Mike Wallace talks about his role as the substitute driver for the U.S. Army Team. CHARLOTTE (May 20, 2003) -- It's been nearly two weeks since Mike Wallace was named the substitute driver for Jerry Nadeau in the No. 01 U.S. Army/MB2 Motorsports...
Mike Wallace talks about his role as the substitute driver for the U.S. Army Team.
CHARLOTTE (May 20, 2003) -- It's been nearly two weeks since Mike Wallace was named the substitute driver for Jerry Nadeau in the No. 01 U.S. Army/MB2 Motorsports Pontiac Grand Prix. Nadeau is recovering from injuries following a May 2 accident during a practice session at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.
In the following question and answer interview, Wallace, the 44-year-old veteran driver and middle of the three racing brothers, talks about the transition, his role, the team, expectations and this weekend's Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
Q: How has the transition been?
Wallace: To be honest, the transition as far as me working with the race team and getting into the car has been relatively easy. Make no mistake, this is a difficult situation for everybody involved with the U.S. Army team - the crew members, families, the front office, sponsors and fans. You never want to get a job because one of your fellow drivers got hurt. But racing is what it is - it parallels the military -- somebody gets hurt and someone else goes in to continue on. This is Jerry's car and our thoughts will always be with him. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to drive for this team.
Q: It's been only two weeks, do you feel a team chemistry has been established?
Wallace: In this situation the chemistry has to happen instantaneously and we're all thankful that it has. They (the team) knew something about me and I knew something about them. These guys are professionals and I feel the same about myself. We can relate quickly to each other. This is what you have to do - there is no time for a learning curve. Ryan (crew chief Ryan Pemberton) and I talk frequently - you have to have open communications and we do have that. This is not like starting a rookie race team - we have a seasoned crew chief, seasoned crew members and a seasoned driver. We all have something to prove to everybody.
Q: What are your realistic goals while being the substitute driver?
Wallace: I put enough pressure on myself. I don't want to hear that this is a new deal and I'm just filling in. We don't want to just finish a race, we want to run competitively. They (the team) put my seat in, made it fit so it's time for me to produce and they're ready to produce. We want Jerry to recover and get healthy again. But in the meantime we're going to produce for him. When he comes back, hopefully the car will be up there in the points. We're all on the same page and we know what that page is. We want to be fast in practice, fast in qualifying and competitive in the race. Once again, I have no desire, nor does this organization, to just finish a race.
Q: How do you feel going into this weekend's Coca-Cola 600?
Wallace: The car we had last Saturday at the Winston Open was a fast car and drove well, but the car for the 600 is a new in-house built chassis. They tested it and said it's the fastest car they have. Everybody is positive and looking to perform better than we did last week. The ultimate goal is to run competitively and be towards the front near the end of the race. The speed has been in the U.S. Army car most of the time -- they just had weird finishes, just like what happened to us last week - getting hit on the first lap. You don't want to count on luck, but this team has had more than their share of bad luck this year.
Q: Since this is the longest race of the year (600 miles), is there any certain strategy the team plans on applying?
Wallace: There is nothing different in terms of strategy for this race. The day of what was called strategy has come and gone. You simply run these cars as hard as you can from the time the green flag drops to the time the checkered drops. The strategy part comes during the race and the calls are made by the crew chiefs - is it two tires, four tires, fuel only, etc. Winston Cup racing for drivers is you race as hard as you can from start to finish. A few years back you didn't do that - you took the green flag kind of cautiously, didn't stay aggressive every lap because you were worried about pieces or parts breaking and all of that. But things have changed.
Q: How do you evaluate your first ride with the U.S. Army team during last week's Winston Open.
Wallace: No question, it was a tough start. We practiced well and qualified well (fourth). But in the race we got turned around on the first lap and that kind of took us away from racing. I guess if this were going to happen it was just as well it happened in a non-points event than at this week's 600 or any other point race. All-in-all, it went well last week and it was a very good way to get ready for this weekend.
Q: You will also be racing in the Busch Series (No. 4 Biagi Brothers car). How do you feel about the double duty weekends?
Wallace: I personally love to race and I could run three races in a weekend. In fact, I did that at Daytona this year. It was a good weekend - I had top tens in all three races (9th in the Daytona 500, 4th in the Busch race and 6th in the truck race). I feel it's a positive to do both Winston Cup and Busch. I will try to utilize the Busch car as a tool to assist the 01 car and the same goes for helping the No. 4 Busch car. We can transfer information back and forth the entire weekend. It doesn't hurt at all to have this kind of input.