Preseason Thunder: Dodge - Rusty Wallace interview

RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) "Right now we're running pretty good. We're kinda stuck on one speed. We're running 48.30, 48.30, 48.30 (ninth fastest in morning session at 48.279 seconds, 186.416 mph). After lunch we're going to make...

RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge)

"Right now we're running pretty good. We're kinda stuck on one speed. We're running 48.30, 48.30, 48.30 (ninth fastest in morning session at 48.279 seconds, 186.416 mph). After lunch we're going to make some serious attempts to get some qualifying runs in, some gear ratio stuff and start blocking it up slowly and things like that. We've done so much work right now. I don't think we can make the bodies run any faster. We've done all kind of stuff there. Aerodynamically I think we're as good as we're going to get. What fixes these cars right up is more horsepower under the hood when we get back, so I think the engine shop will probably have about 10 more horsepower when we come back, they generally do. We've got our Bud Shootout car finished right now, so we'll be ready for that 3-5 drafting session. We'll see how that goes. I'm expecting some good things."

WHY IS WINNING THE DAYTONA 500 SO IMPORTANT TO YOU?

"We've come so close to winning it so many times. We'd lose it with 10 laps to go and five laps to go and things like that. Maybe it'll be my year this year. I feel like I've got just as good a car as I've ever had. Our practice speeds have been pretty strong. We've been in the top 10 the past two or three days. I believe the performance is definitely there in the car. It's just what lane you get in. I've always told everybody you can't win this race until you're coming off turn four. Going into turn three is where all hell breaks loose. Then at the checkered flag, whatever line you get in and whatever drafting partner you've got, that's going to get you to victory lane."

TALK ABOUT RESTRICTOR-PLATE RACING

"I've been awfully close. Every time I come to Daytona, it's been kind to me the last six or seven races. I've been very, very close. We've had good runs in the 125s and good runs in the Bud Shootout, and I really enjoy coming down here. It's just a matter of where you're at going into turn three on that last lap. Get yourself in position to make a good run and you can win this thing. Our Bud Shootout car is the car I had at Talladega (2003). I was running third with it with two laps to go. I let Stewart get underneath me off turn four and about four of 'em drafted past me. I think I finished seventh or eighth in that race. The speedway stuff for Penske Racing has been pretty good. I've got high hopes for this race. I'd love to win this thing and get back in the winner's circle. I've won about every single track out there except Daytona. I've won in different divisions, IROC and stuff like that, but never in Cup. I'd like to do that. I really don't like to focus on those bad days in the past."

"I love racing a lot and I plan on racing for at least two more years. I'm not guaranteeing anything after that. I'm not going to say I'm going to stop after two years, either. My Miller contract is for two more years. I still enjoy what I'm doing a whole lot. I do enjoy other things, also. I enjoy my car dealerships, building the Busch team. I just took over all of Miller Brewing Company's show car programs. RWI is operating all the show car programs for Miller Brewing now as of about a month ago. I'm doing some things with Bell Helicopter next year. I just signed a new four-year personal services contract with Bell Helicopter. Bombardier Aerospace is on my uniform this year. It'll be on the 2, 12 and 77. The teams will fly a new style jet this year to bring all the people to the track. I enjoy doing that type of stuff. I really enjoy racing, but I find I've got to start managing my time a little better. Even during the off season, I found myself going and going all the time. We didn't take any vacation this year. We stayed around the house and went up to North Carolina to our log home up there, but other than that, it was wide open all the time."

DOES IT SURPRISE YOU THAT SOME VETERANS HAVE NEVER WON DAYTONA 500?

"It is amazing. I remember Dale went forever with people asking him when he was going to win the Daytona 500. He won it and it wasn't an hour later he told me they'd start asking me when I was going to win it. That's a compliment to me. We were pretty good friends. I really think I've got the car. It's so much luck at this place. You're wide open on the gas in every single corner. Generally the car that qualifies the fastest is the favorite down here because it's aerodynamics and horsepower. It's not so much about handling. Handling is important, don't get me wrong, but aerodynamics and horsepower really play a big, big role. Michael Waltrip will tell you that. DEI has done a good job figuring it out. Our guys at Penske Engines are probably the leaders in horsepower everywhere else. We're doing pretty doggone good here right now. It'll be interesting to see how we net out here tonight and go back and chassis dyno that car and see what we've got when we come back. It's always more. I just hope it's a lot more."

HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO CONTINUE DOMINATION?

"We've all been there. I remember when Jeff Gordon won all his races and I won all my races and Ryan did it last year. It's hard to do that year in and year out. I had nine poles and four wins a couple of years ago. Then I had nine poles the next season and the next season I had no poles, so I go from nine to no poles. I didn't change as a driver. Rules changed and things changed, scenarios changed that kept me from it. I came close plenty of times. I remember I qualified second four times and Jeff Gordon beat me out in all of them. It changes so dramatically year after year. It's tough to keep up that steam. From last year to this year, we've got huge rule changes. Rules changes I welcome, the shorter spoilers and softer tires. That type of stuff is really going to show up when we get to Las Vegas. At Rockingham, it's always been a track that wears the tires a lot. We're not going to have a tire issue there. These other tracks, the tires were so hard they jus t wouldn't wear. They're always going to wear at Rockingham. We're really going to show the new rules when we show up at Vegas. That's where they're really going to shine.

"I think Ryan will adjust to it. We're learning a lot of things from year to year. The springs are so soft. The swaybars are so big. We didn't know we could do that in the past. Now we know we can do that. That's something you're not going to give up. Ryan will adjust fine to it. I don't know what it's going to take with less spoiler and softer tires. I don't know if it's going to take softer rear springs to accommodate that. I don't know what it's going to take. As we speak right now, my car is in Georgia in the wind tunnel getting ready for Rockingham.

"I feel my driving style, what I've been accustomed to is working on the car and get it working good. I'm more of a hands-on chassis guy. A lot of these races last year was just track position. You couldn't get around the guys. As far as the Brendan Gaughan thing, I can give you the breakdown of the ownership structure. Basically, I own 24 percent of the 2 car and 12 car. Now we've taken the 77 car and purchased it from Doug Bawel and put it under Penske South. Now myself, Don Miller, Roger Penske own the 3 cars down. John Erickson owns five percent of the team now. We've made him an owner. He's done a good job managing and he's become a minority owner. Also, Doug Bawel owns a percentage of the 77 car, but the majority ownership has been split up between Penske South. It's all under one camp.

"I'm looking forward to racing with Brendan. I took him to the Detroit Auto Show and had a blast. He absolutely runs 300 mph. Everybody thinks I'm wide open. This guy is a little stronger than I am. He's having a good time with life, I'll tell you that. When we go out to Las Vegas, we'll get some good hotel deals."

-dodge motorsports-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Rusty Wallace , Michael Waltrip , Brendan Gaughan , Roger Penske
Teams Team Penske