Rusty Wallace, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Taurus, qualified 11th for Sunday's Protection One 400. Ironically, that's the same spot Wallace started from in last year's inaugural Kansas event when he led a race-high 117 laps. He was called...
Rusty Wallace, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Taurus, qualified 11th for Sunday's Protection One 400. Ironically, that's the same spot Wallace started from in last year's inaugural Kansas event when he led a race-high 117 laps. He was called for speeding on pit road after his final stop and restarted 17th with 33 laps to go, but charged through the field to finish fourth. Wallace spoke about last year's race and his hopes for tomorrow.
RUSTY WALLACE --2-- Miller Lite Taurus
YOU DOMINATED LAST YEAR'S RACE HERE.
"That was a really good race last year for us and we've got a really good car this time too. I feel really optimistic about the race tomorrow even though we had a big setback in our first practice. It took us quite a while to get a swaybar and some stuff changed. It cost us about 20 minutes of practice but we got through that and then turned that into some time to scuff some tires. We've gotten that all straightened out right now and, hopefully, this next practice will be a real smooth one."
DID YOU FEEL THE RACE LAST YEAR WAS YOURS TO WIN?
"Yeah, it was mine to win. I led just about all day long, but when I left pit road they said I sped a little bit too much. Maybe I did and maybe I didn't. I remember that whole incident. I was passing Mark Martin coming out of the pits and I had to drive off in the grass to get around him. I guess when you're up there looking down and you see a car go past somebody in the grass, it looks like you sped. So they busted me on that, but I'm not gonna argue. It was frustrating to dominate all day long and then not win, but just to show you how strong it was, they but me tailback and we went from there all the way up to fourth. We literally drove through the field and that was really cool. I want to do that again."
HAS THIS TRACK CHANGED A LOT FROM LAST YEAR?
"Believe it or not, it doesn't feel like it's changed a whole lot to me. We've got a little bit harder right side tire here, but, other than that, it hasn't changed a whole lot. A fan reminded the other day that last year I made a lot of passes on the high side of the race track. I didn't really remember that, but he told me that he hoped I could pass all the cars on the outside this year just like I did last year. I'll start working that groove up like I did at Chicago and Texas because you've got to find another place to pass. We've got a strong engine and I feel real good about our chances tomorrow. Billy (Wilburn) and I have targeted this race as one that we want to win real bad and we think we can. We did a lot of testing at Kentucky trying to get prepared for it and even though Kentucky isn't like Kansas City, it's the closest track there is out there to do some testing on."
CAN YOU ASSESS YOUR CHAMPIONSHIP DRIVE WITH EIGHT RACES TO GO? "You've just got to keep going. We have screwed up a lot this year, like last weekend. I lost a tire. I had no idea. All I know is I hit the wall and I figure the tire is trying to blow the right-front fender off. All hell is breaking loose in the car and I'm thinking, 'Hey, my day is done.' But the steering wheel is pretty straight and the car is kind of going straight. Billy is saying, 'Stay on the track. Stay on the track.' I'm like, 'Man, this thing is too torn up. I'll rip the fender off if I stay on the track,' so I hit pit road and when I looked up the leader wasn't even off turn four yet. If I would have stayed on the race track, I wouldn't have gone down a lap. And when I went back out, the car was pretty good. I was gonna finish fifth in that race, but, instead, I finished 15th. So I threw a bunch of points away. And then you look at the deal at Richmond, where I was running second and then had that problem (tire problem in the closing laps while running second; finished 15th). At Darlington, we were third to sixth all day long and decided to make a change and went back to 20th or something (22nd). We've really made some big mistakes that cost us a lot of points, but the fortunate thing is that just about the time we're having these dumb mistakes, everybody else is too. So that's what's kept us alive. Thank God everybody is making mistakes, but I've got to get our mistakes to stop. That's why we're trying to do a lot of testing because we want to try to understand what's going on."
YOU'VE REALLY EMPHASIZED TESTED IN THIS CHAMPIONSHIP STRETCH DRIVE.
"Yeah, we're gonna test at Kentucky and then we're gonna be at some other little places to try and gain a little more knowledge and just do the best job we possibly can."
YOU'VE SAID BEFORE THAT YOU'VE WON A LOT OF RACES IN ONE SEASON AND DIDN'T WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP. DO YOU BELIEVE IT'S POSSIBLE TO WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP WITHOUT WINNING A RACE?
"Oh sure. Championships are just points. If you've got enough points, you're gonna win. You don't have to win a race. I would not want to win a championship without winning a race, but if it worked out that way, I wouldn't care because I've had years where I've won all the races and that didn't win me a championship. So I don't have a problem with that. I just have to quit messing up."