RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Intrepid) "I was real happy with the way the car ran at Rockingham. We qualified eighth and led the most laps. At the end of the race the track was just kind of changing colors on me. I could see that. It...
RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Intrepid)
"I was real happy with the way the car ran at Rockingham. We qualified eighth and led the most laps. At the end of the race the track was just kind of changing colors on me. I could see that. It was really blackening up. Some of those long runs really killed the handling on the car. It went away and I fell back to sixth. I felt it was an incredible run for the first time out with the Dodge and for having no practice on the track because of all the rain.
"Even at Daytona in the 125, discounting the carburetor problem, that thing finished fourth there. We went to the back of the pack for the Daytona 500 and I was able to get the car from 38th up to sixth on lap 10 or something like that. It really rocketed up through the field. I'm really impressed with our Dodge program. All the technical guys have been helping us real hard. We've got an all out assault on trying to make those restrictor-plate cars run better right now. We've got a lot of testing we're doing with the engine and things like that. With all that said, it's been pretty good.
"We've been to Daytona and we knew what the differences were down there and learned what we needed to do. When we went down there to Daytona, I thought we were going to be really good. We were good in race form, but the car wouldn't run by itself and we didn't qualify good. We learned a lot about Daytona.
"We went to Rockingham, and that's a track that's really a handling race track. It's not like a California or Michigan or Vegas where it's super fast and aerodynamics is everything in the world. It's more mechanical at Rockingham where you've got to work the chassis, so we've got one of those races under our belt this week. I saw a lot of positive things. Even Jamie McMurray winning the Busch race yesterday in a Dodge was pretty impressive, too.
"Now we're going to go to Las Vegas. That's a track that takes a lot of horsepower. They've got super long straightaways. It's a very smooth track and it has a lot to do with aerodynamic balance. We'll look at that. We'll go to Atlanta, and that's a super high speed, high-banked track, so I'd say after Atlanta is over, we've pretty well run the gauntlet on everything. Then if there's any complaining going on, you'll hear it. I think you're going to hear some things after Las Vegas. Some teams won't be happy with their car.
"I've been pretty much doing the same thing my whole life. I've been eating right and I'm a pretty active guy as everyone knows. I feel great, although I have bought some new weight equipment. I built a new building at my home. I built a little exercise room. I've put some parts and pieces in there, a treadmill and an Ultimate Bowflex. I exercise my neck, but it's the same kind of stuff I've always done. I feel real good in the car. I've never fell out of a car in my life. I feel sharp. Although I guess if you exercise more and more you might find some things inside you didn't know were there. I'm glad he (Dale Jarrett) is doing that. Obviously it's working for him. He ran a great race. Between what I did in the first part of the race and what he did in the second part of the race, us old 40-year-old guys did pretty good. I'd say I work out probably once a week.
"I've never taken any supplement or anything. I've had a lot of people tell me to start taking vitamins, but I haven't even done that. I don't take anything. Zero. If I'm sick, I'll take some antibiotics or whatever. I had a tooth hurt me yesterday. I went to the dentist and he fixed me up with some type of amoxicillin or something. It makes your stomach taste like crap, I know that. I took that stuff, but other than that, I drink a lot of coffee. I eat a lot of pasta and chicken. I drink a lot of water and iced tea, just kind of normal stuff. I don't take any supplemental weight loss things or energy drinks or energy-type things.
"If you guys remember, about four or five years ago at Darlington, the late Dale Earnhardt had a big problem at Darlington. He had to take some kind of medication, I forgot what it was, and then he followed it up with some kind of big-time energy drink. That's what he told me later on, it just made him nuts, so he got off of that right away.
"I see a lot of new guys I'm just starting to drive with run around with packed up energy drinks and bananas and that kind of stuff. They're really loading their bodies up with things that are just kind of normal to me, but nothing out of the ordinary. Our cooler has Gatorade, water and Pepsi in it. There's always coffee, but no supplemental stuff that I'm aware of.
"I think it's real important to let everybody know about the bodies of the cars and NASCAR's new ruling with the single template. I think we're all going to be paying close attention to how the cars run there. I heard a ton of stuff about how strong the Chevrolets are at Vegas. There really wasn't any Dodges out there in abundance to run with them. There were a lot of Chevrolets there. When we went into Rockingham I thought the Chevrolets were going to be incredible. They were OK, but they weren't anything like I thought they were going to be. A Ford won. The Ford and Dodge are real close in design. But they are going to be three key races because of brut horsepower, brut speed and brut aerodynamics.
"We'll have to see how we stack up because in this sport you've got to fight for your right. If you know you're not right, you've got to get talking right away. You've got to call NASCAR and say let's look at the wind tunnel data, let's take some of these cars to the wind tunnel, let's see how equal they are. Obviously if we get to Vegas and there's a huge upset in makes of cars versus other makes of cars, that'll make you raise an eyebrow. If we go to Atlanta and it happens again, then you're pretty confident you've got something to talk about.
"There have been so many of them (celebrities) that have come by. I guess some of the Country and Western stars, I really love those guys. I love to listen to them. Brooks & Dunn, they come to the race track and hang out and that's a lot of fun. A lot of stick and ball people come by, and now some of the rock stars are starting to hang out with Dale Junior and Tony Stewart. I personally can't sit here and think of the one that did it for me.
"I shouldn't even have said what I said because it was kind of a joke. A lot of people are still trying to separate ages on the race track. Instead of calling us all race car drivers, they tend to say the younger guys and the older guys. I don't know why the hell they do that. I don't know if it's good for sales or good for media or excitement or something. I personally don't like talking like that. I just wish they would call us all race car drivers. It's pretty obvious when you see good talent out there. I think Jamie McMurray has done a good job. He hasn't had just one great race. After Charlotte was over, he had another great race, and another race at the end of the year and he followed up at Rockingham with another great race and finished fifth. He's obviously got some natural talent. You've got a kid like Tony Stewart who's got a lot of natural talent and a guy like Ryan Newman. Those guys week in and week out put the numbers on the board, not just one time here and one time there and not at just one race track. These guys do it across the board.
"That track has always presented me a challenge as far as the car goes of making it turn good. That's a real tight race track. The front end is always trying to break loose on it. It's one of the tracks we go to where the aero push situation is really, really bad. I'm campaigning that NASCAR cut the rear spoilers off and soften up these tires as fast as they possibly can. It'll definitely help tracks like Vegas and Homestead, Fla., Michigan, California. It's already pretty good racing, but it'll make it better racing. That's the biggest thing we're going to fight when we get to Las Vegas, those front ends taking off on the car. Qualifying is a whole different animal. Once you're in the field, you can take that tape off the front grille, and soften the springs up and stiffen the rear springs up. You can do all the things the guys normally do to get the cars handling good.
"That makes me feel real good (that Sterling Marlin's Dodge won at Vegas last year), because this is the first time I really hammered down with all 43 guys at the same race track with me and compared my horsepower. My Dodge engine was a stump puller. It really had a lot of horsepower. We were seeing a little bit more horsepower on our dyno than we were seeing with the Ford. It was really the third or fourth time we built the Dodge engine, although all the development we ever did with the other cars we put into that Dodge engine. It came right up to speed to where we wanted to see it, but you've got to get on the race track and see how it runs. It really ran good. All the testing we've been doing at Louisville, Ky., has shown the same thing. The testing Ryan has been doing has been all positive, so I think we've got a great car. I don't think, I know we do. Now we've just got to make sure nothing breaks on it.
"I haven't heard any time line (from NASCAR about possibly cutting rear spoilers). I know the rumblings are getting stronger inside the NASCAR trailer about it. Within the next month, we might see something starting to happen. It'll definitely be after we get through with the downforce tracks to see how we're stacking up.
"You guys might have seen a lot of stuff on the internet claiming I started a lot of discussion this weekend claiming the Chevrolets were cheating at Daytona. I didn't say it evidently the way it was written. I just want to clarify that. Some team members insinuate that I was talking about them, and they made comments about it. I'm not making comments about any Chevrolet team. I want to put that on the record today. I just thought there were a lot of peculiar things going on and NASCAR has informed me they're going to be wide open and looking for everybody at Talladega. I'm not going to say it was Chevrolet. I think peculiar things were going on with Ford and all kind of different makes that didn't make sense with the way they qualified and the way they ran in the race and things like that. I did say the word Chevrolet. I didn't just mean it was Chevrolets. I saw a lot of peculiar things across the board, and the NASCAR guys did, too. They just informed me that they'd be looking at them really hard at Talladega.
"I'm going to be leaving tomorrow morning for Vegas and start working with some sponsors and play some golf tomorrow. I'm going to play some golf with Kurt Busch on Thursday. Benny Parsons is going to play with us. We're going to try to win out there with this new Dodge. I need a win bad as everybody knows."
BILL WILBURN (Crew chief No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Intrepid)
"We started the race off Sunday (at Rockingham) in really good shape. We took the lead I guess 25-30 laps into the race. Everything was looking pretty good. We never made a really long run. There were quite a few cautions early in the race. The first time we made a long run the car got a little loose and we lost track position. We weren't able to short pit quite like we wanted and never were able to gain track position back late in the race. The car ran really well. We got it tightened up enough for him late in the race where he could make a decent finish out of it. Track position played out of our hands from the middle to the end. Other than that, it turned out to be a pretty decent day.
"Vegas will be the third different type of race we've had. We've had speedway racing. I kind of look at Rockingham as more of a short track type of race. Vegas will be a true intermediate type of track. There'll be some stiff competition. I know Sterling will be good out there. I look for Kurt Busch to be really strong again. I look for the 12 car to run well there, along with probably another half dozen to a dozen cars that will be competitive enough to win that race. Based on our tests over the winter, we should have one of the cars capable of winning that race.
"I beat myself up every week when we don't win. When we leave the shop with cars we feel that are capable of winning the race and definitely have a driver that's capable of winning. We finished second four times last year and that's as close as you can get without winning. I leave the shop every week with the intent on winning that race. I wasn't looking at it as 16 or 17 or 12 or who ever many years it might have been. I look at every race we go to and don't win, we've fallen short for that week. I beat myself up quite a bit up over it. We're plenty capable of winning. We should have won, and I have intentions of winning with this team this year. I know Rusty knows that. He needs a win bad. We need it for our own personal reasons, but we need it for our sponsors and morale of the team. We're going to win races this year. We're capable. We've got the resources. I will just guarantee wins this year. Period.
"Hopefully if things go well at the big track Friday and Saturday, we'll go over for the (World of Outlaws) races Friday and Saturday night. Johnny Hererra is driving the car. We've got Westvaco as our main sponsor and a handful of other people are helping us out. We're excited about that program. We had some good races last year, and we're going to try to run 60 races this year. We'd like to get involved with the Mopar people and try to put something together for next year if possible. Right now we run Chevrolet engines and Goodyear tires and Maxim chassis. Everything's in order. They're in Vegas now and we'll start Friday night. Hopefully we'll start the season out with a win just like we did last year.
"It's exciting. It's a lot of fun. You don't go spend a week at one location. You pretty much spend a day and you race and move on and go to the next location. It's a different type of racing. The races aren't as long. The focus is a little different, but for 30 or 40 laps or whatever the feature is, it's pretty much action packed. I think you can leave just as fulfilled as one would want to see in a race. If you go watch the Outlaws or any sprint car racing, it's pretty exciting.
"I look for a person who will be dedicated and have a strong work ethic, along with talent mechanical wise. We look for people who have a pretty strong education with engineering backgrounds and things like that along with race experience. I still say race experience goes a long way. I don't think you can bring people in who don't have a racing background and expect them to bring the things you're looking for to your team. I think experience is the most important aspect that I look at. I look at guys that have experience with other teams. You go out and you just can't hire guys away from teams unless they come to you with some kind of interest. We don't make it a practice to go and hire people away from other teams. I just look for people with experience and make sure they fit in with the group of people we already have here at Penske Racing. When you work seven days a week and you're side by side with somebody, you've got to pretty much be able to get along with them as well as work with them.
"It's hard to sit down with a person, man or woman, and find that out in an interview. We spend a lot of time looking at people at the race track and people's history. You see a lot of these guys every week and you might see a guy you'd look at in the future if something came available. Then there's just as much on the other side of the coin and you might not be interested in that person.
"I think the day is coming, and some women are out there. There's a girl at DEI that works in the engine department and there's a girl at Petty Enterprises that's an engineer. A lady works at Jasper with the 77 car. Women are involved at all different levels. As far as going over the wall and working on the pit crew, I don't know that there is one right now. I'd say it's probably not far from that happening. There are some capable women out there, capable of performing the duties, carrying tires. I don't know if you could get one to be a jackman or a gasman, but there's definitely some capable of doing those jobs."