Indianapolis: Rusty Wallace press conference

RUSTY WALLACE --2-- Miller Lite Taurus (Finished 2nd) HOW WAS THE HEAT? "It's just flat hot out there, there's no doubt about that. The crews do all they possibly can with helmets -- cool helmets -- and giving you some water on pit stops and...

RUSTY WALLACE --2-- Miller Lite Taurus (Finished 2nd)

HOW WAS THE HEAT?

"It's just flat hot out there, there's no doubt about that. The crews do all they possibly can with helmets -- cool helmets -- and giving you some water on pit stops and stuff like that. But, really on a day like this, you don't have any other choice except to get a good night's sleep the day before the race and drink a lot of water and get in there and get after it. That's the only thing I know to do."

WHAT ABOUT YOUR RUN?

"I started the race. I had a real poor qualifying run and I got up to like ninth or 10th in like 30 laps. I got up there pretty quick and then after that I four-tired it. Then the car got a little tight on me and I kept chasing it throughout the race. I took so much wedge out of it and aired the right-rear tire up so much and did so many crazy things that I would never do -- pull spring rubbers out of the left rear and raise track bars. I couldn't keep up with the race track and then finally at the very end there, we kept hovering around eighth, ninth the whole doggone day and I said, 'Well, let's just two-tire it.' And we put more air in the right-rear tire and took more wedge out and when I went out there it was like perfect. Then it turned really good. I passed Stewart and got the lead and then really checked out. I thought with 10 laps to go I'm sitting there saying, 'Man, I've got this thing won. I think I can hold 'em off.' And I went off of two, but I took so much wedge out and got it so loose I got it a little too free off of two and he got his nose underneath me and then that was it."

HOW HELPLESS DID IT FEEL TO SEE HIM PULL AWAY?

"It's real frustrating because I lost it in '95 when Dale (Earnhardt) won the race. I led it all day long and then they had the big pit road accident and I got hung in the pits and couldn't make it out and he won. But, still, I had like 30 laps to try to pass him. When I got behind him I got this big aero-push and I couldn't pass Dale. We came across the line just boom-boom and first and second. Then the year before last I led all day long, right up to 12 laps to go, and Bobby Labonte got past me. I had a real bad push that day and finished second and, basically, that's the same doggone thing that happened now almost on the same identical lap."

IS THIS THE BEST BRICKYARD 400 YOU'VE BEEN IN AND WHAT ABOUT THE 40 YEAR OLDS GOING AFTER IT AT THE END?

"That issue right there just gets under my skin. I don't even feel like talking about it because we're all race car drivers. These guys are all great drivers and we're all doing our job. I will tell you, it's not like stick and ball -- how fast you can run and how much weight you can lift. In NASCAR, it's about how much you know and how long you've been there and understanding springs and shocks and your competitors. As far as the race, I think it was a great race. I've had races where I've led all day long and had races where I was just terrible out there, so, to come from 35th up to the front and finish second, I'm real proud of my team. I saw everybody two-tiring cars all day long and I said, 'Well hell, I'm gonna try that.' I'm a four-tire guy and I just did too many four tires. Finally at the end I was getting beat by it. When they diamond cut the race track and I was looking at the track before the race, I thought it was so rough that it was really gonna start killing left side tires and I really thought that four tires was gonna be the way to go. The way it panned out, the track rubbered up pretty quick and you could run two tires for a long period of time."

WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO WIN THIS RACE? "For me to win this race I'm just gonna have to keep plugging and have a good handling car. We had a lot of horsepower today. That's one thing I was able to look at all day long. The last 30 laps with Elliott, he would be right on my rear end coming off the corner but by the time we got down to turn one I had about a car and a half on him, I'd outpull him by two car lengths in the straightaways, but he just had those four fresh tires versus my two and I couldn't hold him off. You've just got to keep putting yourself in position. I've had a great record here and I like coming here. They pay a lot of money too. That's one reason I like it."

HAVE YOU SEEN BILL AS DOMINANT AS HE WAS TODAY?

"Oh yeah. We've seen it back in the eighties just really flying. He hasn't lost anything, I don't think. He's got a crew chief and he's got a team that's really behind him. They're well oiled. They're working great. They're pit stops are fast and Evernham's doing a great job running the company.

"That's probably one of the number one teams out there. To be quite honest, I was really surprised they weren't doing better last year, but they've got it together this year. They've got a lot of poles, a lot of good runs, wins, led a lot of laps, so they're on it right now."

HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO WIN FOR ROGER PENSKE ERE?

"It's real important to do that. I was thinking when I was leading with 10 to go I'm thinking, 'Maybe I can finally bring the boss a win home,' because we've tried for so long. We got awful close, but he was real happy for the second place finish and the fourth place finish that we got as a team. I know that everybody saw the 2 and the 12 out there and Team Penske and they're real good, but just for him. I'd like to just win it for him. I think it would be pretty special. As many wins as he's had in the Indy 500, to finally get a stock car win would be really cool."

WHAT CAN BE DONE TO CORRECT AERO-PUSH?

"The only thing you can do to correct it is you've got to get all the downforce off the back or get more downforce on the front. I mean, there's no way you're gonna be able to get anymore in the front because we can't physically do that unless we take the air dam and put it on the ground. If you do that, then you've got to change all the springs and stiffen everything up and that's still not gonna work. So I think probably the quickest fix for it is to take rear spoiler off and then Goodyear has agreed to go back in and soften the tires up if NASCAR agrees to do that. Then I think you're gonna have good racing back. Then I think you'll see a lot of tire wear, you'll see a lot more passing instead of the problem we're having right now. Right now, the tires are so good that they won't wear out. They'll just keep running and running and running. And when you lose that air to the front end, that front end just takes off and that's it."

WHAT ABOUT THE CHAMPIONSHIP RACE?

"I tell you, a super-big setback last week at Pocono when I had that first-lap crash, but it's like everything I lost last week I gained back this week. So, talk about a teeter-totter, it's unreal. The 40 car had problems and we needed him to have some problems to get back in the game. I haven't looked at the point standings yet. I don't know where we're at, but I know in order to win the thing you've got to worry about it every single race. Every week you need to worry about it. You need to lead a lap. I haven't been real good at that part, but you need to be consistent that's for sure."

DOES EXPERIENCE HELP HERE?

"Basically the same thing Ryan said, except I can't talk for anybody else. But for Ryan, I can speak for him and say that a driver's got the natural talent to drive. There are some drivers that it took a long time to get good behind the wheel. He's just got natural talent. He's kind of like my son, Steve. You put him any type of car and he wins or wrecks, he's just on it, and Ryan's just got it together. You give 'em good equipment, you give 'em good, strong motors and you give 'em a good, fast pit crew, it doesn't take a driver like him to spool up -- especially with the constantly changing rules. Tracks change, the rules change. Him and I have gone to race tracks for the first time together, so I don't have any7 advantage on him whatsoever." DID YOU THINK BILL WOULD MAKE A MISTAKE?

"If anybody was gonna pass me. When he passed me I kind of got a grin on me because I remember so vivid when all the media was just blasting Earnhardt and blasting Elliott. 'It's time to retire. You guys are washed up.' You have one bad year and it's gone. So when Earnhardt came back and won the 500 and won Atlanta and was kicking everybody's butt, that was making me feel good. And then Bill went from like, 'man, this is a struggle,' and all of a sudden he's great and he's the guy to beat right now. So when he passed me, I'm like, 'That's OK.' If I had to be passed by anybody, I'd rather it be Ryan or him. That was it."

HOW CLOSE IS YOUR CAR WITH RYAN'S?

"I would say today's setup was pretty doggone close. We absolutely vary and there are a lot of things that happen during the race that I don't know exactly what Ryan's doing and everything is happening so fast. After our pit stops are over we can ask, 'Hey, what did you do that time? What did you do for air-pressure?' But, today, my car was just so tight I just had to keep throwing everything at it to loosen it up. But the bodies are the same, the frames are the same, the engines are the same, they're owned by the same car owner. They're about as close as I can expect right now."

WHAT'S BEEN THE DIFFERENCE NOW FROM EARLIER IN THE YEAR?

"It's just circumstances. We had a great run going in the Daytona 500 and got in that wreck with five laps to go and I thought we had shot to win that thing. We had a good run in the Firecracker 400 in Daytona, a good run in Loudon, a good run today. We've had a lot of great runs going on, but just no wins and I'm really dying to win real bad. I've won 16 consecutive years right now in a row and I'd like to at least win 18 and say I've tied Richard Petty's record of the longest winning streak in NASCAR history. That would be cool. That's what I'm gunning for."

WAS THE TRACK RACIER TODAY?

"I don't think you'll ever get two grooves. You'll pass a car up off of turn three -- get underneath a guy there, get underneath a guy going into one and in between two. I think the diamond cutting gave a little bit more grip to the tires -- it showed that in qualifying. I don't know. I tell you what, once that track started rubbering up, I don't know what Ryan's car did, but my car got major-tight halfway through the race. I did outlandish things to try to loosen it up and it wasn't affecting it. Finally, I just had to get really nuts with it. For me to take four rounds of wedge out at one time and put four pounds or air in the right-rear tire one time, that's kind of nuts for me, but we were doing it."

WHAT ABOUT THE DECISION YOUR TEAM HAS ABOUT FORD OR DODGE? WILL YOU HAVE A SAY IN ROGER'S DECISION?

"Yeah, we'll definitely have a say in the decision of what happens, that's for sure. There's no new news right now, whatsoever. There are many offers out there, all over because everybody knows our contract is up at the end of the year with Ford. We're in negotiations with them right now and the way it's looking right now I plan on being there still."

WITH FORD?

"Right now with the way it's looking, I'm planning on being with Ford right now."

-ford-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bobby Labonte , Rusty Wallace , Richard Petty
Teams Team Penske