Indianapolis: Rusty Wallace interview

RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Intrepid) NOTE: Wallace has scored three runner-up finishes in nine Brickyard 400 starts, including last year's second-place finish behind winner Bill Elliott. "I've got more people to look after. I love...

RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Intrepid)

NOTE: Wallace has scored three runner-up finishes in nine Brickyard 400 starts, including last year's second-place finish behind winner Bill Elliott.

"I've got more people to look after. I love my team, there's no doubt about it, but when they make a mistake they have to take responsibility. It's not just my team out there. Miller Brewing Company wants to know what's going on. Dodge wants to know what's going on. PPG wants to know, Mobil and a million fans want to know what's going on. I can't just say, 'that's racing'. To be sitting there running second and lead a lot of laps and come in to pit with 35 laps to go was a move that I couldn't believe happened. Billy Wilburn (crew chief) feels awful about it looking back at it. He understands now there is no way that could work, but the call was made. We've lost many races with some bad pit calls, so my comment that when I come down pit road it scares me to death is something I'm not backing off on. It does concern me at times.

"With that said, this is the Brickyard 400, and this is a track where I run really good. We tested good, and I've got a great team. I know that. They made a mistake last week. I've got Roy McCauley my chief engineer partnered up with Billy along with several people on top of the pit box so this mistake won't happen again. Now, there's been several times I cost the team a problem. A lot of times the team causes the problem. That's why it's called a team. We're all in this together. It was very frustrating. When you've been on a losing streak as long as I've been to not vent. It's not that I was venting. I was explaining to my sponsors and my fans because they want to know.

"I think Billy needed some help on the pit box. He was very vocal that he needed some help on the pit box. He thought that he was on that pit box by himself, making a lot of decisions. I wanted to help him with that because this is a tough deal. We've Tom Hope figuring fuel. Other guys are doing different things. A lot of gambles have to be made up there, too. I think you need some help to make the decision to make those gambles. Ryan has made some huge gambles. We took a real conservative approach, and that's racing, but I'm getting real tired of saying that's racing. I want to get the job done. I can drive the hell out of the car. I've got a good car and a good sponsor. I'm at a track where I've finished second three times, and I've a good shot to win. We had a great test a few weeks ago, and I've got everything I need to win this week.

"This is the 10th year we've been here. It's not that it's just another race, but it is another race. It just happens to be one that has more people in the grandstands than anywhere else we go. It's an honor to be up here. I'm excited about this race.

"When you take something new somewhere it's always a sellout it seems like, especially when it's NASCAR. We took something new up here and the fans loved it. People said we might have 200,000, but we packed the place. That's how important NASCAR is. The Indy 500 is a huge race, no doubt about that. People ask me what the biggest race of the year is. It's the Daytona 500. It's not the Brickyard, but the Brickyard is definitely in second place.

"Roger and I talk about it. He'd love to win this race. He'd love to have me sitting in victory lane. A fellow was telling me some stats last night. He told me if I kept knocking on the door I'd eventually knock it down. I'm possessed and determined to get this win out of the way. I look at the stats and things people say and it just makes me drive harder.

"I think I had the best car last week or one of them. Ryan's car was great, but we started the race and I was able to take the lead. I looked in my rearview mirror and couldn't see anybody. We were a straightaway ahead at Pocono. That's a two and a half mile track. This is a brand new car. It's got more downforce than the one we had last week. It's the best car we've ever had in the house. We've just got to tune the shocks and springs to it. I went to Pocono and learned a couple of things I'm going to apply here to race practice. A lot of guys put all their Pocono setups in for Indy and they all jumped back and said, 'boy, that didn't work.' These places are different.

"There's been so many times I've made calls from the car along with Robin Pemberton back then. They were the wrong calls. I tried to say I need to drive the car as hard as I can, pay attention inside the car and let the team have the broad view of what's going on out there and let them make the call. I've tried to stay out of making the call. I will tell you when some of the calls come across I think, 'what are we doing or how can this work?' Maybe I should do a little more like I've done in the past, but I still don't think it's the right thing to do. Billy needs to know if my car is handling good enough to take two tires. If it's handling like crap, then we need four. Track position is so bad it's unreal. The aero push is at its all-time worse. Everybody is ignoring that still. I was making a big push to make the tires softer and get the rear spoiler cut off, but nobody is doing it. They all kept their mouth shut. I think we need to do something about that."

-ims-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Rusty Wallace