CHARLOTTE, N.C., (Aug. 31, 2000) - With numerous victories in nearly every racing division that Mike Wallace has competed in during his 15-year driving career, the St. Louis native yearns for the chance to get back to the NASCAR Winston Cup ...
CHARLOTTE, N.C., (Aug. 31, 2000) - With numerous victories in nearly every racing division that Mike Wallace has competed in during his 15-year driving career, the St. Louis native yearns for the chance to get back to the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.
"I want an opportunity," said Wallace. "I want to play in that Major League ballpark. I want to come back to Winston Cup and run competitively."
But for reasons as varied as to what drivers will end up where in 2001, Wallace hasn't received that opportunity. When asked why, Wallace candidly looks back on an intensity that may have ruffled some feathers.
"I've actually gone out and asked people, 'What is it that I've done?" said Wallace. "Cocky and that I'm hard to get along with were the answers I got back.
"I think that comes from my early days in Winston Cup, when all I wanted to do was run up front and I didn't care what it took. I wasn't smart enough to romance the words that came out of my mouth to say, 'This is what I want.' There are some things that I've said that I've regretted, because I must have offended some people along the way. I think that made some people think that I'm different than what I am.
"But all I am is guided," continued Wallace. "I want to drive cars for a living and I want to do it in Winston Cup. That's my only desire."
Wallace's longest drive in Winston Cup began in 1994, when three races into the season veteran car owner Junie Donlavey named Wallace to replace Bobby Hillin. Wallace finished the season for Donlavey and ran a full schedule for the Richmond, Va.- based team in 1995. Little did Wallace know that 1995 would be his only full year in Winston Cup. Ten races into the 1996 campaign, Wallace and Donlavey parted ways.
While Wallace has yet to score a victory in the Winston Cup ranks, he has won in every other racing division in which he has competed.
Since graduating from the dirt and asphalt tracks of Missouri and Illinois where he racked up over 300 wins, Wallace has proven his ability in many stepping-stone divisions to Winston Cup. Prominently featured on Wallace's resume are three NASCAR Busch Series, Grand National Division wins, six ARCA wins, three NASCAR Winston West Series wins and four NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series wins.
Despite the accomplishments, Wallace has found a glass wall separating himself from the opportunities that present themselves in the Winston Cup garage.
"I have conversations with people, things seem to move in the right direction, then everything gets quiet. It kills me. I know I can compete in Winston Cup. I just can't break through," said Wallace.
With experienced drivers at a premium in Winston Cup, one would think that opportunities would abound for a driver like Wallace. After all, he currently stands second in the Craftsman Truck Series point standings with two wins, two poles, 13 top-five and 16 top-10 finishes driving for Jim Smith's No. 2 Team ASE/Ultra Motorsports team.
"Driving for Jimmy is one of the biggest things that has happened to me in my entire racing career," said Wallace. "He supplies us with the best equipment, and we've been able to be in a position every week to show the capability of our race team.
"We won two races last year, two this year - including Daytona (Fla.). That was a big deal. Winning in anything with fenders on it at Daytona is huge. I can't say enough about Jim, because he's the guy who supplies us with all the parts and pieces to make successes like Daytona happen.
"I hoped to go Cup racing with Jim in 2001, but that doesn't look like it's going to happen. He bought Mattei Motorsports and is trying to get Michael's (Waltrip) team up and running. It's a big undertaking and his hands are full. But if there's anyone who can be successful in Winston Cup, it's Jim."
With a Winston Cup opportunity not on the table with Ultra Motorsports, Wallace continues to look.
"I want to be a race car driver," said Wallace. "That's all I want to be. But to get there, I can be anything the team or the sponsor wants me to be. I can guarantee off-track performance.
"Maybe I wasn't the smartest guy four or five years ago on being able to relay to the people working on the car what we needed to be better. But I'm wiser now. Looking in from the other side of the fence tends to do that to you. It tends to make you hungry, too.
"Getting back to Cup is my long term goal," added Wallace, "but we're still in the hunt for this Truck championship. As much as I want to go Cup racing, my entire focus right now is to win the Truck Series championship. We're in second-place right now, and yeah, we're a little bit away from the leader. But a lot can happen. If we race well and the guy in front of us doesn't, we have a shot to win the title. That was our goal at the beginning of the year, and right now, nothing's going to divert my attention from that. When I make a commitment to something, I live up to it in its entirety."