RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) TALLADEGA RECAP "We had a poor qualifying run, but in the race the car handled fine. It handled great and it was running good. I was just logging laps and biding time because I tell you what, I don't ...
RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge)
"We had a poor qualifying run, but in the race the car handled fine. It handled great and it was running good. I was just logging laps and biding time because I tell you what, I don't think I've ever seen that much aggression in my life out there at Talladega. There were a lot of drivers bumping into each other, a lot of banging, a lot of cars getting knocked sideways. The cars I was drafting with, I couldn't believe what I saw. I saw doors knocked in, tail clips knocked off, right front fenders knocked off and cars looked like they were still running pretty fast. I saw Casey Mears' car, I was running with it one time, it was beat all to the living heck. I saw the 23 car with the nose knocked off of it running good. People ask me why so much physical contact out there? Why so many crashes and stuff? I guess I'd have to say that the aerodynamic package has still got the cars too tight, too close. They've got to get away from each other somehow. They're just way too tight running together. It caused a lot of wrecks, and then sometimes there were guys that are in control of the gas pedal, the brakes, the steering wheel like they're supposed to be and they just didn't use their heads. They caused a lot of wrecks. You can sugar coat it all you want, but there were a couple of characters out there who caused a lot of big wrecks, drove dangerous. A lot of them got caught up in the big ones, too. Anyway, I was running up at the top of the racetrack along and I was up in the third lane logging laps and when the big wreck happened, when Tony Stewart and the 97 got together they came across the track and there was just nowhere to go. I got collected in it. It was too bad. We had three good runs in a row, and I go to Talladega. I had that one in the back of my mind. I thought 'boy if I get through this one it'll be a lot easier,' but I got tangled up in it and that was it."
OUTLOOK FOR CALIFORNIA
"I've always had good cars there. The Penske power has always been real good at California. I think of all the racetracks we go to, California is the place you've got to have the most power. It really, really shows up at that track for some reason. On the other hand, I've had good handling cars, too. We ran third there last year, me and Bobby Labonte back and forth. We had a great run. I feel real good about the car we've got. The guys are telling me in the wind tunnel it's the strongest car we've had all year, so you think that's great. I know I'll go out with good horsepower. I'm feeling real strong about the team, and based on my record out there, it's always been good so I don't expect anything less than that."
IS THERE ANYTHING THAT CAN BE DONE TO PREVENT RACES FROM ENDING UNDER YELLOW?
"Not really. I like 'em ending under yellow. The fans don't like 'em ending under yellow. The reason we like it is because we know as drivers if you've got two or three laps to go it's going to cause one heck of a mess trying to restart. That's how I got on my roof and ended up in the hospital with broken bones, tore all to crap. The only reason we try to restart these races is to put an exciting show on. The thing that confuses me is we've already put an exciting show on for three and a half hours. We've missed the last little bit because of a crash. I know the fans want to see it. That area down there at Talladega is a big Dale Earnhardt Jr. track and he was running and they were all wanting to see him win that race. There's no doubt about that. They were slinging the beer cans and doing all the stuff when you have a couple too many beers in you I guess. It caused that. For safety of all the drivers, and if you poll the drivers most of them will tell you, 'hey look, it's been a nail biter all day long. We're just happy to get this thing over with right now.' It was the safe way out. When the caution flew, the 24 car was leading. I saw it on TV myself. End of story."
DO YOU THINK NASCAR WILL EVER RUN ON STREET COURSES?
"No, I really don't think that will happen. I even see the day coming down the road when there might not even be road courses. The cars are so much different. I love road courses, but I do see the day, with only two on the schedule it's kinda of an oddity to build new cars and do the types of things it takes to run on road courses. I don't see road racing with NASCAR getting expanded, especially with street courses. It's just my personal opinion, but I don't see it coming. I've never heard any conversation on that whatsoever. Again, I do like the road courses. I've always run good on them. I've won some of them. It's a specialty type of vehicle and specialty type of race. I don't know with the new race NASCAR thinks if that would be something they'd entertain."
DO YOU THINK NOT RACING BACK TO YELLOW HAS BEEN POSITIVE FOR SPORT?
"It's absolutely been a positive change for the sport. The No. 1 thing I think it helps a ton is it lets the safety personnel get to the injured driver or the car in distress because when you've got two cars out there running 200 mph you don't know if they're going to slow down or not. The car could be out there in the middle of the racetrack burning or hurt real bad and they can't get to him because the cars are whizzing by so fast. It helps so much. It lets everybody get under control. Instead of looking at your back and running real hard at the line, you've got a car closing in on you trying to get a lap back, and stuff like that, it was very, very dangerous and it's been that way for a long, long time. I totally commend them for doing this rule. I love when the caution flag comes out we just stop racing, and it's really not been a problem at all. I haven't seen a problem. Somebody might have felt it hurt their finish, but the big picture, what it's doing for safety, it's much, much better."
HAS DRIVER MENTALITY CHANGED?
"That's a really good question because I went into that race and I didn't really know why they were doing what they were doing. It wasn't everybody. I didn't see Mark Martin do anything wild. I didn't see Sterling Marlin do anything wild. I didn't see Terry Labonte. I didn't see Kevin Harvick. I didn't see Jeff Gordon. I didn't see any of the guys doing anything wild, but I did see a lot of the younger guys getting real aggressive, really crazy. It was just way too early. I don't know why they did that. I don't know why it happened. I'm sure Mike Helton is going to have to address it next time. I think a lot of times things happen because it can be done. It can happen. The new rule last year, they put another half inch on the rear spoiler, and that extra spoiler height creates a bigger turbulence behind the car and it'll let the cars draft up and draft tighter. At Daytona this year, everybody's cars were pushing real bad. The front ends were sliding real bad. We had more spoiler on the back for that, and I think that's the reason it happened. It happened to be my suggestion that they cut more spoiler off the back so cars don't draft that tight. That will help. I know it will help. You sit back and wonder why they didn't calm down a little bit, why didn't they just log some more laps. Why didn't they do this and why didn't they do that? You see some veterans, and some of them not even veterans going, and you listen to the radio chatter and they're saying they're just hanging back, it's not looking good. There were wrecks in the middle of the pack, front of the pack, back of the pack. There were wrecks all over. There really was no rhyme or reason other than the fact the cars are drafting so tight that everybody is taking advantage of every single hole instead of just logging laps and letting the race wind down before they got it on."
YOU LOOKED YOUNGER AFTER MARTINSVILLE WIN
"I appreciate that. I feel like I'm driving the best I've drove in a long time. I feel great. Our team is pulling for me. I don't feel anything weird. People just keep telling me that. I guess it's the thing to talk about, but I'm glad I won the race and the monkey is off my back. People can quit hounding me about that. I'm all excited right now about getting to California. I've got a brand new paint scheme there. I got this red, white and blue with stars all over it. It's the Miller President of Beers paint scheme. It's got nothing to do with politics. It's going to be a funny think that Miller's doing. I don't know if you've seen their ad campaign behind it right now on television, but it's kind of a quirky thing. Miller Lite is just flying off the shelves right now. Their low carb advertising is doing great. They're all pumped up, and I'm going to have a star spangled banner uniform on out in California. The cars are going to be red, white and blue, so you're going to have to check that thing out."
WILL CALIFORNIA AND RICHMOND BE GOOD INDICATORS FOR THE FINAL TWO RACES BEFORE THE FINAL 10 STRETCH?
"I do think they're going to be good predictors. If you go to California and get your doors blown off and you run terrible, I'm sure those guys will go test before next time and get better. Richmond is going to be a repave, so it's going to be a lot different for everybody. I'll be up there testing in a week or so at that track. I was going to test Martinsville, but I told the guys the track is the same and I'd rather not waste that one day going to Martinsville. We've got a lot of good notes for that place, so we're going to use that test and go to Richmond. I expect Richmond to be quite a bit different because of the fresh pavement, so it's definitely going to play into it, but I think the first race versus the second race at Richmond is definitely going to be different. The track will have more age on it, it'll be worn in, the setup is probably going to change a little bit. That's two races I look forward to going to because I think they're going to be good for me."
COMMENT ON CHANGING REAR TIRE CHANGER
"All the guys on the pit crew were really good, but we were having problems with one position, the right rear tire changing position. We tried a couple of guys and it just didn't work out, so what we did, Larry Carter found a guy he had been watching and D.J., one of our tire changers which is super fast, we moved him from the right front to the right rear. He did just as good on the right rear. We found a kid named Jay Hackney. He was working for the 4 car, and Jay has always been pretty quick. We tried him out and he looked great. We hired him and he went to the right front and immediately (we found) that one missing link in our pit crew. Bristol was his first race and I almost won at Bristol. We went to Texas and ran fifth and then went to Martinsville and won. Now we've got our pit crew where we want it."
IS THERE A LINE BETWEEN GOING TO BIGGER MARKETS AND STAYING AT OLDER TRACKS?
"Rockingham is one of my favorite racetracks. I love it. There has got to be some type of line drawn, no doubt about it. I don't know what's going to happen down there. I don't know what's going to happen to Rockingham or Darlington. I've been hearing rumors like everybody. I've asked NASCAR to give me the inside track, and they're not willing to do that right now. I've won at that place four or five times. I almost won it this year. I was running second when I had a bad pit stop. It's a track that the location of the track is way out there, and there's not a ton of people out there. NASCAR is trying to grow the sport. They're trying to get it where there's a ton of hotels, great road access, there's a lot of things to do. They've got these fresh, new facilities, and unfortunately some of these older facilities don't have that. They're suffering because of it. I don't know what's going to happen to Rockingham or Darlington, but it's fun going to those two places. I've been doing it my whole life. I'm just waiting to see like everybody else right now. I'd hate to see Rockingham come completely off the schedule. I like going to Rockingham. I guess I'm going to be bold in this statement I'm going to say here, but Darlington is in that category, too. It's hard to get to and I haven't seen a lot of rebuilding going on at the track. I haven't seen resurfacing. I haven't seen anything going on around there to bring the facility up to the style NASCAR wants these days."
DO YOUNGER GUYS PICK UP ON WHAT VETERANS DO IN RACE?
"Tony (Stewart) is a good driver, and drivers have good days and bad days. Unfortunately Tony just had a real bad day Sunday. When you bump into one guy it's one thing, but when you bump into one guy and take out 12 or 13 with him, it's unreal. He's a friend of mine. If I had done that I would be getting the heat, too. We got together early in the race and I got knocked sideways coming off turn two. I gathered it back up and he gathered it back up. I blew that off just as a racing thing, but then we got into another one. I hate it for him because I know he's taking a lot of heat right now, but the first thing you don't want to do is get your peers down on you. I've been there a couple of times, and when your peers are get on you, they're not real understanding about having a bad day or driving a little aggressive. I was eighth in the points and now I'm 13th. I'm not a happy camper right now, and I thought we had a car that was an easy top0-10 car. If I was in that position NASCAR would be talking to me, and I'd be listening. I'd be calming down and being a little more patient. No one ever questions Tony's talent and capabilities. You've got to be a pretty good driver to be in NASCAR, but it's his time in the frying pan right now and he'll get himself out of there.
"I saw a lot of young guys this weekend driving over their heads and driving out of the limits of the cars. They got in trouble. I'm not going to mention any names, but all you've got to do is look at their cars when they came in after the race.
"I was trying to miss the Miller Lite cans. I saw a lot of them out there, and I saw a lot of Budweiser cans. Anything they've got in their hands and they've got frustration they're going to show it. At Daytona a couple of years ago, they threw all those Pepsi coolers out on the backstretch a few years ago. Unfortunately if they wanted to get the race started, once the cans come over you can't restart the race. It was a warm day, and lot of people were drinking and showing their frustration. It's not the right thing to do. You wake up the next day and realize it wasn't the cool thing to do. If cars are going down the track at 200 mph and somebody slings a full beer can at you over the fence and hits the car it could kill somebody. I don't think those people want to have that on their conscious. That's a very dangerous thing. Compare that to driving down the road and somebody throwing a rock off the interstate, killing somebody. It's ridiculous. I'm trying to find rhyme or reason for it, and wanting Dale Jr. to win is not reason to do something that drastic."
DO YOU WORRY ABOUT RACING LOSING ITS ROOTS?
"Yeah, I do. It's a Catch-22. Rockingham, the whole back of the racetrack has been rebuilt. The facility looks great. Unfortunately it's the location. There are not enough hotels and restaurants and stuff like that to get out of towners excited about it. I love going there. I've won there a bunch. Some of these facilities don't fix up their places and are really run down and don't have enough seats to pay big purses. They've definitely got a big bull's-eye on their head. I'm totally with you on losing its roots. I like going to every one of these tracks. Do I want to go to Texas twice? Yes, because it's really big for Miller Brewing Company. Do I want to go to California twice? Yes, because it's huge and it's great out there. Do I want to lose Rockingham and Darlington because of it? No. Do I want to run more than 36 races? Absolutely not. It's a tough question to answer."