April 29, 2001 California Speedway RUSTY WALLACE PRESS CONFERENCE -- "It was a great day today. The car ran super. We qualified 19th and about 40 laps into the race I could tell we really had a great car. It moved up to seventh and kept...
April 29, 2001 California Speedway
RUSTY WALLACE PRESS CONFERENCE -- "It was a great day today. The car ran super. We qualified 19th and about 40 laps into the race I could tell we really had a great car. It moved up to seventh and kept going forward. We had some great pit stops and I made some air-pressure changes that really woke the car up and from there on out it just took off. The engine was extremely good in it, but the car really handled good too. Those last 150 laps, I guess, we were out front most of the time and it really felt good to win my first race here at the California Speedway. The last time I won in southern California was at Riverside. I won the last two races at Riverside before they shut the race track down and now to win out here, it feels great."
DID YOU HAVE THAT FLAG IN YOUR CAR ALL THE WAY? "No, I always wanted to do something for Dale when he lost his life. We had the flag all put together at Rockingham and my plan was to ride around with the flag and have Richard Childress help me with it at Rockingham because I really thought I was gonna win the race. The car was that strong there, but I think we ended up finishing fifth or sixth, something like that. I kept waiting and waiting and waiting, and when we finally won today that was the first thing I said on the radio. I asked Tom Polansky, the fella that helps me, I said, 'Where's that flag at?' And he said, 'It'll be at the start-finish line. (Bill) Wilburn is on the way,' so Billy Wilburn was running out there and it felt good. The doggone thing was so big and so heavy that I couldn't run but about 25 miles an hour. It was ready to blow out of my hand, so that was the reason for such a slow lap."
DID THE CAR SURPRISE YOU TODAY? "No, the car didn't surprise me today. I really did get a little spooked off with all the soft springs everybody was running. I kept hearing very, very soft numbers and everybody running up bump rubbers and all these crazy things, and I wasn't doing that. I had a pretty conservative setup in there and I said, 'Man, I don't know. My car feels good and I'm not gonna get tricked into what they're doing.' All those guys that had those real soft springs, they pretty well faded to the back. Our car was strong all day long. It handled great and I was just real happy with it."
WHAT ABOUT STARTING SO FAR BACK? "Nowadays in NASCAR Winston Cup racing, a 500-miler starting 19th is not way back, it really isn't. It's kind of an okay starting position. We had a great pit spot. The pits here at California are so big and spacious and it's easy to make a pit stop. It's a nice, safe race track. I was picking off one at a time and it's a long race. By the time I was 30 or 40 laps into it, I was clear up to seventh already and still going. After we made some pit stops and I dropped some air pressure out of the left side tires and put some in the right rear, took some out of the right front, and moved wedge around. I went too far one time and got way too loose and the caution flew about 15 laps later and I said, 'Undo what we just did, that went too far.' So then we just had it right on after that."
WERE YOU CONCERED JEFF WAS MAKING A SERIOUS RUN OR WAS THE AERO SUCH THAT HE'D GET CLOSE AND THEN STOP? "I knew he could make a serious run on me, although the last 100 laps I almost had a 40 car length lead at some points. I know I never heard my spotter -- Earl Barban is up top and he said, 'You've got a 40 car length lead,' and then it was 25 and then 20. They kept getting smaller and smaller, so if the thing would have just kept on going green I don't think they could have gotten close to me. Todd Bodine probably had the second-best car in the field, but he was a lap down and he got behind me and got pretty close to me. That kind of let Gordon draft up off his draft close to me, so then I was watching what was going and I was driving really conservative. I knew that my aero was enough that it would make his car push a little bit, so I'd run in low and just kind of drift it out off of two. He made some gallant efforts, but you can't let your guard down. If I would have gone into the corner and screwed up a little bit, he would have probably got me. Maybe, maybe not, but I think I drove a good, clean, smart race and brought it home and gained a lot of points today."
DOES THE FLAG GIVE YOU A SPECIAL FEELING? "It really does. It's a special feeling. It's a special feeling to win the last couple of races in southern California and then come out here and win again and then have my name enshrined on the trophy. That's a neat feeling and to carry the flag around for Dale and have it be his birthday too -- for me to win on his birthday, that was very special. That was for Dale and Teresa and the whole Earnhardt family. I hope they know I did that for 'em because I really like 'em a lot. Dale meant a lot to me and Patti, my wife. We went on a lot of vacations together, which was fun. We went down to the Bahamas a lot, and I knew him off the race track and not only on the race track."
A GOOD DAY FOR YOU AND JEREMY. "Yeah, Jeremy winning last year and me winning this year now. That is a great feeling. That's good for Mr. Penske. As soon as I was in Victory Lane he was on the phone calling us and congratulating us. He felt good about it and he was the one -- he and his team dreamed this track up and built it and designed it. It's probably one of the prettiest race tracks on the circuit and it felt good to win on his track."
HAVE YOU FOUND WAYS IN THE SETUP TO COMPENSATE FOR THE AERO PUSH? "It's real hard. You've got to get the front end way low into the ground and that's the reason these guys are running some of these real, real soft springs and that does help a lot. But we haven't found a total fix for it, yet. I really haven't and I really don't know what the fix would be yet. Maybe lowering the air dam would help. I think lowering the air dam as low as you want would probably help. That would help the cars turn a lot better and they've looked into that. A lot of guys tried running bump rubbers and that's been real dangerous. Junior crashed the other day and Michael Waltrip ended up crashing because of those things. I think they're gonna outlaw 'em. They say they're looking at it and I think it's a real dangerous thing, but NASCAR is all over it and I think they're gonna get those things out of those cars and the cars will probably go back to driving better."
ANY DISTRACTIONS BY THE OUTSIDE NEWS? "I've got to tell you, it wasn't on my mind because, honestly, I just look at the pictures. I don't read the news print."
WHAT ABOUT CART? "I'm not a CART driver. I don't know anything about it. I know the CART cars are so doggone fast and Texas is a little bit rough. It's not real rough, but it's a little bit and for those guys to run over 240 miles per hour, you've got to be some brave individuals to do that and I think the guts probably ran out and the brains started kicking in because to hit a wall over 240, that's a bad deal."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR CONVERSATION WITH ROBIN THE LAST CAUTION? "The caution came out and we talked. I said, 'What do you want to do?' And he said, 'Let's do four tires.' And I said, 'Man, are you sure? Let's probably do two.' He goes, 'Can you hang onto two?' I said, 'Yeah, I think I'll be fine because I know there are gonna be a bunch of guys do two.' He said, 'Man, I tell you, your times are great. You're running fine, do you need to pit?' And I said, 'Not really. I really don't.' I said, 'Give me my times.' And he said I was running 40s and said I was running the fastest speeds I'd run all day long, so he told me to stay out and then everybody stayed out. If I had come down pit road, it would have been suicide I tell you that."