April 11, 1999 Bristol Motor Speedway WALLACE EXTENDS VICTORY STREAK AS FORD SWEEPS TOP THREE POSITIONS IN FOOD CITY 500 Rusty Wallace's victory in today's Food City 500 extended his streak of at least one NASCAR...
April 11, 1999 Bristol Motor Speedway
WALLACE EXTENDS VICTORY STREAK AS FORD SWEEPS TOP THREE POSITIONS IN FOOD CITY 500
Rusty Wallace's victory in today's Food City 500 extended his streak of at least one NASCAR Winston Cup win to 14 consecutive seasons. Wallace, who notched his 49th career victory, won for the seventh time in his career at Bristol Motor Speedway. Besides winning, Wallace also led a parade of three straight Ford's across the finish line. Ironically, the last time Ford had the top three finishers was last August here at Bristol Motor Speedway. On that occasion, Mark Martin won the race with Jeff Burton second and Wallace third. Wallace's win was the fourth for Ford this season compared to three for Chevrolet and increased Ford's manufacterer's point lead to seven over second-place Chevrolet (52-45). Pontiac is third with 36 points.
RUSTY WALLACE -2- Miller Lite Taurus -- "The guys at Penske South built me a brand new Hopkins car and we put it together, took it to the windtunnel and it ran great there. We put a good setup under the car and we were able to get four out of five poles here at Bristol. The amazing thing about it is that every one of the pole positions came with a complete different chassis setup and today's race was a different chassis setup. Bristol has always been my favorite race track. I guess everybody's gotta have a favorite track and this is it for me. I kind of know what I want the car to feel like at Bristol and we keep making the changes until we get it. I told the guys that it's amazing that all these different cars have different setups all the time and we just do what it takes to make the car run up front. Boy, it was really great today, but Mark was so strong at the end. I didn't know if I was gonna hold him off or not."
TAKE US THROUGH THE DECISION OF BRINGING THE NEWE CAR? "We were getting caught up with building some cars in the past and running them and then you bring them back and rebuild them and then you bring them back and rebuild them. I thought our fleet was getting a little bit on the old side and so did Robin. At the end of the year, we had a lot of ARCA drivers step in and buy almost every one of our cars. We sold a lot of our cars and Robin said, 'I'm gonna get you all brand new cars to start the year with.' He built me a brand new Daytona 500 car, you saw how strong it ran at Daytona and then he built me a new car for here and you saw how strong it ran. Now he built me another brand new car for Martinsville next weekend that we've been testing in South Carolina. It's been really running good, so I'm really excited about getting to Martinsville next week also because we've got another new one there. After that we've got a new road-race car, a new Charlotte car, so the whole fleet is brand new and that really feels good. We unloaded this car and the engine got started, it got chassis-dynoed back at the shop, we got setup and brought it here, and I went out to practice on Friday and the gas pedal wasn't feeling right. I lost about 20 minutes of practice just getting the gas pedal adjusted right in the car. Just new-car blues and still went out there and got the pole, but we didn't have any problem with it at all and it worked out good."
HOW HECTIC WERE THE LAST FEW LAPS HOLDING OFF THE 6? "It was pretty hairy. It wasn't an easy victory. I thought it was gonna be easy for a while there when some of the guys had their problems and I was able to pull away from Mark. But at that restart I was thinking to myself, 'I'm putting the same type of tires, the same air-pressure on.' I varied the left-front air-pressure a little bit to try to get the car to turn better and get it to run faster on restarts, and that did help me. I thought I could pull away from Mark and I couldn't shake "him. I just could not get away from him. Maybe more laps I could have pulled away from him, but 18 laps wasn't enough to shake him. He drove me really clean. He didn't get in the back of me going into turn three. I drove that car in the corner good and straight just in case it did happen, but he did a good job. It was a tough one because I was trying to pass lapped cars. I was having a tough time with lapped cars today, especially at the end of the race, but I was able to get around them all and got the victory."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE STEWART INCIDENT. THAT WAS YOUR CLOSEST CALL. "I guess the best part about it is I was the first one there through the incident. When I saw the 9 car spin, I saw him go to the top of the race track and then start coming back to the bottom, I just went right to the apron and just gassed it. I just jumped on the throttle wide open and went through the apron of the race track. I glanced in my mirror and saw the whole field plow into him then at that point. That was the turning point. Jeff was good today, but he wasn't as good as he normally is here. The 20 car was super-strong, Tony Stewart, that would have been a great run for him today if he could have finished. But then when those two went out, and the 18 car, that was the one I was most concerned with. And when he went out and the 20 and the 24, I said, 'Man, it's my race to lose right now.' But I grossly underestimated how strong the 6 was gonna be on those last 18 laps."
HOW MUCH LUCK GOES INTO WINNING HERE AND HOW MUCH IS PATIENCE? "I think everybody will tell you you have to have a lot of luck to win any race. You can be good all you want, but if you don't have luck it's tough too. Those guys were all strong cars. I mean, I think I had a stronger car. I got the front-end pushing pretty good and Tony Stewart got around me and then I noticed he was really strong and that he was the guy I was gonna have to race it looked like because we could pull away from everybody. Then, all of a sudden, I saw the 88 coming on me and he got right up on my rear bumper there with thirtysome to go and I said, 'Man, this is gonna be a tough one here,' because he caught me through traffic. Then I was able to pull away from him two or three car lengths, but I didn't know for sure I could hold onto that. Then, when the caution flag came out that felt a lot better. I was surprised to see how strong Mark did run at the end, but, in a way, I wasn't."
THE DECISION TO TO THE POLISH VICTORY LAP? "Personally, I was just so sick of seeing everybody go to the start-finish line and spin around and do a bunch of doughnuts. To me it was ridiculous and everytime they'd do it I'd shut the TV off. I said, 'Man, when I win next,' and if I wouldn't have had the rain delay at Phoenix I would have done it there because that was the first race Alan (Kulwicki) won. I had that in my mind, but the rain delay came and I couldn't do it there. But, then again, the day he died was right here at Bristol and I won the race. So, when I did the whole entire crew just yelled across the radio, 'Do the Polish victory lap.' It wasn't spin it around and do all this. I wanted to do something that was meaningful to the fans, that they can remember."
WERE YOU SURPRISED TONY STEWART RAN SO WELL? "Not really. That crew and that team and that whole Joe Gibbs deal, they've got both the 18 and the 20 car running real strong and they've both been qualifying real well. I know the 20 knows everything the 18's got and the 18 knows everything the 20's got, just like myself and Jeremy do. Jeremy just hit on some bad luck today, he just missed the setup a little bit. He couldn't get my setup to work in his car just right, so he used his own setup. But that boy (Stewart) will win some races pretty soon, I think, because he showed some patience and he shows aggressiveness. He drives a real good line and the whole deal, so, to be quite honest, I was not surprised to see how good he ran because I've been watching him run pretty good all year long."
HOW TOUGH WAS THE RACE PHYSICALLY? "It wasn't too bad. It was a pretty easy race today. My neck usually gets pretty tired here. I've been doing a lot of neck exercises at home. I've got a special machine I bought for that and Bill Simpson built me a lighter weight helmet. It's about six or eight grams lighter than the one I normally wear. I told him I needed something for Bristol, so he specially built me one for here and I didn't get tired at all today. It felt real, real good."
TALK ABOUT THE PASS ON MARTIN WITH ABOUT 150 TO GO TO TAKE THE LEAD. "I knew that if you're gonna pass somebody you've gotta do it while you've got good, sticky tires. I knew Mark was strong and I knew if I was gonna get back around him, I just had to do it as quick as I possibly could. So when I caught him coming off of turn four, I just had a good head of steam. My nose was right up under his bumper and he really pulled over and just let me go by. He needed to get five points. He got his five points and when he got those five points he wasn't gonna fight no more it looked like and I was able to get back around him."
WOULD THIS HAVE BEEN A TOUGHER LOSS CONSIDERING THE PAST HISTORY HERE OF DOMINATING AND NOT WINNING? "Yeah, it would have been a real crushing finish, but I've gotta tell you, I think the most crushed I've been all year long was the Daytona 500. To lead all those laps and then Gordon got up underneath me in one and I still really stick by our pit call we made. People say, 'Oh, you could have put four tires on, did this and that,' but the whole key to that thing, if I would have kept him behind me instead of having him getting on the inside of me, I don't know if anybody would be saying that still. So that was one that felt really bad, but everytime we go to a race we forget about the race we were at just immediately, at least I do. Bristol is my favorite track. It's the site of my first victory, so it's my favorite track. I took our brand new car that we brought here and named it "banker" because it seems like it really runs good on this banked track and it brought all the money home today. Hopefully, I'll be naming cars all year long."
WITH FOUR TO GO YOU CAME UP ON BUCKSHOT JONES. WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS? "It was just a lapped car at that point. The lapped cars were racing the leaders pretty hard and I just had to make a move. I started to go around the top side, he looked like he was going to the bottom and going to the top. I went to the top, I dove to the bottom, and as I was going to the top Mark was gonna fly underneath me and I pulled back down and I pulled down so abruptly that he ended up tapping me in the rear end a little bit. So it was a real tight deal. It was a real exciting race and I'm glad I won the thing. Heck, we were in victory lane and one of the first guys to victory lane to congratulate me was Jack Roush. He said, 'I don't ever do this to anybody, but you guys are really cool and I want to come down and congratulate you for a great win today.' So that feel pretty good to me that Jack came by."
HOW MUCH SWEETER IS THIS RACE TODAY AFTER WHAT'S HAPPENED PREVIOUSLY? "This race is a real sweet one because when you look at the attendance of this place -- 120-140,000 people -- that's pretty big. And to be so dominant in the past here at Bristol and have crazy things go on like this race last year. Leading the most laps and had a cylinder go down on me, and then, talk about crazy luck, I'm following Ricky Rudd and a piece of lead falls out of his car and blows a right-front tire out and I drive it wide-open into the wall and destroyed the car. You went from a hero to a hobo in nothing flat on that deal, so it feels good to finally bring it to the end."