Preseason Test: Rusty Wallace - Dodge interview, part 2

Continued from part 1 WOULD RUSTY WALLACE THE CAR OWNER HIRE RUSTY WALLACE THE DRIVER? "I would say that Rusty Wallace would be ridiculous not to hire Rusty Wallace the driver because Rusty's got such a wealth of knowledge he's gained his...

Continued from part 1


"I would say that Rusty Wallace would be ridiculous not to hire Rusty Wallace the driver because Rusty's got such a wealth of knowledge he's gained his whole career. Rusty Wallace isn't old age Rusty Wallace. Rusty Wallace is on a computer 24-7 at the racetrack going through my chassis setups. I am a new age driver. I'm an older driver, but I'm new age when it comes to all that stuff. I think I've had some great, great runs. I don't know if there's many people out there that support the sponsors and support the sport and race fans and work as hard off the track building the sport and taking care of all these 25 sponsors I've got on my uniforms that nobody in the world has got as many as I do. And by the way, every one of them is signed up again for three years, so yeah, I'd hire Rusty Wallace the driver."


"There really is not. There's no one I would even think about 'hey I owe you one. I'm going to get you.' I would never do that. I wouldn't want to hurt anybody. I want to go out clean. I want to go out respected. When I'm done I want my peers to look at me and say, 'that Wallace was a hell of a driver. He was fun to drive with. He was a fun personality, a guy I like being around and if you'd give him an inch he'd take a mile.' I want all that."


"I see a lot in him right now. I really do. It's getting real serious with him. He ramped up real quick. His learning in racing is wide open. I knew he was going to be excited about it. Stephen right now builds his own cars, he builds his own shocks. He sets up the car. He paints it. He drives the truck. He does all kind of things. If I told him right now if he wanted to go racing next week he'd have to do everything himself, he'd say, 'OK, no problem.' And he'd go win the race. I think when it was all said and done he had 62 Bandelero wins. We put him in the legend cars, and he did great there. We took him out of that and put him in the short track cars. He won there. This year we upgraded him to the UARA Series because you couldn't run NASCAR at his age. Stephen won the last four out of five races. He won Bristol. He won Nashville. He won the rookie of the year title. He set numerous track records. He was the winningest driver and the most poles. He said he wanted to go to Myrtle Beach (to race). I told him we were going to run him in Hooters and I didn't want him taking those cars down there and tear 'em up. He wanted to know if he skipped Myrtle Beach if he could go to the Snowball Derby. I funded the whole thing, and he worked about a month on that car. He went down there and there were 114 guys. He qualified third and won the race. Not only did he win the race, he led 214 laps out of 300. He was the youngest kid in the 37-year history of the Snowball Derby to win the race that young. We're moving up to the next step and put him in a Busch style car. He's 17, so he can't run Busch. We're putting him in the Hooters Pro Cup Series. My old crew chief Barry Dodson, Barry is running Stephen right now. He's pretty wild still. I've got to keep a noose around his neck, and Barry is pretty good at that. They're going to be testing in Lakeland, Fla., next week and I'm going to run him at Memphis, Tenn., in my second Busch car, and I'm also going to run him at Phoenix, Ariz. Team Penske is looking at running him in two ARCA races this year, too. The goal is to get as much seat time as we possibly can so we can move right along. I talked to Brian Vickers father a lot about it. I asked him how he got Brian up to speed doing this, and he said it was all about seat time. He just kept running and running, figuring everything out. There's no slowing Stephen down. There's no way to slow him down, so that's what he's going to be, and I'm going to support him."


"The worst rules and best rules are just an opinion. The rules we had with the gurney thing in the back and that little roof strip, it made the cars draft so good and they run so tight. They were stuck like glue. The bad thing about it was you couldn't get away from anybody. You were bumper to bumper and it was just uncomfortable racing. It was great racing for the fans. The comfortable racing was when you could run back four or five cars and feel the draft and run up and pass cars. I really liked the slingshoting stuff. That happened a long time ago when the cars were dirtier and the spoilers were different and they could slingshot past somebody. That was a lot of fun. In the old times you'd follow a guy and set him up lap after lap. You'd see the guy lay back and you'd fly right past him. I like that stuff. That was pretty neat. Right now, it's pretty generic. At least we haven't changed any rules from last year to this year here. We've got a new nose design, but in the wind tunnel there's no difference whatsoever. It's a new look. It's very very close in performance, a couple counts of drag and a couple counts of downforce. It depends on how you build the cars to the plus side or negative side, but it's very, very minimal."


"I'm not going to be greedy, but I am going to say my mind. I've been out here doing this, and I think the pension plans need to start with the drivers. A lot of guys support NASCAR, but I don't think anybody has supported NASCAR harder than I have on the track or off the track. Anything I can do to build the sport and make it better. I think it's ridiculous we don't have one. I think it needs to happen quick, and then I think it needs to trickle down."


"I think the NASCAR research guys are going a great job doing what they're doing, mandating things, doing this and doing that. I think the next thing that happens will be crush zones, inside the car. I've still got a concern if you hit real hard driver's side first. What's right there along side you to act like a spring or pillow? I think the driver's side development is the next thing we need to work on. Yeah, we've got a crush zone in the back and right front and left front, but what if you hit driver's side first? That's what could knock your lights out. The only thing that helped that is outside the car soft walls. That really helped. I wish there was something we could do now between the driver's door bars and the door to create some kind of zone right there."


"I don't like the word retirement because I'm not retiring. People retire when they're 65 or 70 years old. I'm 48. I knew that because so many people asked me when I was going to retire. I wish they would quit asking me that question, but they kept bringing it up. The Miller Brewing Company, I could see all the breweries are trending toward the younger people now. The brewery wanted me to do younger things that I really didn't want to do. That was one little thing, but the other thing was I'd won a lot of races. I wanted to be on top. I didn't want to go spiraling downward. I wasn't going to do it until I felt I was able to do it. I feel like I'm able to do it now and still live a great life. The decision because wanting to go out on top,

seeing the new age things being so hot right now, and I'm not new age when it comes to that stuff. A lot of that made my decision. My wife was interested in me stopping. The comment of 'hey baby, it's time to come home.' I've heard that."


"I don't think so. I don't think they'll run as long as I will. I haven't talked to Jeff, but Jeff made a comment last week and said Rusty is going to do his retirement tour. He's 48 and I can guarantee you one thing. I won't be racing when I'm 48. These guys are making a lot of money now. A lot of things are happening. I feel for guys like Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough and Bobby Allison and Donnie Allison and David Pearson. Guys like that made the sport and didn't get to enjoy what we had. It was amazing. When I started it paid $500,000 to win the championship. Then the first year I won was '89 and I won a million dollars. Now, the kid won $5.8 million last time. Who would have ever thought the sport would come that far. I don't see 'em going that far. I really don't."


"I think that's really, really huge. I'm really excited about the opportunity for Kenny making the Daytona 500 and Mike. I've been so worried about Mike because he's such a great driver. It's amazing how he hasn't been able to hook himself up a solid, first-class ride. He's so much a better driver than most of the guys we run with. He really is. He's an incredible talent, fearless, the whole thing. I'm glad he got this ride. He helped build that 4 Busch team and then lost that ride. That was very mind-boggling to me, but I'm glad he's got this opportunity with Morgan-McClure. I hope they get the sponsorships they need to run the whole season."


"A lot of the great drivers have run it, and I'm one of the only guys who hasn't. I'd like to put that in my record that I've done that. I want to be well-rounded and do that. I've got so many opportunities to run it. People always are trying to get me to do it, and I just see it as another thing that takes more time and more effort leading into the Daytona 500 week. I know the Daytona 500 is so important, and that's why I haven't done it. I got to thinking, I'm not going to be running Daytona, so I can put 100 percent focus on that, have a great time running it. Jimmy France has been wanting me to run it. That's one reason. Dodge might get an engine for it, that's another reason. It's just something I haven't done that I want to accomplish and do. I don't know who I would even think about for a teammate. It'd be fun. I like Max Pappus a ton. It would be good to see him in there. I could see Jamie McMurray. The list goes on. I could see Ryan Newman in there. I could see Brendan Gaughan. I really love Brendan. He's a cool guy. Then again, you've got to have somebody who understands that racing to help us along. We've got to have one hotshot in there for sure."


"We haven't had a conversation. I need to have a conversation with him. I think he's in a position where he's a good driver. He's doing really good. He wants things. I'm not going to say he's demanding about things, but there are some things he emphatically believes, him and his crew chief. When I put the car owner hat on, me and Penske built this thing and this is what I want. Above all, what I want is some respect. I remember when this thing was a dirt field with 20 guys working and now it's a team bringing a lot of money in, employing a lot of people. I'm not in the mood for dealing with no respect. I felt like we've done a lot for him, and I want him to realize that, and I want him to race me like his teammate and owner, not just some other driver that he doesn't like. We've gone through all the stumbling blocks and we're working it out. I think we're working it out amongst ourselves. We're really not saying anything, but I promise you before the Daytona 500 we'll sit down. I'll be the one to ask for the meeting. I just don't feel like it's going to come from the other side of the camp. I'm going to do it and diffuse it all and try to get at least this last year working together."


"I kind of treat it the same way we did when we went to Japan. It's kind of a fact finding mission. It's a way to bring worldwide attention to the sport of NASCAR. That's one thing. It's a Busch race. I own a Busch car, one of the best ones out there I feel. It's a race that I did not sell to Miller High Life Lite or to Topflite golf. So, I'm going to announce a new sponsor next week, a real exciting sponsor for that one single race, and I'm going to drive it. I'm real pumped up about it. I wish I could go down there and test. I'm going to talk to Jeff (Burton). NASCAR asked me to do the test, but when they found out I was going to drive.... Jamie wanted to drive, and I said, 'no, I want to drive that one.' He's still on me everyday to let him drive, but when NASCAR found out I was going to drive they couldn't let me test. They can't let a driver who's going to be in the race do the test. I'll get real prepared. We'll probably go down to Cheraw, in South Carolina. I hear the track is dead flat, no hills, no nothing, where I can shake it down and learn some things about it. I want to be one of the drivers who races Mexico. It's kind of like why do I want to run the 24 hours of Daytona? Because it's something I've never done, and I want to do it. This is an opportunity to do something I've never done, and I want to do it, too. I don't know if I'll be one of the favorites. The sponsor I'm going to have is not a Mexican type of sponsor, but I feel like I'm one of the favorites. I've won a lot of road races in the past. I'm real focused on doing it. I think I've got a really great hot rod to take down there. We've cut the body off it twice already. It's going to be a real cool looking car when we get it down there, and I'll be trying to get all the information I can. NASCAR has some tight rules on that deal with the spring rate you run and the gear ratios and that type of stuff. There will be a lot of things you can't do, but to me it's kind of a fun thing."


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Rusty Wallace , Ryan Newman , Jamie McMurray , Richard Petty , Brendan Gaughan , Brian Vickers , Bobby Allison , Donnie Allison , Cale Yarborough , David Pearson
Teams Team Penske