Wallace hunts for first win Of the season while remaining in contention for NASCAR Winston Cup Series title. DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 14, 2002) - There has been plenty of discussion regarding four-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion Jeff ...
Wallace hunts for first win Of the season while remaining in contention for NASCAR Winston Cup Series title.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 14, 2002) - There has been plenty of discussion regarding four-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon's current winless streak and his ability to maintain his title hopes despite the drought, but he is not the only former series champion caught in that quandary.
Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford), the 1989 NASCAR Winston Cup champion, has been among the top 10 in the championship hunt for 21 consecutive races, but remains one of three drivers - Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) and Wallace's teammate Ryan Newman (No. 12 Alltel Ford) are the others - among the top 10 still searching for his first win of the season.
It has been 48 races since Wallace's last win - April 29 of last year at California Speedway - as he prepares for Sunday's Pepsi 400 Presented by Farmer Jack at Michigan International Speedway.
"It's been real frustrating not being able to get a win, but what has kept me in a good mood through this is that we're in the thick of the points championship," said Wallace, whose 54 career wins are one shy of tying Lee Petty for eighth all-time in NASCAR history."I've got a lot of wins [in my career] and if it is between winning another race or winning another championship, I'll take the championship."
Despite the winless streak, Wallace is sixth in the NASCAR Winston Cup championship race, just 28 points behind fourth-place Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac) and 132 points behind the leader, Sterling Marlin (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge).
Wallace has been among the top 10 since finishing eighth at the Feb. 24th race at Rockingham, N.C., to move to 10th and has jumped as high as third in the points race on two occasions (following Bristol and Talladega). He has been buoyed by 12 top-10 finishes in 22 starts.
"We're right there in the points and in striking distance," Wallace said."Now we have to turn up the wick and burn faster. We need to win some races and the points will come to us. We've been real consistent and we have to remain real consistent, but we have to step up the performance level. Instead of top 10s or top fives, we need to beat all the guys I am racing against (in the championship). This is our best shot at a championship in a long time and we can't falter."
He has inched closer to that elusive victory in recent weeks, having posted two runner-up finishes in his last six starts. He finished second July 6 at the Pepsi 400 in Daytona and again Aug. 4 at the Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis.
Wallace also arrives at a 2-mile superspeedway where he has enjoyed success - and victory - over the course of his illustrious career. In 37 starts at MIS, he has five victories and 20 top-10 finishes overall. His most recent win at MIS came in this event in 2000.
"I think one of the key things is that we have always had great handling cars there and now the horsepower we have is second to none," said Wallace, whose other wins at this venue came in 1988,' 89,' 94 and' 96."I'll also have one of my favorite cars for that race - Mad Max (which won at MIS in 2000) - and we'll be running that special Harley-Davidson paint scheme we ran at the Pepsi 400 (where he finished second)."
A win would be quite the belated birthday present for Wallace, who turned 46 today, as well as extend an impressive career achievement. He has won at least one race for 16 consecutive years, dating to 1986.
"I'd like to get that win so I can keep that winning streak of 16 years continuing on," he said."Richard Petty has the longest winning streak in history at 18 years and I'm tied for second (with Ricky Rudd, 1983-98), and I'd really like to look back someday when I'm retired and have that record."