Rusty wants to finish the job MARTINSVILLE, Va. (Sept. 24, 1998) By now, the adventures of Rusty Wallace at Martinsville Speedway last fall are well documented. Leading the Hanes 500 (the NAPA Autocare 500 this year) three times for 220 laps,...
Rusty wants to finish the job
MARTINSVILLE, Va. (Sept. 24, 1998) By now, the adventures of Rusty Wallace at Martinsville Speedway last fall are well documented. Leading the Hanes 500 (the NAPA Autocare 500 this year) three times for 220 laps, Wallace was black-flagged by NASCAR officials for jumping a restart with only 20 laps to go. The resulting stop-and-go penalty relegated Wallace to the tail end of the lead lap and a 15th-place finish.
It was a bitter pill to swallow for Rusty. His winless streak has been extended to 55 since that 'one that got away' last year at Martinsville. Nothing would taste sweeter than a victory Sunday at the .526-mile speedway.
"That was last year and this is now," said Wallace. "We're bringing back the same car that we've been running at Martinsville for what seems like eons and have had so much success with."
That car is PR-16, affectionately known as 'Ronnie', which has been raced in the seven Martinsville races dating back to April 1995 when Wallace won the race and named the car after chassis-builder Ronnie Hopkins who had succumbed to cancer two days earlier.
"Martinsville is a track where we always go into the races knowing that we have a great chance to win the pole and the race," said Wallace. "This time is no different. We're coming in there expecting to qualify up front, lead a bunch of laps and be there at the end battling for the win."
Wallace has good reason to be so confident. After all, during the last dozen races (12 races since the fall of 1992) at Clay Earle's picturesque Virginia short track, Rusty's record is unmatched. During that period, Wallace has driven to five wins, nine top-five finishes (including two runner-ups), and 10 top-10s. His overall Martinsville record sports six wins, 14 top-five finishes, 17 top-10 finishes and two pole positions in 29 races. Martinsville was the site of Wallace's second career win (on 9/21/86) and his first career short-track pole position (in qualifying for the 9/25/88 race).
Wallace started second and finished sixth in the April 20 Goody's 500 at Martinsville. He says changes are needed to keep up with the Joneses, or at least the Hamiltons.
"That 4 team (Bobby Hamilton) just had everybody covered there in the first race," said Wallace. "We started outside of them on the front row and found out in a hurry that they were going to be the team to beat. We used the same setup that we'd been using there and we probably should have varied that just a little. We did lead and ran up front most of the race, but all we could get out of the deal was the sixth-place finish. We discussed possible changes after that race, so we know some specific things that we'll try there this time."
During Rusty's 1989 championship season he was leading the NASCAR Winston Cup standings after 26 races with 3,758 points. That same number of points this year would have him exactly where he stands right now after 26 races ... in the fourth spot in the standings. He had six wins at this time that year, but he had the exact same number of top-5s & top-10s (12 and 18, respectively). He had four DNFs (Did not finish) then, compared to only two this year.
With top-10 finishes in six of the last seven races on the NASCAR Winston Cup schedule, Wallace can set a new standard for himself in that category with 24. He has three five- race streaks this year of top 10s, including the one he is on currently. After opening the season with five consecutive top fives, he went into a minor slump, with only three top 10s in the next 10 races. He has since rebounded, making the top 10 in 10 of the last 11 races.
Source: NASCAR Online