Dodge This! Media Teleconference Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2003 RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Intrepid) "This is one of the toughest seasons I've ever encountered so far. I feel like I'm going into Phoenix with a lot of preparation. I feel...
Dodge This! Media Teleconference
Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2003
RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Intrepid)
"This is one of the toughest seasons I've ever encountered so far. I feel like I'm going into Phoenix with a lot of preparation. I feel good about my chances out there because of the test we did in St. Louis. The car I'm taking is a brand new car. It's probably one of the most downforced cars that we've got. But the year's coming to an end, and I'm trying to get a win knocked out."
"I absolutely feel a lot of pressure to get that win. Every time I go to the racetrack and I don't win, I just keep finding it harder and harder to believe that it just hasn't happened. We're just working our guts out. We're trying to get our team's rhythm and flow going where you have to have in order to win. I started the race last week in Atlanta, and I started off a little loose. The car wasn't exactly where I wanted. The radios failed on me. We couldn't communicate early in the race. I made a normal green flag pit stop, and as I pulled out the caution flag falls and I go a lap down and I never could get it back all day long. Strange things have been happening throughout the year. But I've really been pretty happy with the way the performance has gone and the way the cars have ran for speed in the last six or seven races. We've definitely gotten a lot better there. But I couldn't lie to you at all or mislead you; this not winning thing is bugging me. It really is. Especially with my teammate doing so well with so many poles and so many wins, it's like, 'Why isn't our team doing it?' We've got the same cars. Obviously we've got different setups and a different selection of shocks. We haven't been as aggressive on taking the gamble on fuel mileage as they have, and that's really worked out good for them. On the other hand, I've won 10 races in a year. I have won nine poles in a year three or four years ago. I've done all the stuff that they've done, but I think that it's really amazing what Ryan's been able to do in the last year and a half, to have that many wins and that many poles together. But, it does make me look at our deal and go, "Hey, what do we need to do to improve on it?" Aside from all that I just need to get a victory, and I hope like hell that Phoenix is a good chance for us."
"I'm not going to say it's a mystery to me because I've got the opportunity to do all of that. I know what Ryan's setups are, and a lot of the times I use those setups and I can't get them to work for me. That's okay. Not many drivers use exactly the same setup. Not even on Roger's IndyCar teams do they run the exact same setups - between Gil and Helio. Yeah, I used to run on tires that are softer, and I was able to hustle the car harder. You came in, you put four tires on, you made a pit stop and you're able to drive from the middle of the field up to the front of the field. Now, track position has been very, very important. Taking the big gambles on fuel mileage has been important. Maybe there's something to that. I don't know. I used to say, 'If that's the reason, that's the reason.' But, nowadays I don't do that any longer. I think we've just got to get right with the situation that we're confronted with. I'm a bit confused with why some of the new drivers coming around are just having instant success and don't have a whole lot of knowledge of the car. They rely a lot on their engineers. Before, there never were engineers. Now it's engineers and drivers who really don't understand a shock or spring or stuff like that, but they can drive a car well. It has definitely changed, and it's probably going to be a pretty big change next year, again. I'm really paying attention to what's going to happen next year with these softer tires and lower spoiler."
On whether the team is overcompensating in order to try to win...
"I think that can happen, but I don't think that's what has happened to us right now. I really don't. You've got one team right now that's wondering what's going on, and you've got another team that's just exuberant and celebrating all of the time. But, we're all in the same shop, working side by side, which is sometimes a bad deal. When one team has had a bad day and another one has had a really wonderful day they're still on the same airplane flying home together. We've definitely come up on the short end of the stick this year. There's no doubt about that. This reminds me of my 1992 season where I just had a bad year and finished about 15th in the points. But, we did win that year. We did have a couple of victories. We've seen a lot and lot of talk about Billy Wilburn on the Internet and in different places about what's going on. But, I've got so doggone much time invested in Billy - two solid years of building. I'd hate to make the change right now and waste two years and have to rebuild again.. I wouldn't mind trying to get him some help - the help to make better decisions. That's the reason why we've hired Roy McCauley, our engineer that's working with me now that's really got the cars handling better. I've got a lot of time in Bill. I want to keep Billy. He's a good friend of mine, and I want to keep focused on what we're doing. I believe there's going to be a big shakeup next year in all of these chassis setups, rules and stuff, and it might fall into our lap.
"My god, (wins) used to be so common, you know? Now it's so doggone tough. Again, I'm excited to get that next win whenever it's going to come back around. I'm still pumped up about it. I'm 100% focused on getting that win. But we're also wide-open on the new Busch Grand National team that everybody's heard about. As I'm doing this interview I'm looking at all of my Busch employees Barry Dodson, Blake Bainsbridge, Billy Parker, all of them are walking by right now. The new shop is coming out of the ground. My god, we must have 100 workers out there today. The team's going wide-open. There's a lot of attention that's being played that way also.
"I lost the radios. Earl (Barban, Jr., spotter) could barely hear me, but Billy couldn't hear me at all. He couldn't make out anything I was saying. Earl kept talking to Billy, saying, 'I think he's saying he wants to pit.' What happened was, I saw the No. 24 car pit, and I saw a couple other cars pit. I knew we were having some certain problems before we started racing, and I asked Billy, 'If we have these radio problems again, what's our next scheduled stop?' He could hear me when I wasn't running. He said, 'Look at about lap 100 or 105.' So, at about lap 100 I saw Gordon peeling off, and Earl's saying, 'I think he wants to pit.' All of a sudden I hear Earl holler, 'He's coming down pit road!' I just had to make a call and come down pit road. So, I came off the racetrack, hit pit road, made a normal stop - the guys gave me a good stop -and when I pulled out the caution flew as Ricky Rudd spun on the front straightaway."
"I think it was just that everybody had the same pit window. Everybody hit the pits at exactly the same time, and then the spin happens with Ricky. It got really confusing. They actually had to go back to the cameras to see where those two cars were - I believe it was the No. 24 and No. 29. They finally ruled that they were ahead of the caution, so they got to go around. But, there's just a lot of free things going on out there right now. I've got to tell you that I'm just not a real big fan of every time a caution flag comes out that somebody gets their lap back. I'm just not really big on that one, but that's been happening and I guess that's just the way it is.
"We're pretty well up to speed with those restarts about where everybody is at and what's going on. I will tell you the thing that got me a little confused - and I've been racing for a long time, and I hate to have to admit this but I'm going to - on the restart I was at the tail end of the lead lap, but I wasn't a lap down. So, I stayed up on the outside of the racetrack. I've got to tell you, I was unaware if you're at the tail end of the lead lap you've got the option to go to the bottom or the top. I thought that if you were at the tail end of the lead lap you're going to stay up on the top and only the lapped cars would be down in the bottom lane. I stayed up on the top, and I saw four or five cars that were running behind me duck down to the bottom and actually go four or five cars up in front of me. I thought, 'What in the hell is going on here?' I was confused right there, and I still am a little confused. I'll get a clarification on that this week. But, by doing that I lost a couple of positions on that, by moving to the top. I'll tell you, this new rule with everybody racing to be the first guy to get their lap back, I've never seen cars drive as hard as I've seen in a long time. I saw Ward Burton this week in the No. 0 car when he was a lap down, and I was racing him to try to be the first guy on the lead lap. I don't think I've ever raced a guy so hard in my damn life to be the first guy up there. It sure has got everybody driving to their peak."
On whether focus on efforts Busch Series is a distraction...
"Well, I'll tell you that's a fair question, and that's a good question. I would never let this thing ever get in the way of my Winston Cup program. That's the reason I've hired Barry Dodson and I've got Tom Polinsky putting this whole thing together for me. It lets me put all of my time and my attention into the Winston Cup car. Now I will tell you, during the week, yeah, I'm doing a lot of decision making, hiring a lot of people, doing a lot of things. My wife, Patti, and I have talked about this. She said, 'Are you sure that this isn't having any effect on what you're doing with the Cup car?' I said, 'Honey, if it was, I wouldn't do it.' I can't think of how it could be. I just don't know. I don't know what I could do different right now to the Cup car to make anything different. Me working on a Busch car, there's no way in the world that would have stopped me going a lap down on that caution last week. I've had some tremendous runs in the last six or seven races. If anything, I think it's good for me because it's got me out there looking at different chassis. It's got me looking at different spindle combinations, different rear end combinations. Penske Racing is almost an institution. We do things a certain way all of the time, and we don't tend to look outside a whole lot. I tend to look around a lot. Starting a Busch team has got me looking at a lot of different things. It's got me seeing what's available, what's out there, what kind of new pieces and parts are available. When we start the first race in Las Vegas next year with this car, I want to have the best that money can buy for Billy to stick his foot in and get after it in his first race. Honestly, honestly, honestly, I can't see any reason or any way that it can affect me whatsoever. If anything it's a positive direction."
"I think that maybe in a certain way starting this Busch team is really going to be good for me. The cars are all going to weigh the same next year. They're all going to have the same templates. A lot of them are going to be running the same racetracks. This will give me some more information. This is something that I can control myself. I just hope to hell that Billy Parker can drive his car as good as he's been doing in testing. In Charlotte the other day I took him over there where we had 31 Busch cars at a practice session. We came out after our second day seventh quickest, and it was only the third time the kid has ever been on the track. I'm really pumped up. We've got a lot of excitement in me and everybody here at Rusty Wallace Incorporated. It's going to be a neat deal. It's going to allow me to get out there and see some newer things instead of just the same things that we always use at Team Penske, which obviously aren't bad because Ryan's doing so well."
"It was fun to go to Texas (for the IRL race). I'm a really good friend of Helio and Gil's. Gil and I went skiing together out in Utah. Helio comes down to Daytona to watch me run. Roger told me, 'I come to all of your races, and you son of a gun, you've only been to like one of my races. Instead of laying at home and watching this thing on TV, you're coming to Texas.' So, I really wanted to go, and I went and had a great time. It was exciting seeing him run up there. Man, when Gil decided that he wanted to retire, the guy goes out there, sits on the pole and wins the race. It was a super-dramatic day. What was so dramatic about it was when he got into what I call a fender-bender earlier in the event, when he had to go through the infield and he was concerned the car was tore up. He was saying, 'My day's over. It's vibrating.' His team is telling him that there's nothing wrong. He's telling them there is something wrong. They came down for the third pit stop and they jacked that car up, pulled off the tires and they had a broken left-rear wheel. Gil was right. They told him on the radio, 'You had a broken wheel. You're okay. You're good to go. Go for it.' Then he drove that sucker right to the front and won the damn race. To see him go out a champion and retiring, it was a super-fun day for me. It was cool. It was different. I wasn't on a schedule. I was able to enjoy it. Everybody was happy to see me there. I got a lot of handshakes. They were all excited that I was out at the IRL race supporting them, so it was fun."
On racing after a wreck before the yellow flag is put out...
"That question was asked by Greg Biffle. It was a good question. It was one of those really, tiny, small gray areas where if all the moons lined up correctly and this happened, what's the answer? NASCAR's answer was we've got to stick by what we've been saying. When the caution flag falls you stop racing. His question was if somebody wrecks and you get out of the gas to slow up for the wreck and the leader behind you stays going, is that legal? It's legal as long as the caution flag hasn't fallen. The other day Michael Waltrip blew an engine, and I passed the No. 0 car in turns one and two and then the caution flag flew. I knew that I passed him before that caution flag flew, but when they went back they said, "No, we're going to put the No. 0 back in front of you.' It's a judgment call. I understand it. The neat thing I really do like about not racing back is that it lets the emergency workers get out there and get these trucks to the drivers when they really, really need it if they're on fire or hurt, things like that. I think whether or not some guy gets his position back is very, very miniscule when it comes to the great things they have to gain with better emergency response time. It really doesn't matter. I think it's so small. We're going to have all of these little judgment calls that are going to have to happen. That's happened a lot in this sport. I just think that it's a really great thing to not racing back to the caution, and I'm so glad they've done it."
On his son...
"Steve is 16. He's 6' 1