The old Rusty Wallace is back By Shawn A. Akers NASCAR Online
ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Feb. 22, 1998)
This is more like it. This is the Rusty Wallace who won the 1989 NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship. This is the driver who has won 47 career NASCAR Winston Cup Series races.
This is not the guy who rung up a whopping 11 DNFs during the 1997 season.
In Sunday's GM Goodwrench Service Plus 400, the driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Taurus recorded his second straight top-five finish to begin the season, finishing a strong second to Jeff Gordon at North Carolina Speedway.
Wallace heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for next weekend's Las Vegas 400 with a renewed sense of confidence and the lead in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series point standings. The second-place showing vaulted Wallace to the top of the standings after two events, 33 points ahead of Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt.
"That was a real good run," said Wallace, who finished 1.281 seconds behind Gordon. "The car handled great and the pit stops were excellent all day long. We had a great time in the pits, too, man, because they (his crew) were so fast on the tires and the gas and everything."
Wallace led four times during the 393-lap event for 74 laps and appeared strong enough to get to Victory Lane for the first time in nearly a year. However, after a multi-car accident brought out the sixth and final caution flag of the day, Gordon was better on the restart and pulled away from Wallace to take the checkered flag.
"All I remember is that Rusty and I were battling to see who could get the lead and it was a guess to see which line was going to move forward," Gordon said. "I was in the bottom groove and when we went down into Turn 1, I saw the wreck and just went up the track. I just wanted to get through it.
"Rusty was awfully good all day long and I'm really surprised that he didn't make a better run at us at the end. I was a little surprised at the end that we could pull away from Rusty like that."
Wallace experienced problems with his car following the last caution flag.
"My car was a little bit tight at the end," Wallace said. "I was just pushing the front end a little bit too much. (Crew chief) Robin Pemberton) asked me about any adjustments, but the car was so good I didn't want to take a chance on making it go one way or the other, so I just stuck with what I had. I probably should have loosened up a bit, but it ran great. Right there at the end, I just flat got beat."
The last time Wallace visited Victory Lane was last March at Richmond in the Pontiac Excitement 400. It was the only time Wallace got there last season.
Courtesy of NASCAR Online