RUSTY WALLACE, NO. 2 MILLER LITE DODGE CHARGER You've been good at tracks like Pocono, was today's race any different? "Well, I thought I had a really good car today. It was all about track position. I passed a lot of cars today. Turn three...
RUSTY WALLACE, NO. 2 MILLER LITE DODGE CHARGER
You've been good at tracks like Pocono, was today's race any different?
"Well, I thought I had a really good car today. It was all about track position. I passed a lot of cars today. Turn three was really my turn. I could really rock and roll through that turn. Turn one I was a little tight and across the tunnel turn I was kind of holding my own with everybody, but I guess the turn that was great for me was the last one for me. We really made some tracks there.
"I did two tires early and found out what it would do. Then I noticed that everybody was doing two tires and everybody kept getting themselves out of sync. When I put two on and I ran like 10 or 16 laps on the tires and a caution came out with 38 to go, I said this was perfect. I said let's get down and do two right sides. If five guys do it, five guys do it. If they don't, they don't. But I'm going to do it and I came out leading the race. I looked in the rearview mirror and about six guys did the same thing -- Mark Martin and all of them. The 97 was probably the only car that didn't do it and he had a real dominant car. Every now and then someone has a fast car and he had a fast car today. Those four tires got me. At the end, Mark and my cars were pretty close. He'd kill me in turn one and we were kind of about the same across the tunnel and the last turn I'd beat him a little bit. It was fun day."
Did you think Kurt was jumping the green on the last two restarts?
"No, I don't think none of that. I mean, you just have to face reality. I know he had a fast car and there's no way with two tires I was going to beat his four tires with a car that dominant. The best thing Mark and I could do, because we had a bunch of guys clogged up behind us, the best we could do was to get out of Dodge as quick as we could, line up and rock and roll. I knew it was going to be hard to do anything with him. The only thing I could have done with him was chase him down into turn one and hit him and I'm not that type of driver."
Are second and third place finishes satisfying for you, considering the Chase?
"I had a great day today. I had my last race here and finished second. It feels good. I got out of the car and said 'I think I can still do this,' you know. I don't if you guys heard this or not, it was really a great day. Lance Armstrong, when he got done today, he said 'You know I'm retiring and I'm going out at my top. I remember when Michael Jordan retired, now Rusty Wallace, the NASCAR driver, he's retiring'. He said 'The best compliment I can get is that people kept saying that you could win again. That's a great compliment when people tell you still got it and you go out on top and you know you can still do it'."
"I had a great time. I've got a bunch of races left this year. My goal is to get in the top 10 and I don't know where I am in the points right now, but it keeps getting better and better and better, I tell everybody."
What would it take to have you come back for another season?
"People have different things they want to do. I've done a great job in racing and I hope I've made a lot of people happy. But there are different chapters of my life for what I do now. I've got to do what I'm doing. I've told these people I'm doing that and I going to do it. There are a lot of things I'm going to do. I'm going to see my son Steven race. You know, on Monday, tomorrow morning, him and I are going to be at Kentucky with the No. 77 Kodak Dodge and we're going to test there. Then, him and I are going to be testing all day long. We're going to test there, then I'm going to take him to Michigan, we're going to test on August 3 all day at Michigan. His very first ARCA race is the 19th at Michigan, so I'm going to put a lot of effort into him and get him going."
Are race cars dropping more stuff off of them causing debris cautions?
"Two or three of the cautions were for brake rotors laying on the track. What's happening is the guys are really, since we're not running any brake ducts in the front of our car, cause we're going for aerodynamic downforce. They're running a lot of blower motors behind them. There's a lot of guys the last race that lost their brakes and a lot of guys this time that don't have really good handling cars and they're all over them. You could see brake rotors exploding out there. My brakes made it home pretty good last time but I put an extra electric motor on mine, an extra for a little more insurance, because I knew it was going to be a tough day. Brake rotors and drink bottles and what else was out there?"
Is it the aerodynamics that makes it look like a freeway drive with guys getting racy at the end of the race?
"It was great. We finished second and third, what's wrong with that? That type of question wakes me up, too. When you're in the car driving you're negotiating a tunnel turn, you're negotiating the last turn, you're slipping, you're sliding, you're holding on for dear life and you're going. But I know that fans want us to be passing a bunch of cars at the same time while we're doing all that. That's tough. Now, one thing I think is that it might have hurt a little bit when they took the shifting away. We don't have near as much power to rocket ourselves off the corners now like we used to have. So that hurts a little bit. You can ask a fan or somebody and they might say, 'Boy, we need a driver that's just run 500 miles around this joint jumping all over the place', but I think it turned out okay and I'm ready to go home.
"Some times you have good ones and some times you have bad ones. You're going to go to Bristol and go 'Wow, this is it!' and you might go in Indy and you might yawn a little bit."
Is it possible we will see Steven in the No. 77 Kodak Dodge in the Cup Series soon?
"No, no, none of that. Roger (Penske) gave Steven that opportunity to start testing him, like a little driver development stuff, then after he does that Dodge has paid for some races for Steven. He's going to run Chicago in a Dodge development car and we just want to give him all the seat we possibly can. It's all about the seat time with him. Once I get confident with him, I'll put him in my Busch car for some races, too."
How important was clear air today?
"I went into today's race with what I consider a radical setup for me. I mean it was way radical. It's something that Mark Martin used to drive a long time ago and he's the loosest driving driver in the world. But I had that baby jacked up in the back and laying down in the front. I'm trying to really get close when I get to Indy in a couple of weeks, too. The front shocks are going to be a little bit different probably but, other than that, the springs might be awful close to where we were at today."
Any problems in the tunnel turn or any changes that need to be made before the next race?
"I like Pocono, but driving across the tunnel turn is like driving across railroad tracks. It's rough, it's just real, real rough. A little pavement job wouldn't hurt -- I wouldn't complain -- but I'm never coming back so I wouldn't care. If I come back I'll be sitting up there with a cigar watching these cats."
What happened when Carl was up to third and asking whether he should try to pass you or help Mark?
"I know that Carl is a really, really good driver, but I also know that he's a very aggressive driver, too, and that's he's going to take some chances that Mark and I wouldn't take. I told Mark, I said let's just get out of Dodge clean. He said 'Okay but I've got to race you because I've got a pretty aggressive guy behind me, too now, so we can't mess around none'. He's a real aggressive guy and he ended up getting himself in a wreck in the back straightaway coming off of two. He's a lot younger than us, and he's aggressive and he stands on it, and he's won some races doing that this year."
Can you please comment on your ninth consecutive top 12 finish, particularly in light of the misfortune you had last year?
"We had a lot of things we did wrong last year and we learned a lot this year. Overall, last year we had five blown engines and three transmissions. We had eight mechanicals that lost me over 1,200 points. And then, knock on wood, we're not having that this year and it's really worked out good for me. We've got a lot better handling car. The short spoiler and the softer tire absolutely fit my driving style and worked out for me really good. On the other hand, I'm not going to say it's all that. I've really gotten aggressive in my thinking. I had the most radical setup I've ever had in my life. If you told me last year I'd be trying this I'd have called you a nutcase, no way. I'm really stepping on the edge and trying to keep up with the competition, and doing it that way. My engineer, Derrick, and I are getting along great. Larry Carter and I, this is my second year now working with Larry and we're building rhythm. I didn't have any rhythm before. When I lost Robin Pemberton I brought Billy Wilburn on. Billy was one of my best friends but we just couldn't get the rhythm. And so two years with Billy. For 15 straight years I was no worse than seventh in the points and then I fell to 15th and 16th and now we're back to fourth. It's all about building rhythm with that crew chief and getting that thing going and that's what happening with us this year."
Does someone like Carl Edwards have an advantage here because he never shifted here?
"He's a good driver, but Carl's not the type of guy who stands up there and pounds their chest and says 'I'm the greatest'. I think one thing he will tell you is that he came to a great team, they've worked out their chassis and he's been able to top off of Mark's knowledge of all the great runs he's had here. I think Carl will probably tell you, 'Boy, when I got here I had a pretty doggone good car because they told me what I was going to have to have'. Obviously he knows how to drive it. It went around the corner real good. I, for sure, didn't think he handled as good today as he did last time."
Were you guys points racing today?
"I've told everybody coming here who asked me about that, that I am running every race like it's the last race. It's the most important race for me, although I'm driving conservatively aggressive. I'm working the whole first half of the race making sure my car is handling good for the second half of the race. And I'm watching what this tire thing is doing. There are some places you can two-tire and some places you can't. And last week you could and this week you could, maybe next week you can. After that, you're not going to be able to do that. We're going to go to Watkins Glen and, for sure, you're not going to try two at Bristol and places like that. You've got to understand what you're up against. I'm just treating like it's the last race. I'm not driving with reckless abandon. I made some crazy moves out there today that I really got away with. I'm not proud that I did, but it worked, especially a couple of those going into the tunnel where I said 'My God, I shouldn't have done this, but I did'. I could have looked like a moron a couple of times if I had wrecked. But it turned out okay."
Dodge teams are in much better shape for the Chase than last year, but only one win, why can't they win races?
"I don't think you can say it's the Dodge. I think there are good Dodge teams, but I think there are some really, really great Chevy teams and really great Ford teams and maybe if some of those guys were in Dodges they would win. I don't know. I went for a long time winning then I went for a long time not winning. That would be like going to the Superbowl and asking the team if they're going to win. They don't know if they're going to win. They're going to try."