Dodge teleconference with Rusty Wallace and Larry Carter RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) "Darlington basically we had a good car. I was running sixth or seventh early in the race. Made a pit stop, and we had a real bad stop. It was...
Dodge teleconference with Rusty Wallace and Larry Carter
RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge)
"Darlington basically we had a good car. I was running sixth or seventh early in the race. Made a pit stop, and we had a real bad stop. It was almost a 20-second stop and it ended up getting me lapped. We were cruising along, trying to get the lap back and we hit pit road for a normal scheduled green flag stop. I was sitting on pit road and the yellow flag came out, so that put me two laps down. From that point, it was too late in the race and we were in trouble. The race was over, so that's about it.
"We had a really good test at Bristol. We took a brand new, one of our newly designed cars and ran it, and I was really happy with that. I ran race setup basically the whole first day testing, trying out the new tire and rear spoiler combination. I really didn't feel a whole lot of difference. Brendan Gaughan and myself were there. We both ran a lot of laps. Then the next day we did qualifying runs and got happy with that, so right now Bristol testing is finished. I'm here at Texas, but I'm not driving today. The 2 car will be here tomorrow for a one-day test, but I'm here today with my new Busch Grand National team, and I'm also working with Brendan Gaughan trying to help these guys if I can shed some light getting them up to speed."
DO YOU GET A SPECIAL FEELING WHEN YOU GO TO BRISTOL?
"I feel like if I'm in trouble if I go to Bristol I can get some reprieve. It's always been a great track for me. The last time I was there I had a really good car, but I qualified bad. I never qualify bad at that place, but I did last time. I was coming through the field and little Waltrip lost it up there in the middle of three and four and I ended up T-boning him right in the side and it put me out of the race early. That was last year. This is this year, and every time we get to go to that joint I really enjoy it. It's one of my favorite tracks. I've won there nine times and had seven or eight poles. It's one of my favorite places."
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE ANOTHER TRACK LIKE BRISTOL ON THE CIRCUIT?
"Yeah, I sure would. It would be nice to see a three-quarter mile or seven-eighths mile track. A seven-eighths is a perfect size I think. It would be good to see something like that."
WILL IT BE TOUGH TO RUN FINAL RACE AT BRISTOL?
"I don't know about that. Don't be beating up on me so early. My career's not winding down. I've got at least four or five more Bristols left in me. I'm excited about what I'm doing. I feel like I've been driving some of the best races I've been driving this year. We ran great at Atlanta, Las Vegas, Rockingham. Our biggest problem this year has been these pit stops. They've been horrible. Instead of having 13 second stops, we've been having 17 and 18 and 19. Larry (crew chief Carter) is working really, really hard. He's found some new guys, and they've been practicing like crazy with these new people. I'm confident when we get to Bristol we'll finally get it right. I think Larry has done a great job. I think the team has done a great job. We have no problem with speed and performance, and our qualifying has been good. Our problem has been when we hit pit road. If we get that fixed, we can get back with solid top-five and solid top-10 finishes, and be back as a threat to win finally."
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR ON PIT CREW?
"I would have thought this would be one of the easiest things we had to tackle. One of the hardest things is getting the car handling right and making the right calls on race day and stuff like that. I would have thought the pit crew would be the easiest thing to do, but unfortunately we've got a right front tire changer who is bullet fast. He's really quick, and I'm real super happy with him. I did question our jack guy for awhile, but evidently he's really fast. He just keeps waiting on the rear guy. The right rear guy is always the slowest one. He's got to chase the car down pit road before it stops. The car basically drives to the right front guy. We've been struggling trying to find a right rear guy. I brought Billy Wilburn out, and I expected a lot out of him, knowing he could do it, but he's been off the road for two years. He practiced good, but doggone if Billy didn't have a problem. He said, 'look I'm not feeling comfortable with it. Try to find somebody else. I've been out of it for two years.' I heard about Cole, and we tried Cole out and he practiced pretty good. We had a couple of stops and the rest of them were slow. We've got to find a guy who can knock out 12.8s and 13 flats consistently. We've got some real good guys who have shown their talent on the track that are coming by trying out. Larry has tried one guy yesterday he got real, real happy with. I'm going through this little wave right now that I can't get this pit crew where we really need it, but I do show a little frustration. When I'm at Rockingham running second with 25 laps to go and I come off pit road running ninth, that pretty much ruins your day. Or, I'm at Atlanta and we're running green flag stops all day. I have a 17-second and a 19-second stop, and I'm threatening to get lapped because of that. The caution comes out and saves you and it gets a little frustrating. With the bad pit stops, I got a lap down at Darlington because of it, so we know we've got to get this fixed, and we're all over it. The neat thing about it is that we've got our cars running good. We're qualifying in the top 10 and they're running strong. I'm on it. I'm not the easiest guy in the world to work for when it comes to wanting to get things done yesterday. I've got to make it quit. I'm tired of the questions, 'Hey Rusty, when are you going to quit?' 'Hey Rusty, are you getting tired of this stuff?' I just want to get the team where we've got to have it and get the job done."
DOES THIS SEASON HAVE A DIFFERENT FEEL TO IT?
"People are talking about it (points change), but it doesn't have a different feel to me at all yet. The different feel is with the tires and springs, a mechanical feel. I'm looking here as having one of my poorest starts with points so far, but I've had one of my better starts as far as the performance with the car. The point problem is definitely because of the pit crew problems, and we failed a transmission at Atlanta running fifth and we had a DNF. It makes you think about the points when you get as low as I am in the points right now (23rd), but I can spring back. I'm not concerned about that. I know I can spring back. That's the only thing I only do think about. I don't look at that stuff. I don't know if the TV ratings are down or not. I know the grandstands at Texas are going to be packed. At Darlington they were a little slack. At Atlanta, it was packed. Everybody has seen some good races this year. I honestly don't look at that type of stuff. That's not my job."
TALK ABOUT RULE CHANGES FIVE RACES INTO SEASON
"The rules have definitely made the tire wear more and put the driver back in the car more. We're trying to get it where the goal is it's not just a strategy race with fuel mileage and two tires or no tires and stuff like that. We're trying to get it so guys can pass each other a little bit more. That's the goal. I think it's too early in the season right now to pass judgment on it. We've been to some racetracks that are tracks that are inherently tough to pass on like Vegas. We've been to Rockingham, which is high tear wear and Darlington, which is high tire wear. Everybody saw a good race at Darlington, and they saw a pretty good race at Rockingham. That's because the tires wear and the cars slow down and slide around and slip around. When they're all out there not wearing the tires down and they all run the same speed and nobody can pass anybody, that makes for some boring racing. We've got to give it some more time yet to see what's going to happen. In my opinion, it's a no brainer. It's definitely better. It might be hard for the viewer to see it, but as a driver I know it's better, and as a driver I know it'll blossom into something that'll show up better along the lines."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ENTERING PITS?
"I come down pit road and I go, 'Oh God, I hope this is going to be OK.' I used to come down pit road going, 'Oh, this is going to be great because I know I'll gain three or four spots.' Now I just want to maintain. At Darlington, those first three stops I came in sixth and came out seventh, so that's not too bad, but you're supposed to come in sixth and come out first like Jimmie Johnson did this past weekend to win the race. I know that's what it's going to take, and we'll get it. I know tensions on my end are growing. I'm not real patient when it comes to this because we should be able to get this, and we will. You have no idea what we're doing down at the shop. We're on this bigtime to get this pit crew fixed quick. I said, 'I'm going to Bristol, one of my favorite tracks. No way in the world I can go to Bristol with this problem, so let's get it handled.' Larry's back there and we're talking back and forth. He knows we've got to get it right. We've got a great crew chief. I feel like I'm driving the car good, and the cars are handling good. We've got easy top-five, top-10 cars every race. We've just got to get these fast stops. Nowadays when you get behind, it's hard to drive through the field. If you've got a car that's strong enough to drive through the field, then you're the fastest car on the track."
IS BRISTOL STILL TOUGH ON THE BODY?
"Bristol is one of the toughest tracks we go to on your neck. You've heard of some of these drivers having supports on their necks to keep from getting tired. I've got to tell you. There's probably a couple of races at Bristol that I might have won if my neck hadn't gotten so tired and just gave out. That was early in my career. The stickier the tires, the harder it is on your neck. Now we're going with a stickier tire, and I'm very conscience of that. I'll get the seat supported right and head-neck restraint system supported right. It's very fatiguing on pieces and parts. We up there and tested and everything looked OK, but I heard there were some cars up there that were bending lower A-frames and suspension components because the G loads were so high. When you do stuff like that you know it's pretty tiring on your body."
ARE YOU STILL TRYING TO WIN POLES?
"Man, I'm trying to win everything. I'm trying to win poles, races, lead as many laps as I can. I don't feel like I've changed as a driver. I know the competition has stepped up. I've just got to get the right equipment around me that I need. Larry and I are working great together trying to get that done. I qualified seventh at Darlington and fourth at Rockingham, 11th at Atlanta, I've had some good solid runs. I'd be bull crapping you if I told you I wasn't out there trying to get the poles. I am. I'm trying to get all the poles I can. I just haven't got it to click yet. I've got close many times. More than that, I'm trying to get the wins. I can't remember what it feels like back then when I was 27. I told I'm hanging it out all I know how to hang it out and I'm qualifying where I'm qualifying. I don't know if it's the age of the people or what. I've answered that question for four years now. Are you getting bombarded by the young guys? I'm about younged out. I can tell you I'm doing the best I know how to do with what I've got to work with. Fourth and seventh is pretty strong you know."
WHAT ARE YOU THOUGHTS ON THE FIELD FILLERS?
"I don't think there needs to be as much importance set on having to have 43 cars for every single race. I know if they don't it'll be talked about a lot. I know we always used to start 36 on a short track, and 42 I believe on the bigger tracks. When you start Bristol with 43 cars on the track, that's a lot of cars. At Martinsville it's almost crazy to start with that many cars. That's a little bit frustrating to have that many cars. I just don't think we need to start that many. I'm glad that many people want to be in our sport and want to run, but when you look at the last four or five cars that entered at Darlington, those are cars that don't generally run with us. They run on occasion. You know they're there because they know if they make the field they'll make $30,000 or $40,000. That's big money. I understand that. Unfortunately one of them spun and Jeff Gordon got into it. I was right on his bumper when that happened. We went into three and I saw the guy hit and spin and start sliding down. I saw him kinda stop. I went to the bottom and unfortunately he went to the top and nailed him in the side. I went to the bottom and missed him, but that's controversial. I was sitting looking at the Bay Hill Invitational Golf Tournament. Here's a golfer that has a three or four-man entourage, and he makes $900,000. Here's a Cup team that's got 191 employees and he makes $180,000 to win. Something is screwed up here. Those are the things I look at."
WHERE DOES YOUR OPTIMISM COME FROM?
"I've been going for two years now with the attention level pretty strong. I'm used to winning, and I'm not getting to where I want. I believe in myself. I'm trying to surround myself with the right team, and stuff like that. I'm always optimistic. I don't people around me that give up or mope or are moody. They can be happy all the time and believe in themselves and be up. I'm one of those people that are up all the time. When something screws up, I know I've done my best job. I always look at the positive side of things, like Atlanta. I had a great car at Atlanta. I had an easy top-five car at Atlanta and break a transmission. I fall from sixth place in the points where I would have ended up all the way down to 20th. I'm looking at the positive side of it. I'm not looking at the 20th spot. Oh you finished 29th, I'm not looking at that. I'm looking at let's get it fixed and we'll get it back. I'm real excited about my Busch team. That kid, Billy Parker, has been running so strong. I'm down here testing with him right now, and he's looking great out there. I'm optimistic. You're not going to get that out of me. Being a down guy is not built into me."
IS THERE A BONUS GOING TO TEXAS AND LAS VEGAS TWICE?
"I've been doing this for a long time, and I've had a great time meeting all these people. I want to run Kansas City two times really, really bad. I want to run Texas two times really bad. The reason is I like the tracks, they pay good money, they're near big cities and the other reason is I'm down here right now at Texas testing, and Texas is Miller Brewing Company's No. 1 state for beer sales. It's the world headquarters for Lennox Heating and Cooling. It's a big headquarters for Westvaco. It's a huge market for my sponsors. California is also. From a selfish standpoint, Texas, California and Kansas City makes a huge amount of sense for Team Penske because our sponsors are rooted hard in those three states. You've got to listen to what the sponsors need because these things run off of money. They don't run off of feelings and stuff like that. We're complaining now that they're not paying enough money. If Bay Hill is paying $900,000 and the winner (NEXTEL Cup) wins $180,000. I don't know why it keeps happening. We need to go to the venues that pay a lot of money and it's really good for the sponsors because if it's not good for the sponsors they're not going to sponsor us and Team Penske won't be in business. That's just the way it is. I love Darlington, and I love Rockingham. How do you answer that? It's nothing against those tracks, but when we go to Texas and it's packed with 180,000 people with standing room only and it's popular as heck, I don't know why we're not there twice. The same with Kansas City. It's a wonderful track. I'd love to go there twice. People say what's your favorite track, and I say Bristol. But I can't hardly say that anymore. It's Bristol, Richmond and Kansas City. I'd like to see some of the tracks that have two go back to one and some of the tracks that have one get two."
DID YOU SELL AS MANY T-SHIRTS AT VEGAS IN TWO DAYS THAN AT DAYTONA IN TWO WEEKS?
"That's the truth. It's two completely different venues. Action Performance is working right now to try to figure out why that happened. There are so many different things for people to do at Daytona, maybe it distracted from sales. Maybe the trailers and attractions are parked too close together. My No. 1 track for sales is Texas, and Vegas was real strong also, but Daytona is a wonderful track, but there's so much for people to do there. We're working to try to put all this together and find the best way to make the fans happy and give the product they want and all that stuff. It was surprising we went to Daytona for two weeks and two days at Vegas outsold Daytona."
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE NASCAR HAVE A FULL-TIME SAFETY CREW?
"I don't know the answer to that one. You'd think it make sense to do it that way, but then you listen to people who are smarter than I am with it comes to that. They feel if you had one crew all the time at the track, that crew might not be as familiar with the emergency facilities around the country as if you just went in to every single venue and set up a deal with that emergency facilities. That was the opinion NASCAR always told me. Looking at it, it seems it'd make sense to have one group that's familiar with the drivers all the time. I think they should have that and they should also do their homework before they get to each facility. I think they're doing all that. I don't really think we've got a problem with that right now to tell you the truth. I know it's an on-going controversy. I think the response time has always been the thing that concerned me. I've watched the fires happen at Charlotte and some big problems happened at other places. The big thing you've got to do is get to these drivers when they have a problem. With the caution flag coming out now and everybody stopping that's got the response time down."