NASCAR Winston Cup Rusty Wallace, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Taurus, has won 54 races in his NASCAR Winston Cup career, second among all active drivers. Five of those victories have occurred at Michigan International Speedway, site of ...
NASCAR Winston Cup
Rusty Wallace, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Taurus, has won 54 races in his NASCAR Winston Cup career, second among all active drivers. Five of those victories have occurred at Michigan International Speedway, site of Sunday's Sirius Satellite Radio 400. Additionally, Wallace won the first pole of his career there in 1987. He heads into this weekend's event in fifth place in the points standings. Wallace and first-year crew chief Bill Wilburn talk about the team's success this year and at the two-mile superspeedway.
RUSTY WALLACE-2-Miller Lite Taurus
MICHIGAN IS A TRACK WHERE YOU'VE ALWAYS DONE WELL. DO YOU LOOK FORWARD TO GOING THERE OR IS JUST ANOTHER TRACK TO YOU?
"No, it's a track that I always look forward going to. Last year when I was there, we had a big lead in the race and blew a motor, in fact, got very, very lucky. Had a big lead, the motor lost a cylinder, sent down on seven cylinders, and then it started raining. And when it started raining, I was going backwards and I got to seventh, and they red-flagged, they cancelled the race and I went, 'Ah, man. Boy, was I lucky.' I'll never forget, I'm on the yellow flag riding around down to seven cylinders, knowing that if we went back green I was done. And they ended the race, and boy, did I get lucky. On the other hand, I had a big lead, the car was great. I really enjoy running that race track. I've won there many times. It's real wide, real fast. And I think it's really going to play into the hands of all that Penske horsepower we got under the hood."
DOES IT FOLLOW THAT IF YOU'RE SUCCESSFUL AT A TRACK YOU HAVE TO LIKE IT, OR CAN YOU BE SUCCESSFUL AT A TRACK THAT YOU DON'T LIKE?
"You can be successful at all race tracks, but you always have a much higher level of confidence when you go to a track that you've won at before and always run good at."
WHAT IS IT ABOUT YOUR ABILITIES AND THE WAY YOU DRIVE THE CAR THAT LEADS TO YOUR SUCCESS AT MICHIGAN?
"Michigan's a real smooth race track, it's not a lot of banking. You really got to work really super hard on the handling there, and that's one of the things that I work very hard on - I get really involved in the chassis. But, track position nowadays with the current rules is real important. Horsepower's been really, really important, and I have all those things right now. And I went to Michigan before and run terrible, but last year, we were running great. All I can tell you is that it suits my driving style, I like it, and I think that when we go back this year we'll have a great run."
POLES ARE GOOD, WINS ARE GREAT. CAN SOMETHING BE SAID FOR CONSISTENCY? YOU'VE DESCRIBED YOUR SEASON AS CONSISTENT. CAN YOU TAKE POSITIVES OUT OF THAT?
"I have to take a positive out of that because we don't have a win right now. What I'm hanging my hat on is the consistency, and the good top-10 runs, and top-five in the points most of the year. That's what I'm paying attention to right now. If I can't have the wins, I have to be consistent at least in order to win this championship."
SO, EVEN THIS EARLY IN THE SEASON, POINTS ARE IN THE FOREFRONT OF YOUR MIND?
"Yeah. Points are very much in the forefront of my mind because it's been since '89 since I won a championship, and it's been a long time since I've been in this good of shape in the points. So, we've just got to maintain that."
BILL WILBURN, crew chief-2-Miller Lite Taurus
WHAT IS IT ABOUT RUSTY AND MICHIGAN INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY THAT HAS LED TO SUCCESS FOR THE NO. 2 TEAM?
"He likes to run well wherever we go, but that's kind of become Rusty's stronger points, I think, is the bigger race tracks. He's really good at getting the car to handle, and Michigan is pretty much a handling race track. I think we've got really good race cars, aerodynamically, and we got great horsepower with Penske engines, so I think a combination of all those things really help Rusty with his success."
FROM A CREW CHIEF'S VIEWPOINT, WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT MICHIGAN? AND ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT ANYTHING?
"I like it because it's a wide-open race track, there's more than one lane, it's not just around the bottom. There's a little strategy involved at Michigan. It seems like there's always a gas-mileage deal involved. It doesn't, as a normal deal, have a lot of cautions, so it creates for good racing, strategy-wise. So, I really don't have any concerns at all about going there. We're taking one of our favorite cars to race there - No. 25, 'Mad Max.' Last year we led that race and ran really well and had a chance to win until we broke a valve spring. So, I'm just hoping we go there with everything polished and in the right form so we have a chance to win."
HAS YOUR FIRST YEAR AS A CREW CHIEF, SO FAR, BEEN WHAT YOU EXPECTED?
"It's been alright. Everything's going smooth. We just need to be a little more competitive, we need to lead some more laps and win some races. We're finishing races, that's about it. We're not as competitive or as strong as I'd like to see us be, but we're trying. It's just going to take some time. We'll get there."
BUT, FIFTH IN THE POINTS HAS SHOWN CONSISTENCY.
"Fifth's real good. It takes consistently finishing in the top-10 to maintain a fifth- or sixth-place in the points. We need to put some top-fives and some wins on the board, and we'd be even a little further up than that. Hopefully, coming up, the second half of the season or the last couple races of this first half, we can put up a couple top-fives or a win up, and then go into the second half with some momentum."