Daytona II: Dodge - Rusty Wallace interview

RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) NOTE: Wallace, a 47-year-old driver from St. Louis, will make his 43rd career start at Daytona International Speedway in Saturday night's Pepsi 400. Wallace has never won at the 2.5-mile track. His best ...

RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge)

NOTE: Wallace, a 47-year-old driver from St. Louis, will make his 43rd career start at Daytona International Speedway in Saturday night's Pepsi 400. Wallace has never won at the 2.5-mile track. His best finish came in the 2002 Pepsi 400 when he finished second. Wallace has one victory this season. He won at Martinsville, Va., on April 18 and held eighth place in the standings after the victory. Since then he's dropped to 16th and is 221 points out of 10th place with 10 races remaining to make the 2004 playoffs. Wallace talks about tomorrow night's Pepsi 400, the 26-10 system and his season.

"We didn't qualify that well, but we're just six tenths off the pole. That might sounds like a lot, and is it a lot at places like Charlotte and Atlanta, but it's nothing here. Once the cars get rolling it's nothing. I've raced a lot at Daytona and I've come close to winning many times. A lot of times I've left here and couldn't believe I didn't win. We've had some good cars here, and this Dodge is going to be good in the race. It's the same car we had in the Budweiser Shootout and it sticks better than the car we had here for the Daytona 500. I wish we had run this car in the 500. Handling is going to be the key. I know a lot of Chevys qualified up front, but the race hopefully will be another story. We're going out and make some laps in practice, weather permitting, and see how long it takes before we start slipping and sliding. Then we'll know the changes to make and hopefully we can get the car handling right and be able to run with anyone."

COMMENT ON 10 RACES LEFT TO MAKE THE TOP 10 FOR THE PLAYOFFS "I'm at a little disbelief at what's happened to our car in the past five races. I've had a top five car all year. To have some of these crazy things happen... I'm talking to Larry (crew chief Carter), and I'm saying these things have got to stop. It's not his fault or my fault. We're confident that we've got a good car every week. We ran out of gas last week on the last lap running in the top five. We blew a motor the week before at Michigan, and we were in the top 10. We were running in the top five at Dover, so I'm not concerned about performance. We just can't afford to have these stupid things going on. I'm not calling them mistakes. Running out of gas may have been a mistake, but blowing a tire or blowing an engine is not a mistake. We're not making bad decisions. Losing the brakes at Pocono was bad. We learned from that. We only had a quarter inch of brake pad left, so we'll use more cooling on those brakes when we go back. Running out of gas on the road course, I told Larry in the future if he had any question that we might run out of fuel he had to be on my butt about saving fuel. I ended up getting in trouble hustling it so hard, downshifting and going crazy trying to get around Casey Mears. Looking back at it, I probably blew a gallon of gas doing that mess. Knowing that and looking back at it, we're going to be more careful next time about saving gas. Larry said we needed four caution laps and we'd already had six, so he didn't think there would be any problem. Larry was just as freaked out about it as I was when we ran out of gas. He couldn't believe it happened, either. On the other hand, my teammate, Ryan Newman, ran out of gas a quarter of a lap later coming down the hill. Everybody was running out of gas. I didn't know that. If I'd known anything, I would have done everything I could to save it."

COMMENT ON 20 TOP 10 TEAMS GOING FOR 10 SPOTS "We're an easy top five or top seven team easy, and now with 10 to go we've just got to overcome those 200 points. There might be 20 guys that think they're top 10 teams, but if you look where they're running, they're not running in the top 10 every week. I know every single week we're there. The frustrating part of it is we come out of Martinsville with a win and we're eighth in points and we're rocking and rolling. We got to Talladega and there's a big crash. We got to California and crash with Tony Stewart. Then we get together with Kurt Busch. All that stupid stuff starts happening. We've had a couple of lucky things. We gained a couple of spots at Dover when the whole field crashed, and we really got lucky with the motor at Michigan. Instead of blowing all at once, I was able to finish the race with it on seven cylinders. Other than that, the performance is there, and I've got to run hard, aggressive and careful and finish every week now. If I can run the race and finish with no problem, we're going to be in the top five and get more wins. We can't waste time. We can't afford to make mistakes."

WERE YOU IN FAVOR OF THE 26-10? "No, because I don't like the way it makes the people out of the top 10 feel. I don't like the way it makes the sponsors feel. I don't like what's going to happen. I don't plan on being out of the top 10, but if you're out of the top 10, you might have been out of the top 10 all your life. If you're out of the top 10 this time it's going to make you feel like a loser, and I don't think that's good for the sport. I'm holding judgment a little bit, but I'm looking at the sponsors."

WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU'RE NOT IN THE TOP 10 WITH 10 TO GO? "You get all the points you can. Still, the No. 1 thing to me is winning races. Would I rather win races or finish 10th in the points? I'd rather win a race. I don't care about the points. I'd much rather win that finish 10th in the (final) point standings. I'd rather finish in the top 10 with 10 to go than win a race, but I'd rather win that finish in the top 10. If you can't win the championship, I'd rather win races. I'm afraid a lot of these sponsors are going to have this feeling of loss or defeat. I don't want anybody to feel like that. It might create some drama, but this sport already has plenty of drama. It's put a lot of pressure on everybody, teams and owners. It puts pressure on sponsors because they might become disenchanted with it all."

DO YOU FEEL THE PRESSURE? "No, I'm not feeling the pressure. I'm far enough in my career right now where it doesn't bother me. If I was 10 years younger it might bother me. Right now, I want to get in the top 10 and get a shot at that thing."

WILL YOU BE CAREFUL IN PRACTICE TONIGHT? "You've got to be careful because this doesn't pay the bills here. If you get out there and they get crazy going three wide and stuff there's nothing wrong with backing off. All you need to do is see how that car feels. You just need to run with the right crowd. If you see some rookies or drivers you don't trust, then you need to just back away. If you don't and get in a wreck it's probably your own fault."

-dodge-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Casey Mears