitive like it needs to be where it hasn't been. I'm changing my number back. I'm getting my 66 back that I loaned to Biffle for a year. Stephen is going to be racing it and Jamie McMurray is going to be racing it. Even though he's driving a Ford he'll still be driving my Busch car. I'll be focused and getting all my priorities in order and loaning some things out that I've had before that I really don't need right now."
HOW EMOTIONAL DO YOU THINK YOU'LL GET SUNDAY?
"It depends on what they do. At Bristol, Bruton Smith and Humpy Wheeler and Jeff Byrd and the guys went crazy. They named grandstands after me, built my own trophies, video tributes. A lot of race tracks have been really, really good and have done a lot of cool things. Then there's been some big, big, big tracks that have done silly things like Daytona gave me a three-wheel bicycle. I didn't know how to take that. Then I laughed and said whatever. Then you go to a place like Charlotte that names highways and roads after you. I don't know what Homestead is going to do. It's such a big race, this last race for the championship, so I don't know if they'll do a lot. If they don't I'll understand."
WHAT DO YOU PRIDE YOURSELF ON MOST?
"The thing I pride myself on right now is I think I'm the only racecar driver that's officially retired at the top of his game, competitive and go out with this style of deal. A lot of guys have not wanted to do that -- Ricky Rudd didn't want to do it, Bill Elliott didn't want to do it that way. Darrell Waltrip had a real neat tour. Richard Petty did a big tour. He did a great tour and really gave back to the fans. Since Richard, I think I'm really the only one that went the way it's going. I'm so grateful to be in the top 10 in the points with all the media and all the fans behind me. This particular tour is one that hasn't happened in a long time like this."
HAVE THE PERSONALITIES IN RACING CHANGED?
"Nowadays you've got to be a little more squeaky clean than we did in the past. We had a lot more fun in the past, that's for sure, but we've got to be careful of the things we do today. I'm not involved in the Kurt Busch thing right now. We've all done some weird things that people don't know about probably. The guy didn't get a DUI. He got a citation for reckless driving. All I can tell you is before you throw grenades (his way) you'd better look in the mirror because it might happen to you one of these days. Payback is a son of a gun now. I've been in that game before."
HAS THE SPORT LOST SOME OF ITS PERSONALITY?
"Yeah, it's lost some of its personality. The whole world has. There's a magnifying glass on a lot of people nowadays and you guys have got to do things a little more proper."
WHO DO YOU THINK WILL WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP?
"I think it's either going to be the 48 or 20. I think it will be. It seems like every championship I've been in something always goes wrong. I wouldn't doubt if those guys aren't freaking out and struggling and their cars are not handling and they've got loose lugnuts and it's a doggone disaster until the end and somebody squeaks by by a couple of points."
DO ANY OF THE YOUNG DRIVERS REMIND YOU OF YOURSELF?
"No. I don't see anybody. I work really hard with the sponsors and really hard to grow the sport and really hard paying attention to the car. I don't see anybody doing the whole thing like I did. The sport wasn't as popular back then as it is now, and the demands weren't as high. I think we did a lot of things. Nowadays the guys are getting selective, and I'm not liking that part. A lot of these young drivers are very selective on what they'll do and it's real easy for them to say I'm not going to do this or I'm not going to do that unless you make an appointment with me. It was never that way with me. It was sitting on the back of the truck or back of the pickup truck saying let's knock this out and have fun doing it. Now there's demand for a lot of things. I'm not used to it, and I don't think I'll ever get used to it. It was more fun back then, but I'm going out at the right time. I'm comfortable doing what I'm doing."
WILL YOU STILL DO APPEARANCES FOR MILLER?
"I've got another seven years with Miller Brewing. I resigned with about six more companies as official spokesman. I'll be the official spokesman for Dodge, Visa, Comcast, Carnival Cruise Lines, Miller Brewing Co. just to name a few."
WHAT DOES KURT BUSCH DO NOW TO REBUILD HIS IMAGE?
"Mr. Penske is just going to have to help him through that one. If they ask me to help I'll probably help, but they haven't asked me about that one. I built my reputation on my own way of doing things. My deal is my deal. I'm not really willing to share it."
COMMENT ON BEING PICKED AS COMEBACK DRIVER OF THE YEAR
"I'm glad they picked me as that. It's an honor my peers would pick me as that. It means a lot to me, and I think our team has earned that. We went from being a great team to having two tough years. Now we're back on track. We haven't won, but I hope I can fix that on Sunday. We've really paid attention to handling. I remember it vividly. It seems like only yesterday we were at Daytona announcing I was going to retire a year and a half ago. Now it's like somebody pushed a button and it's now. I can't believe how fast time flies."
ARE YOU STILL WORKING ON YOUR TV DEAL?
"Yes, but I can tell you I'll be doing a lot for Speed Channel next year. Then we'll see what happens for 2007. All the networks are still shaking things up trying to figure out who's doing what. Even if they've figured out who's doing what they don't have their act together. Time is going to fix that. My name's in the hopper. I've got to be a little selective on what I'm doing. I want to work but not too damn hard. If I had to work my brains out and had to do something every single day I might as well not quit driving."
"I want to go out on the top of my game. When I'm done I'm done. I don't want to come back and dabble with it. It's impossible to come back into this sport and dabble with it. You won't be competitive. You've got to be in the gutter every day with it to understand what's going on. You take eight weeks off, you'll look foolish. I'm just going to get out there and drive hard and pay a lot of attention Sunday. During the race it's going to be the same stuff. Then the emotional part is going to be when I get out of the car. What do I do with this helmet? What do I do with this uniform? I don't need this stuff anymore. Everybody is coming. I wish I could retire that No. 2 and say that's done. That's been my holy ground. I started that team with Roger Penske. I bought that number from D.K. Ulrich. I paid him $1,000 cash for it. I won a bunch of races with it. I wish we could retire the 2, the 3 and the 43, but NASCAR doesn't do that. It's going to be hard to see my team hang out with other people and my number with another driver. It's my life and I just don't want to give it away right now."
RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 Alltel Dodge)
NOTE: Newman led the first round of NASCAR Nextel Cup practice with a lap of 175.496 mph in his 2004 Dodge.
"That was one lap, so it really doesn't mean anything. We haven't had problems in qualifying this season. We've won eight poles. Plus, we've still got to make it through Happy Hour. That hasn't been automatic lately, either. The real test will come in the race Sunday. We won't know anything really until then."