Rusty Wallace continued his recent mastery of Bristol Motor Speedway as he became only the 10th driver in NASCAR Winston Cup history to win 50 races or more in a career as he won the Food City 500 for the second straight year. Wallace,...
Rusty Wallace continued his recent mastery of Bristol Motor Speedway as he became only the 10th driver in NASCAR Winston Cup history to win 50 races or more in a career as he won the Food City 500 for the second straight year. Wallace, who also extended his streak of having at least one victory per season to 15, has eight career wins at Bristol and is now tied with Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson for eighth-place on the all-time win list with those 50 wins. Wallace's triumph also gave Ford a series leading three victories in 2000 and marked the sixth different winner in the first six races of the season.
RUSTY WALLACE --2-- Miller Lite Taurus (Finished 1st) -- VICTORY LANE INTERVIEW: "It meant so much to me and I've been trying so long to get that number 50 and I got it at my favorite race track. I love all these race tracks, but Bristol has been my home. I've got the car dealerships right down the street. What about this crew, man? The pit stops were fast today and we worked and worked and worked. I bet we changed more chassis stuff and finally got it nailed perfect at the very end and drove off from there and it was great. I was a little bit concerned about whether I should pit there at the end, but we decided to stay out because everything was going so good. What a great victory for all the sponsors and all the team. I'm so excited I can't talk."
EVERY PIT STOP YOU MADE CHANGES. WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD THE CAR TO BEAT? "Well, with about 75 to go when I got in front of Jeremy. Jeremy let me go by to get five points and I thought he was gonna be able to get right past me, but he started gettin' loose and then when Gordon had his problems there that helped me a little bit. And then all of a sudden the car really started handling. I was loose all day long, but we brought some air up in the left-rear tire, put some wedge in, dropped some air out of the left-front, dropped the track bar, just kept giving it stuff like that and, man, it just took off. It was flying at the end of the day. I just can't say enough. I'm proud, it's a special day."
ROBIN PEMBERTON, Crew Chief --2-- Miller Lite Taurus -- "He was up on the wheel all day long. We had a good car. We didn't have the best track position at times, but he hung in there and we had to work our way through it. He did a great job."
JEREMY MAYFIELD --12-- Mobil 1 Taurus (Finished 4th) -- "We had a great car. It was a great motor, great stops, everything went good. The car handled awesome all day. It was by far the best car we've had here. We had a wrench break in the pits, but we're all in this together. We'll go from here and we're happy."
HOW MUCH HAS RUSTY HELPED YOU HERE? "He's helped me a lot. You could see where we were running, we were running right down there together on the bottom and he's taught me a lot."
ARE YOU HAPPY FOR RUSTY? "Oh yeah, I'm real happy for him. I wish I would have been there where we could have finished first and second or vice versa, but it was a good day."
WAS THIS FUN? "It was fun in one sense, but frustrating in another."
YOU LED A LOT OF LAPS, DID YOU HATE TO SEE THOSE CAUTIONS COME OUT? "If I couldn't win I wanted Rusty to win. At least we were competitive today and that's all we can ask for is to be back up front. I think we could have given him a run for his money there if we hadn't had that trouble in the pits."
ELLIOTT SADLER --21-- Citgo Taurus (Finished 41st) -- "From having one of the best days in my life yesterday (when the team was fastest in happy hour) to one of the worst ones today. We had us a great race car yesterday and we figured we'd be able to be real good today. I checked up because I didn't want to run into Bobby Labonte on the second lap of the race and then somebody got in the back of us. It's just tough luck for us. I tried to keep it out of the wall, but it just wasn't meant to be. We knocked all the steering out and that blew the right-front tire. It's just one of those days at Bristol we wish we could have avoided, but we couldn't do it. We'll just try to get 'em back at Texas."
RICKY RUDD --28-- Texaco Havoline Taurus (Finished 14th) -- "We just never had track position because we were pitting on the backstretch. We ended up 14th on the lead lap. I don't know, we had a top 10 car we just ended up 14th. There's not a whole lot you can do. Everytime we'd pit we would come out dead last on the lead lap and then you had to work your way back, but then the caution would come out. We just never could get there."
JEFF BURTON --99-- Exide Batteries Taurus (Finished 9th) -- HOW WAS YOUR DAY? "Long, long, long. It was a little disappointing. We thought we were great in practice yesterday, but from the drop of the green we weren't anywhere near close to where we needed to be. We just didn't have the balance. We either pushed or we were really loose and never could get it hooked up without it spinning the rear wheels and it never turned in the front. It was just a long day for us."
MARK MARTIN --6-- Valvoline Taurus (Finished 16th) -- "We had a really, really competitive car. We couldn't have beaten Rusty, but we could have competed for a top five for sure. That backstretch pit stall got us. I got run over and spun out and lost a lap, but our chance to win was basically over with qualifying. We did the best we could. We could have had a top five probably had I not got run over there, but at least we didn't get tore up. We got 15th."
MATT KENSETH --17-- DeWalt Tools Taurus (Finished 12th) -- "It was a little more eventful than I'd like I guess. We had a pretty decent car all day, but we were pitting on the backstretch. I had a hard time passing and getting up there and got in a couple of incidents here and there. It all ended up alright. Rob (Reiser) made some good decisions. We put on two tires that one time and got us up in the top five and then there at the end I thought we probably needed new tires, but we kind of had to hang out where we were to try and keep some track position."
HARD TO MAINTAIN PATIENCE WHEN YOU'RE ON THE BACKSTRETCH? "It is tough, especially when you've got a run on someone and you think you're in there far enough and they come down and cut you off and you get together. I did that a couple of times today and just misjudged and thought they were gonna stay to the high side and all of a sudden they come down and it's too late to get in the brakes, so it takes a lot of patience to run that many laps here."
YOU MUST BE HAPPY WITH THE START TO THIS YEAR. "Yeah, this is the first time we've had two competitive runs in a row. We're usually every other week, so top 15 is still our goal right now -- to have top 15 finishes every week until we can get better."
ROBERT PRESSLEY --77-- Jasper Engines Taurus (Finished 17th) -- "We had one point where we got so doggone loose that we couldn't do it and got a lap down and I think that cost us a top 10 today. The thing is we've gotta run these 500 miles every week or 500 lap races and we've gotta bring these race cars back like we are. I'm really excited. If we can get these top 17 or 18's every week, then the top 10s will come and then the top fives."
DID YOU HAVE A TOP 10 CAR? "All day long I didn't see us beating the 2 and the 12 car, they were just absolutely good. We were good with the 1, the 18 and them. I figured at one time there we had a fifth or sixth place car if things went right, but that long, long run whenever we loosened the car up, that's what we thought it needed and that got us a lap down. Then we just had to fight to stay in the top 16 or 17."
STACY COMPTON --9-- Kodiak Taurus (Finished 28th) -- "It wasn't that bad of a day. I tell you, I'm awfully proud of the guys with this Kodiak Melling team. They smoked some pit stops today. The team worked great together. I made some mental miscues getting into the pits, overshooting the pits. All in all it wasn't a bad day. We're pretty happy. We're disappointed with our finish, but we're happy with the way everybody worked together. This team is building. This team is building for the future and building for the second time around and I'm proud of what these guys are capable of doing. I know this team is capable of a lot more and it'll come in time. We're getting through this first round. We start with new cars next week and I tell you what we're excited about what's coming out of the shop. We've got some awful good cars coming out and I'm pretty pumped about the rest of the year and coming back to these places for a second time."
ROBBY GORDON --13-- Duracell Ultra/Turtle Wax Taurus (Finished 32nd) -- "I read an article about Dale Earnhardt and anger management at Bristol this weekend. I'd be interested to know his thoughts right now after being taken out while leading by the same guy that made our day miserable. We didn't have a chance to win today, probably not from the moment go, but the car was good early. We avoided the first wreck and were simply running for the long haul, trying to see if we could get to the top-15 and improve. I'm not going to name names, but we were tapped from behind by the 17 and sent into the wall. From there the car was junk. The front suspension was bent, the body was a mess -- it was pretty ugly, but we had moments. Somehow the guys always got me back on my feet. We adjusted the toe twice in pit lane, hammered out panels and kept it together. At times we were running laps that were very competitive. I don't know how, but hey, we ran all day. That was an objective and I guess we accomplished that."
DARRELL WALTRIP --66-- Route 66/Big Kmart Taurus (Finished 31st) -- "As good as we could've been, as good as we almost were, we just couldn't get to where it counts. I almost got by the 8 car in that first deal. I just about got by him and he hit me on the right-front wheel."
LARRY CARTER, Crew chief --66-- Route 66/Big Kmart Taurus -- "This was the kind of weekend we can build on. We qualified well on Friday and, aside from one air pressure adjustment that didn't do what we needed, we kept the car pretty good today. That first accident bent something in the front suspension. That, and having to change the radiator right at the end really hurt us."
NOTE: There will be no Dale Jarrett quotes today. My apologies.
MATT KENSETH PRESS CONFERENCE
MATT KENSETH --17-- DeWalt Taurus -- "It was alright. I learned a lot running 500 laps at Bristol for the first time. These Winston Cup guys are really a handful, so we're happy to finish on the lead lap. We finished in the top 15 and that's sort of our goal getting started here in our first season in Winston Cup and my first year. This is a young team, so to finish in the top 15 we're pretty happy."
HOW ABOUT RUNNING BOTH DAYS? "I feel pretty good, but I didn't make it all the way through Saturday's race so Saturday wasn't too good for us but it was a good day today. It was good run. We got all our pit stops in, we learned a lot, we got some notes to take back here next time, so that should help us out."
HOW WERE YOU ABLE TO COME BACK AFTER A ROUGH START? "We did sort of have a rough start there, but when they started the race -- the very first lap when there was a wreck, we started 22nd right in the middle there, and the very first lap there was a wreck and I got in the brakes so hard I thought maybe I flat-spotted a tire and had to come down across the apron and hit the valance and it bent the fender. So the very first lap we had to come down for four tires and work on the body a little bit and that put us dead last. As you know, single file down here with 43 cars, the leader is only a half-a-straightaway behind you when they start the race, so it was an uphill battle all day. The car was extremely tight when we started the race and we had to make a lot of adjustments all day. Robbie made a real good call there putting on two tires with about 120 to go or something like that and got us up in the top five and that actually was the best our car was. We kind of hung out there for a little bit and then at the end we got off sync on tires and kind of lost the handle a little bit."
WHAT HAPPENED WITH THE 13 CAR? "That definitely wasn't planned. He was up high there and I was real, real tight. The lap before that I kind of got under him and I was too tight and I had to back out of it. I finally got a good run off the corner and I thought he was gonna stay up to the high side and he came down and I got in the brakes as hard as I could and I just pushed the front end and got into his left-rear. I feel real bad about that. I never like to be the one when everybody watches the race where it looks like you run into everybody, but it was so tight all day and I made a judgement error. I thought he was gonna stay on the high side and he gave me the bottom side and I was already in the corner real hard, so it was just a mistake. The caution actually did help us stay on the lead lap, all the cautions did because we were so far back. Then when cars finally started eliminating themselves and things were happening where the line wasn't so long when we'd restart, then at least we could kind of see the leaders and get up there a little bit."
HOW BIG WAS IT TO FINISH WHERE YOU DID? "It was pretty big. I thought there for a while we were gonna get a top 10 and, of course, you always try to get them. But, like I said, my personal goal is to try to finish in the top 15 every week and I felt like if we can finish in the top 15, then we had a real successful day. Staying on the lead lap at Bristol, especially after the first lap when we had to restart last, that was a good job by the team. They made a lot of adjustments on our car all day. We started way off and in time we made it competitive enough to get a good finish there at the end, so it was a real big accomplishment for us. Every other week so far it's been a good run and a bad run and a good run and a bad run, so now we have two pretty good ones in a row so, hopefully, we'll have a little more consistency."
RUSTY WALLACE PRESS CONFERENCE
RUSTY WALLACE --2-- Miller Lite Taurus -- "Yesterday we started happy hour practice and I had a concern after the first practice because my car, I couldn't get the front end to turn the way I wanted to. We kept making all kind of changes and then in happy hour we built some new-designed shock absorbers and tried that, then we softened the front springs a lot and tried that and right at the very end of the day we got it really running great. I told the guys this morning, I said, 'The sun came out and the track is getting hotter. I think this track is gonna get loose on us from my past experience here.' So we changed some air pressure around to start the race and I'm glad I did that because I was real loose when I started and I fell back to 12th. We came in, we started making adjustments with the springs and air pressure and stuff like that and the car kept running better and better and better. Out of all those pit stops we had we kept making changes every single one and then finally with two pits stops to go we got it just right and it was perfect and the car handled great. Then when I was able to get past Jeremy and get out front and get gone, that really helped. Jeremy and I were talking on the radio and at that particular time he was flying, he was running good. I told him, I said, 'Man, I could sure use five points real bad,' and he said, 'If I get in the right position I'll let you have 'em.' I said, 'OK.' So, all of a sudden we restarted the race and his car got real loose. I guess and adjustment they made didn't suit the car right and I got past him and I stayed in front the rest of the time. The car was great right at the very end and I think it just goes to show how the two cars are working together right now. We work really hard. I told you all in January I think at the Charlotte Media Tour that we were gonna try to get these two cars back on track. He was real dominant today and we were real dominant the last 100 laps of the race, so we worked strong together. He was the first guy in victory lane to congratulate me, so it was a neat day. Number 50 was a real, real important thing to me. It was a goal that I set for a long time and to think I got my very first win here at Bristol in 1986 and here I am it's the year 2000 and I've got my 50th. It's a pretty neat feeling."
DID NUMBER 50 GET MORE AND MORE IMPORTANT AS IT GOT LONGER AND LONGER TO GET? "Yeah it did. It got to be almost where it was a jinx. We kept talking about number 50 and the wins just wouldn't come. Some weird things would happen. Like Daytona, we had such a great run in the Daytona 500 and I really thought if we could have got out of the pits we could have won that race, I felt we could have because track position was the most important thing. We let that slide and then we got to Rockingham and a new track record. We had a great car there and then the lugnuts came loose and lost a lap having to pit under green and I let that one slide. I told 'em today, I was on the radio I said, 'Don't let this one get screwed up.' I said, 'I want it. This is an important race for me.' Robin was really up on the pipe. He was on the gas making sure everybody was doing their job right. We had a lugnut fall off one time and I got on them about that. Then the next time we had a hell of a fast stop going and some photographer jumped on Bill Wilburn's air hose and we had a bad pit stop. I think that guy is still in the air. I think they beat the hell out of that guy (laughing). But that would be something, a real crucial pit stop and there's a photographer standing on your air hose, so that was a bad deal. But after that I guarantee you we had a real clean pit. Robin ran everybody out and they got focussed and the pit stops were real good today."
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE TIED WITH NED JARRETT AND JUNIOR JOHNSON ON THE ALL-TIME LIST? "First of all, it's an honor to be tied with Junior and Ned. We were at Darrell Waltrip's roast on Friday night at the Holiday Inn and that was a really cool deal because we had a nice time talking to Junior and Ned and all of them, and Bobby Allison and Darrell. We just kept having flashbacks to the early eighties when I won all those races and we had all the fun and everything was a little bit more fun back in those days. But then when I hit 47 and 48 wins and 49, I started thinking, 'Man, I'd really like to have that 50th. That would be a special deal.' And I really wanted to get it accomplished during NASCAR's 50th anniversary and I really thought I could have. And I tell you what, when I got my 49th win last year here, I thought that was my 50th win. I was probably the most disappointed guy around when I talked to TR (Tom Roberts) and he said that was my 49th win. I miscounted, but it was a special deal. It was my own personal goal. I wasn't trying to race Jeff Gordon to get it. I mean, yeah, I'm glad I did it but if he would have gotten it first I still would have wanted to get my 50th."
IS THIS YOUR FAVORITE TRACK AND WAS IT CIRCLED ON YOUR CALENDAR? "Yeah, it really was. I put a really big bullseye right on this race track and I told my guys. This is ridiculous now. I've won all my races at Bristol and Richmond and Martinsville and road courses. Daytona and Talladega are now some of my best race tracks. We've won at Pocono, Michigan and Dover, all them tracks, but I've won seven times at Bristol. I've got four car dealerships down the street. That's the site of my very first win. There are 147,000 people in the grandstand and it's the number one most exciting track on the circuit. Yeah, I had a big bullseye and that's one of the reasons I came here and tested and had a real in-depth test for two days here. We learned a lot and I think it helped in the victory."
WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO DIFFERENT TO TRY AND WIN MORE THIS YEAR? "That's a real good question. Last year when I won the first one I just took it for granted that we were good and we were gonna win and it was gonna happen. Then we got our doors blowed off all year long. I mean, we knew we had to do something different. The chassis, getting more horsepower, need the pit crew faster, get better aerodynamics, testing all we possibly can. Those are things we're doing right now to get better because I know right now that this could be the last one for this year. I hope not, but with the mentality I've got right now knowing what I thought last year, it makes us work that much harder this year. There are a lot of guys running good and there are a lot of guys running bad and you've gotta take advantage of that stuff. I remember there were about six of us that could win before. It was me and Earnhardt and Gordon, I don't know there are some more cats out there, but somebody walked up with a calendar to me the other day. It had 13 race cars on the front of the calendar and I looked at him and said, 'You know what, all those guys are bad asses. They're all fast.' Thirteen of 'em, there used to be six."
DID YOU NAME THE CAR TODAY, IT WAS BRAND NEW? "It was a brand new car and we tested it and thought it was worthy of a new name. TR (Tom Roberts) and I had been running some different names around our heads and I didn't agreew with three or four them he had and the last one he had was Bristol. I said, 'OK,' so we named it Bristol."
YOU AND SPENCER SHOWED SOME EMOTION OUT THERE. "Spencer is a really cool guy, I like him a lot. He's a lap down and the last thing that was on my mind was giving him a lap back when I was trying to win the race. He wanted that lap back bad, but I'm like 'I want to get gone. I want to get away from all you guys. I want to get out so far nobody can find me.' And I had Jarrett behind me and a whole bunch of guys behind me. Jimmy was on new tires, we were on used tires and he was upset that I didn't give him that lap back, but I just couldn't take a chance that that was gonna happen. To be quite honest, he was on new tires and his car was just not running fast on new tires and I was all over the back of him. He started getting mad and upset, but, hey, one thing I've learned in my life is I can be as mad as I can possibly can on a Sunday but when I wake up on a Monday for some reason I feel better about it."
HOW MANY CLOSE CALLS TODAY? "I had about two close calls right here in three and four where I had to drive off the race track down on the apron. The one where Earnhardt got in a wreck and then there was another one earlier when I had to do it again. Then down in turn one and two one time when there was some stuff going on down there, but the closest ones were down here in three and four. I'd say three times today I had to avoid 'em. I tell you, some of the toughest stuff is trying to not get crashed going back to the start-finish line. When you're leading the race and there are cars a lap down racing you back, that's a pretty tough one right there."
HOW DOES THIS WIN COMPARE TO YOUR FIRST? "The excitement level is probably equal, but it's a much much bigger win right now because of what the sport is nowadays and the people who are paying attention to it and watching it all around the world. I was over in Italy last year and I was in Monte Carlo for our vacation. We did this little one time thing and went through there. It was a neat deal. I always wanted to go over and tour that area and there were people there that knew me. There were people all around the country that knew me. Back then, nobody knew me. We won the race and it was like, 'Oh, that's cool.' I remember after I won the race I got in a 1978 Trans Am and drove back to Charlotte. I had a friend of mine with me, I don't even know the guy's name. I can't remember, but I told him, I said, 'Man, I'm gonna have the biggest party you've ever seen in my life when I win my first race.' I remember I got in that doggone Trans Am, I slid the seat all the way back and leaned the seat back and fell asleep. I went all the way home asleep, all the way to High Point and some rental home I had. Life has changed a whole lot, no doubt about it. I've got a lot of good friends, a lot of neat things, and a lot of competitors on the track. It's changed. You can't even compare it. It's a much, much bigger win right now than it was, but the feeling I have is about equal."
WHAT ABOUT KEEPING YOUR STREAK OF AT LEAST ONE WIN PER SEASON INTACT AT 15? "That right there is probably a bigger achievement than winning 50 races. To be able to win every year it's pretty cool. I tell you what, when Ricky Rudd did that every year and then last year he missed it, that made me nervous because when I won my race here at Bristol and I didn't get nothing the rest of the year and everybody kept saying, 'Oh yeah, now you've beaten Ricky Rudd's streak and you're winning once a year,' and I'm going, 'Man, that could be the kiss of death right there, it might not happen again, but it did so that's great."