Dodge Teleconference California Speedway September 3, 2004 RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) OPENING REMARKS "I haven't changed my mind about anything. I'm excited about it. I think it's the right time. I think it's the right call to...
September 3, 2004
RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge)
"I haven't changed my mind about anything. I'm excited about it. I think it's the right time. I think it's the right call to do it. If we're going to do it, we need to do it the right way. That's why we decided to announce it now and get prepared. Next year we've got a lot of fun things we're going to do."
COMMENT ON COMMENT ABOUT DALE EARNHARDT
"It got misconstrued a little bit. That didn't cause my decision to retire. It influenced it a little bit. I remember sitting on a boat down in Daytona Beach the night before he got killed talking. We were talking about he had a year or maybe two more he was going to go. He kept saying, 'how much longer are you going to go?' I just threw a number out. He said, 'well, that's when I'm going to quit, too.' We kept talking about quitting at the same time. He accumulates all that. He's a heck of a driver. He builds this thing. He's got his kid starting racing. He worked all his life to build it only to lose his life the final year and not be able to enjoy any of it. That's always been in the back of my mind a little bit, but that's not the main reason I wanted to retire. I want to retire at the top of my game. I think I've still got enough in me that I can go out there and still kick all these guys' butts if I can. I've had a lot of equipment failures this year. I've had four transmissions failures. I lost four engines. I ran out of gas twice. I've had great handling cars every single race. Everybody knows I'm so deep in the chassis, and I'll never get it out of me. That's my deal. That's what I do. I can still do it, but there comes a time when you've got to make a decision. How much longer do you want keep grinding doing the same thing? How much longer do you want to keep pushing it, pushing it, pushing it? Finally I said, 'hey, the contracts are up with the Miller Brewing Company; it's time to do it.' They're going to be with us a long time after I retire, but it was just a good time and a good decision to say, let me focus on Team Penske, let me focus on my son Stephen, let me do more at home. Let me enjoy playing golf a little bit more. Let me do what I think I'm best at, and that's getting involved with the team and trying to make it go quicker. I want to do that. I could have gone on another year, and what would I have accomplished? I would have just gone on another year. I've won 55 races. I can win 56. I don't know if 56 has got a better ring than 55 or not. I know when I get in the car every time I want to win. If people think I'm not going to be as aggressive as I've ever been this year or every other year they're wrong.
"I was down at the racetrack (Daytona International Speedway) and I was walking around with Lesa Kennedy looking at the facility and turn one is completely missing. The whole infield is completely missing. They're completely rebuilding the entire facility. I stood out on the track and had a conversation with it. Basically I said, 'you've screwed me all my life and now it's time to pay me back next year.' I'm going to be working really hard with my team to try to build and get the best Daytona car I've ever had in my life. If it takes cutting the bodies off three or four times, I want to go into the Daytona 500 really, really bad. That was some of the decisions to retire, and I'm looking forward to life after that. We'll see what happens."
YOUR LUCK HAS BEEN SO BAD THIS YEAR, EVEN THE TV TRUCK BLEW UP AT YOUR NEWS CONFERENCE AT DAYTONA ON MONDAY
"It was amazing. To be sitting there at Bristol last week leading Bristol -- myself and Dale Jr. probably had the two fastest cars at Bristol. We were out there football fields ahead. We were out there cruising around and I run out of gas. How in the world can you possibly run out of gas at Bristol? We go down to Daytona for this big press conference and everything is going great. They plugged the TV truck into the main power at Daytona USA and 30 minutes into the thing it blows the top off of Daytona USA. The air conditioners blow up and the truck quits running. They go to fire up the generators and the truck is out of gas. That was kinda crazy luck, but thank God NBC was there and they had a lot of tape. We played a condensed version of the function on Tuesday night."
WILL THE DRIVING CHANGE IN THE NEXT TWO RACES BECAUSE OF THE CHASE?
"I'm not in the top 10 and it doesn't look like I'm going to make it. I don't think you're going to see anybody else do anything different. I think these guys are driving as hard as they possibly can every week. It's a term. It's created a little excitement, and it's going to be very interesting at the end of the year to see what the sponsors think that aren't in the top 10, how they're going to treat the sport. I hope they treat it as good. I hope they don't start putting new things in their contracts about what they like and don't like. I don't think they will, but the verdict is still out on it. The neat thing is, NASCAR has asked my opinion on it several times. I said let's just try it out a year and see what happens. If it doesn't work, you need to correct it and make some changes. To throw a bunch of mud at it right now is probably not the right thing to do. I don't think you're going to see crazy driving and off the wall stuff. I do think the crazy driving and off the wall stuff has been created by the Lucky Dog. I don't like that rule. I don't think it's a good rule at all. I understand why they did it, but I'm not for that rule. I don't like working all day long getting a guy a lap down and then a caution flag comes out and he gets a free one back. I'm just not into that."
WHAT ARE THE PLANS FOR YOUR SON STEPHEN?
"I do have a time table for Stephen. He's 17 right now and he'll be 18 next year. You've got to be 18 to run Busch. It looks like I'm going to run him in the Hooters Pro Cup next year. He's not old enough to run Grand National next year, nor does he have enough experience to do something like that yet. He's been running real good. He's broken a lot of track records, sat on a lot of poles, won a lot of races. He's running two races this weekend back in North Carolina. He's running the Bobby Isaac Memorial on Monday, a 200-lapper on Monday. It's a big race. It's been around North Carolina forever. He's going to be running Elkin, N.C., on Saturday night. That's where he won his first race. He's going in there pretty cocky because he won the pole there the last time. I had to calm him down a little bit before I left. I've got to bring him up slow and see what happens. Richard Childress wants to hire him to drive his Busch car. Financially that might be the smartest thing to do, let Richard spend his own money instead of me. We'll see what happens."
DID DALE EARNHARDT'S ACCIDENT CAUSE YOU TO DRIVE DIFFERENTLY?
"His death hasn't caused me to retire. His death hasn't caused me to get scared. His death hasn't caused me to do anything different. I just thought it was an unbelievable shame that the guy did that much in his life, and boom, he couldn't enjoy any of it. He was so much looking forward to getting out of the car at one point and taking his boat to the Bahamas and watching his kid run and going and having a blast around the country. He was just getting fired up doing that. No way would I want to go and run, run, run where I'm just uncompetitive. Like I said, I want to go out while I'm on top, and I don't want to get hurt because I want to enjoy that life. When I said I don't want to get hurt twice, that really..... And the reason I said it twice is because I stumbled over my words and my speech. I got lost to what I was talking and I came back and said I don't want to get hurt again. I had people interview and tell me what I said, and I said, 'I didn't say that.' I watched television and I did say it. Man, I just got confused. It was a pretty emotional day, I'll tell you what. At points there I couldn't see the paper because I had so many damn tears on my face. I'm not afraid at all. I'm not a stupid driver. I'm afraid when I'm upside down and the car is on fire. I've said that before. I did say that, but as far as getting out there competing, hell no. I get a rap on the end from somebody, they're probably getting it back twice. Just ask Jeff Gordon."
WHEN DID YOU FIRST MAKE THE DECISION?
"I probably came to the decision, I started thinking about it about a year and a half ago, maybe two years ago I started thinking about it. Then I kind of made the decision about eight months ago. Everybody got to telling me it was the right thing to do and I got to thinking, 'I'd better quit listening to everybody and make my own decision.' Then I thought harder about it and figured they were probably right. About two months ago is probably when I made my final decision and put Rusty's Last Call into motion."
HAVE THE RESUMES STARTED COMING IN?
"No, but they will. I'm sure everyone of my partners has got their own opinions. I'm sure Roger and Don and John do. I don't, I can tell you that. It's a year and a half. I told the guys not to get nuts, calm down and let's see what comes our way. There are a lot of good drivers out there, and they've all got long-term contracts. That's where it's at right now, but something will pop and we'll get going. I can tell you one thing we don't want to do and that's start developing drivers. It's just too damn hard. I started doing it with the Busch stuff. We've got major sponsors who are just not in the mood for going through growing years. They want immediate results, so we've just got to find some shoe who's really rocking right now and get him in the car. I'd say midpoint late next year is when it'll start heating up. Anything before that would be pure speculation."
WHAT KIND OF DRIVER WOULD YOU WANT?
"I want somebody that's really into the chassis, somebody that really understands the car, somebody that's really willing to work hard with the media, somebody that's willing to work hard and represent Team Penske in a proper way, somebody that's outgoing, somebody that has a personality. I don't want a driver who says I can drive the car and you guys do all the work. It's not handling, fix it and I'll be back later. I want a driver like me, one that's involved in the chassis. I think I'm damn good with the sponsors and media and try to treat everybody right, so I'd like to have another one of me to tell you the truth."
WHAT ARE SHORT-TERM GOALS FOR YOUR BUSCH TEAM AND HOW DOES THAT TIE IN WITH TEAM PENSKE?
"It really doesn't tie into Team Penske right now. The Busch team was really built to develop a driver to take over for me when I retire. It hasn't turned out like that. If I'd known it wasn't going to turn out like that I probably wouldn't have done the Busch team. Now I've done it. I've put a lot of money and effort into it. I'm not a quitter, so I'm going to continue on. The results are starting to happen. Once I put Jamie McMurray in the car, our first race was Loudon, N.H., we started on the pole. He ran great all day long and only got involved in a wreck with Kyle Busch. I drove the car from dead last at Michigan up to sixth and was still flying. It was screaming. We took it to Bristol last week and qualified seventh. The car was running fourth. We were having a great run. We had a shot to win the race. We came in and the guy on the right front left the lugnuts loose. It broke a wheel, we lost three laps and it knocked us out. Our pit crew killed us there. We've got a great car here this weekend. We've got about eight races left, and that's it."
HOW INVOLVED DO YOU SEE YOURSELF WITH THE 2 CAR?
"John Erickson is our general manager in charge of the team, but there's a lot of things I can compliment him on. John's not a chassis guy or a shock guy. It's not his job to understand those things. It's his job to organize all the guys, keep them on track and keep them flowing. What I'm going to try to do is I'm going to grab all three teams and make them work together. I can't do that right now while I'm in the car. I'm putting 100 percent in my car, trying to change the shocks and springs. I don't have time to run over to the 12 car and see what they're doing, run over to the 77 to see what they're doing and try to help them all. That's one thing our team is lacking, all three teams working together. When I get back in the deal at the end of 2005 that's one thing I'm going to do, get all three teams working better together. I'll probably get real involved in the mechanical end of the stuff. I think that's my forte. That's what I'm good at. I'll also do a lot of the sponsor representation, a lot of the personal service meetings, the appearances to compliment our drivers."
HOW WILL THE GUYS OUTSIDE THE TOP 10 RUN THE LAST 10 RACES?
"I think they're going to run as hard as their cars will handle and as hard as they can run. As far as I'm concerned, I don't have nothing to lose. I'm going to turn the motor 10,200, I'm going to drive my butt off and try to win all the races I can win. That's the only thing I can do right now, just run as hard as I possibly can. We're going to be driving hard, but smart, and make hey out of what's been a miserable season up to now."
DID YOU TALK TO OTHER DRIVERS ABOUT RETIRING?
"I didn't talk to Bill (Elliott). I didn't talk to anybody. I just made my own decision. I did have some conversation with Richard Petty about how his tour went, and he gave me some ideas about what he would do different. That's it. We're going to be going around the country, touring around and talking to people I'm excited about that. I think we've got everything pretty well in line, pretty well in order, and it's going to be fun for the fans next year. We'll do at least 20 different cities. We're going to have autograph sessions, cars on display, bands playing. We're going to thank the fans for what they've done for me."
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT IN RACING?
"My biggest accomplishment has definitely been the championship in 1989. I'm real proud of my driver of the year in '88 and '93. I'm real proud of my IROC championship. I'm real proud that right now I've got more top 10s than any driver. I've got the longest running sponsor in NASCAR history. There's a lot of running accomplishments that I didn't know. My son Greg reminded me of them. He studied the stats and was real proud to talk about them when they happened. The Daytona 500 is one race I haven't won."
COMMENT ON YOUR SON'S SPEECH AT DAYTONA ON MONDAY
"It was devastating. It was amazing, unbelievable. I looked down and there's Mr. France and Roger Penske with tears in their eyes. Greg just blew them away. He's learning to be a lawyer. He's in Wake Forest law school. I knew he had it in him, but I didn't know I would hear what I heard. He was so calculated. He represented the whole family. The place was packed solid. It was emotional. Probably some of the strongest statements came out of Greg, but it was a beautiful speech he did. I told him a thousand times how proud we all were of him. It was real moving, too, to sit there and have Mr. France and Mike Helton and Brian all say 'whatever you do the rest of your life we want to be involved with you.' That was a cool thing. So many neat things happened that day it was amazing. I'm glad that guy was there to listen to it all."
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU WERE THAT EMOTIONAL?
"I don't know. I consider myself kind of a steel guy when it comes to things like that, but that night we had a great reception over at the France's house. We had a bazillion people there. That was a neat deal. We had a lot of great conversation that night, me and Mr. France and Don Prudhomme and Brian and Lesa and Jimmy France, the list went on and on. I went back to the room that night, and I just couldn't go to bed. I laid there with my eyes wide open all night long and we went in there and did it and I was so tired I couldn't hardly talked. All the speakers coming up, it just blew me away. They had the video playing and I couldn't look at the video. Every time I'd look at the video I'd get tears in my eyes. I kept looking down and had my eyes closed. Finally by the time I got up there I was just ruined. I couldn't hardly move. The speech came out good. It was OK, but it was probably one of the most emotional days I've ever had happen. I couldn't control it. I think it turned out cool. I was all right, but man, that was it."