Tuesday, Oct. 19,2004. Dodge Motorsports Teleconference Charlotte Recap, Martinsville RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) NOTE: Wallace won at Martinsville in April,, scoring a .538-second victory over Bobby Labonte. Wallace leads all ...
Tuesday, Oct. 19,2004.
Dodge Motorsports Teleconference
Charlotte Recap, Martinsville
RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge)
NOTE: Wallace won at Martinsville in April,, scoring a .538-second victory over Bobby Labonte. Wallace leads all drivers with seven wins at Martinsville in 41 career starts. He also has 16 top fives and 22 top 10s at the .526-mile track in the Commonwealth.
"We're out here in Arizona right now testing the No. 66 Duraflame Dodge for the race here in a couple of weeks. Boy, Saturday night was a real heartbreaker. I probably had one of the fastest cars in my life that night. I've run Charlotte many times and never had one handle that well. We've been doing tons of shock absorber, chassis work and it really paid off. We qualified the car 14th and drove it up to third place and were still going. The lap times were incredible. Off turn four Jeff Gordon lost it and when he lost it he went sliding up toward the outside wall. I saw him sliding and I committed to the bottom. When I went to the bottom his car hooked and flew right across the racetrack in front of me. That was it. It knocked the nose off my car and we spent many laps repairing it. We came back out and it really ran great after that.
"I saw Gordon out here yesterday. They're out here testing with us at Phoenix, him and Jimmie Johnson and Jamie McMurray. He said, 'my car was just out of control. When you hit the back of it and knocked the bumper cover off of it, it took off like lightning.' He said, 'I wish there was a way I could figure out how to race it without a tail on it.' He said it handled much better like that. It was a tough deal to take, and I was just shocked. When you go from 14th to third, I've had a rough year with mechanical problems and things like that, to have that happen it stopped me in my tracks. I was in disbelief. I thought I was in a dream or something. Hey, that's racing. I've had bad years in my career and 2004 has definitely been a bad year when it comes to that. The thing that's been unbelievable, it's not unbelievable, but the car is just so fast every week. It drives great. It's running real, real fast, but we just can't seem to close the deal. I'm not a quitter as everybody knows. We'll work through this and that's it. Every single race is the most important to me. We're going to Martinsville, site of my last victory, which I'm excited about. I'm out here preparing for Phoenix in my Busch car because I really want to run good in it."
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUNG DRIVERS TO BUILD ON FOUNDATION YOU AND SOME OTHER VETERANS STARTED?
"I think the biggest thing that I would keep in mind is respect for the sport. It was nothing at one point and we helped build it. When I started it was Bobby Allison, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough and then it moved on to Dale Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace, Bill Elliott, Terry Labonte. Now it's going to Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, Jamie McMurray and guys of that type. I just think it's real important not to lose sight of what it takes. You've got to be fan friendly. You've got to take care of these fans. You've got to be able to work hard. These cars are very expensive to run. You've got to spend a lot of time with the media. You've got to spend a lot of time with your sponsors, and you've got to spend a lot of time with the fans. If you just spend all your time saying you don't have time for that, I just want to drive my car, you're not going to be successful. You're not going to be good for the sport. That's one thing I've done my whole career. I've been one of the busiest guys on the circuit all over the country trying to take care of it. I've been a vocal one, too. If I don't like a rule that I think is wrong, I'll be the first to say it. That's what I'm trying to instill in the guys that are driving around me. Whether it's me trying to help Jamie make some personal decisions about how to treat people or what to do, or my son Steven or Brendan Gaughan or whatever."
WHAT DID YOU THINK WHEN YOU SAW THE EMPTY SEATS SATURDAY NIGHT?
"I did see that, and I was kinda confused on why that was going on. I don't have all the answers. It did concern me a bit."
DO YOU NEED LUCK MORE THAN SKILL SOMETIMES?
"I wouldn't say that. Definitely skill and preparedness is definitely No. 1 when it comes to NASCAR racing, but luck does have a lot to do with it. You could be out there leading the race, I remember Dover at the beginning of the year and Kasey Kahne had the field mopped at Dover and he runs into oil and crashes and knocks the wall down. That was bad luck. On the other hand, he blew a right front tire out this weekend and was having a great race. What was that? Probably a little bit of air pressure problem or camber setting problem or it could be he just ran over a piece of debris and caused it. I'm a perfect example of that, too. Driving along from 14th up to third with one of the best cars around and of all people Jeff Gordon, one of our sport's better drivers, loses it and flies back across the track and takes me out. That was pretty wild. Luck is very important. If I had my rathers, would I go for luck or would I go for preparedness and a good team? I'd go with preparedness and a good team."
COMMENT ON NASCAR DENYING EARNHARDT JR.'S APPEAL
"The way I feel about it is I understand what NASCAR is doing. I don't have to agree with it, and I don't agree with it, but I understand it. The one that started this whole mess was Janet Jackson. Everybody ought to go up there and whip her rear end. I tell you, for pulling that stunt and causing this whole mess in the United States right now. I think it's took the realism out of our sport. It's took what people normally do. In fact, what Dale Earnhardt Jr. said, I didn't even know that was a cuss word to tell you the truth. I learned that. I just thought it was common language that most people use and everybody in the world uses and something they do every single day."
IS RETIRING THE MOST PERSONAL DECISION YOU CAN MAKE? WHO'S GOING TO BE NEXT?
"It's definitely the most personal decision. I'm comfortable with my decision. I will tell you I'm accustomed to a style of life, and I don't want to have my style of life altered much. A lot of that income stops and you have to self-adjust. That's the thing I'm going to have to get used to. I love racing. I love driving a car and meeting people and being around different parts of the country. I really won't know what that's going to feel like until Homestead next year. As far as being a trend setter, and who will be next, Mark Martin has already named his tour, but he's not going to quit racing. It's quite a bit different than what I'm doing. Terry Labonte has already said he's going to quit running fulltime, but he's going to run partial, so that's not the same thing I'm doing, either. Richard Petty and my tour are real similar. When Dale Jarrett finally decides what he's going to do in 2006 or 2007 he could be the next candidate to do a retirement tour."
HAVE ANY VETERANS TALKED TO YOU ABOUT THE RETIREMENT TOURS?
"No, they really haven't. I haven't talked to any of the veterans about it. I just did what I thought was right, and what I thought was right was to retire at the top of my game while I'm running up front. I feel like I'm good behind the wheel."
WHAT'S YOUR OPINION OF THE NEW FORMAT NOW?
"I've got to be careful about what I say because I don't want to get in trouble, but I will tell you I thought it was OK when it first started because I haven't been out of the top 10 for 16 or 17 years until last year and I thought that was fluke. I never thought it would happen this year, so I was fine with the format. Then when I watched it unfold, the thing I was nervous about is happening. All I see in every newspaper and everything is only the top 10. I don't see anything about any other driver at all. If I do, somebody would have to really dig deep and prove to me it's out there. The only time you see anything about another driver is when he does something. I think NASCAR when the year is over will have to evaluate what they're going to do and I think some things will definitely have to be changed. No way in the world can you go next year with exactly the way it is this year."
WHAT WILL BE THE CHALLENGES ENTERING MARTINSVILLE THIS WEEKEND?
"Everybody I've talked to who have been there testing say the track is just great. It's super, super smooth and you're on the throttle a lot longer up off the corner. The springs are a little bit different, although I hear the normal setup is pretty close. You just have to change one or two springs and everything else is really close. I really don't know. I would think if you're coming off the corner as fast as you're coming off that brakes are going to be very important. Now you're going to have so much more speed entering turn three or entering turn one you're going to have to really wow the car down. I expect the next thing people are going to have to look at would be the brakes. That's what I'm going to have to look at, make sure we've got plenty of cooling. I always pay attention to it, but I think it's going to be even more important because you're running faster down the straightaways."
WHAT WILL YOU BE LOOKING AT ON FRIDAY AND SATURDAY FOR CHANGES GOING INTO THE RACE?
"My main thing I'll be looking at for sure will be tire wear, whether we can get away with a couple of tires or will we need four tires every single time. I'm also going to be looking at the shock package we always run there and if it'll work on this track. The shock package on most cars are tuned up for real rough racetracks and trying to get all the bite you can. From what I hear, the shocks have to be changed a little bit and the springs have to be changed a little bit. I tried to get up there last week for a one-day test, and the weather had me socked in. I couldn't get there."
IS BROADCASTING BECOMING YOUR NEW PASSION?
"I don't know if it's my new passion or not. I'm doing a little bit of it right now, just kinda testing the water. I would like to do it. I've hinted around to a couple of networks. Pretty soon I'll get to talking more about it. I think that's something in my life after racing deal. I still plan to pay a lot of attention to Team Penske. I plan on being actively involved in Team Penske, my Busch car, my car dealerships in East Tennessee and my son Steven and his career coming up right now. Television is definitely in line with what I'd like to do."
WILL YOU RUN YOUR BUSCH CAR IN 2006?
"Right now, when I say I'm done with racing after 2005 I don't plan to do any racing. I'm not going to say I won't go out there and do some testing for the team, whether it's road course or testing in general, but right now when I'm done at the end of 2005 I'm done with competitive driving. I might change my mind."
HOW MUCH SAY WILL YOU HAVE IN WHO TAKES OVER FOR YOU?
"I'll have a lot of say. I'm part owner of the team. We'll look for a driver around 25-30. That's what the Miller Brewing Company would like to have. They've agreed to sponsor the car for an additional two years after I retire as long as we come up with a driver to fit their criteria, which is fair. We can do that. We'll look for a driver that's actively involved in the setup of the car, knows a lot about the chassis and somebody who knows what it takes to be successful in the sport. Somebody has got to be willing to work with the fans and media well. Somebody's got to be willing to sit in an airplane and fly around the country and service our sponsors."
TALK ABOUT THE TYPE OF RACETRACK YOU'D LIKE TO DESIGN
"Why racecar drivers don't design tracks is beyond me. I'm actively involved in trying to build a new racetrack right now in Newton, Iowa. It's right outside of Des Moines, which is one of the hottest growing areas in the country. I was just up there, and it's beautiful. New everything, beautiful golf courses. It's the heartland of America, the crossroads of America. I think the racetrack that needs to be designed is a seven-eighths mile racetrack. It needs to be shaped a lot like Richmond, Va. The focus needs to be put on pit lanes, access for the fans in and out of the racetrack, a lot of focus on the media, moving people around. When I designed the Newton race track, which probably was 90 percent designed with Paxton and Waters out of Indianapolis, they did Kansas and California Speedway, we worked really hard on making sure hospitality was in a certain place so drivers could get back and forth. There are certain roads getting there. We made sure access for tunnels were in the right location. We made sure our suites were in the right location. The perfect track for my mind for excitement would be a seventh-eighths with a lot of Richmond, Va., to it. I think that would make for great racing."
WHAT ARE SOME SUGGESTIONS YOU'D MAKE FOR THE CHASE?
"The one thing I did like a lot that NASCAR said early was 'we think this is a cool format and if it's not exactly right we'll be open to adjust on it.' I'm sure that's where their thought process is. It looked like the popularity of it really spiked going into Richmond. A couple of races out of Richmond and right now it looks like it's flattened out for some reason. A lot of the drivers that are fan favorites -- Kasey Kahne, Jamie McMurray, myself, Dale Jarrett, guys like that are out of it, and I think they lost a huge fan base by that happening. Maybe the top 10, instead of 400 points, it's going to have to go back farther. Maybe it's the top 15. There's going to have to be more room for everybody to get in. To be quite honest, there's a lot of drivers in it right now that some of them just don't have the popularity of some of the others I mentioned when it comes to the fans."
COMMENT ON TEAMMATES WORKING TOGETHER ON THE TRACK
"I just don't think there's any way either one of them (Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson) could have done anything different. They're both racing for the win. They're both racing for the championship. I think Rick Hendrick, the owner, thinks they're equally important. I don't think he thought Jeff or Jimmie was more important. May the best man win at that moment, and Johnson had the best car at the end. I was talking to him yesterday and he said they made a couple of adjustments and they were knocking out laps as fast as qualifying times. His adrenaline was up and all he was thinking was get all the points he could. He wanted to sweep Charlotte and he did it. If I'm out there leading the race right now and Ryan Newman is running second behind me, I'm going to move over and give him his five points. He's my teammate and he's got a shot and I don't. With Jimmie and Jeff they're both going for it and they can't do that."