Wallace made time, not points in 2000 By Dave Rodman NEW YORK (Dec. 2, 2000) Rusty Wallace might have had the most frustrating year of his NASCAR Winston Cup Series career in 2000. The St. Louis, Mo., native won races, led laps and won Bud Pole...
Wallace made time, not points in 2000
By Dave Rodman
NEW YORK (Dec. 2, 2000) Rusty Wallace might have had the most frustrating year of his NASCAR Winston Cup Series career in 2000. The St. Louis, Mo., native won races, led laps and won Bud Pole positions.
But when Wallace, 44, looks back at the season, he sees a nagging number of "uncompleted deals" in the wake of his No. 2 Miller Lite Ford.
As a result, he will be rewarded for a seventh-place finish in the point standings when he walks across the stage at the NASCAR Winston Cup Series Awards Banquet on Dec. 8 at the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria.
"I really am happy with the way the season went," said Wallace, who finished in the top-10 in the point standings for the eighth straight year. "I mean, with four wins and nine poles and all those laps led, you've just got to believe it was a good year. I'm happy with it."
All in all, though, the season to some degree confounded Wallace, who rang up some of the best statistics of his career. In addition to a series tie for second best in victories with four, he led the league in Bud Pole Awards with a career-high nine and also led the mile leader standings by more than 600 miles over Tony Stewart.
In addition, Wallace -- who was the first quarter nominee for Driver of the Year -- captured the season-long Gatorade Front Runner Award, recognizing his laps led advantage; and tied third place point man Jeff Burton with a series-high 135 lap leader bonus points this season. That cushion helped him move to within 26 points of sixth-place Stewart and 31 of fifth-place Ricky Rudd in the points.
Wallace says he has more confidence than ever in his team, led by crew chief Robin Pemberton, but that circumstances had knocked his team back to its level in the second half of the top-5 in points. Despite that his Penske Racing South team still scored seven top-15 finishes in the final nine races of the season.
"If we could have gotten the pit stuff right, we could have had seven victories," Wallace said, citing races at Martinsville, Richmond and Pocono in which his Penske team dominated only to slip back into the field at the end due to vagaries in pit stop or set-up strategy. "We had some DNFs and bad finishes that didn't much help us, either."
Wallace swept both races at Bristol Motor Speedway and also won at Pocono and Michigan. But along with his 12 top-5 and 20 top-10 finishes, Wallace also had five finishes of 30th or worse which, for a hopeful championship contender, doesn't cut it.
"To tell you the truth, I'm ready for the season to be over," Wallace said in the aftermath of his season closing seventh-place finish in the NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. That event was almost a microcosm of Wallace's season. He was in a position to have a definite shot to win until a late caution brought pit and tire strategy -- and circumstances -- into play.
Wallace pitted and was still in good position but he was run into on the final restart with less than 10 laps to go and ended up seventh. It was definitely a case of "dejaà vu all over again" for Wallace.
"It's been a long and hard grind for everybody - I can't wait to get away for a little rest and relaxation," Wallace said, adding that he planned to reflect with satisfaction on what his team had done. "We've accomplished a lot this year and can be happy about the job we've done. Our motor program has been second to none the whole year.
"Our guys just seemed to get better and better going over the wall. I think we had the best pit crew and the best pit stops of them all over the final few races."
They just couldn't get circumstances to fall their way. Still, Wallace ended the year reveling in his stout numbers despite his shortcoming in the point standings.
"As tough as NASCAR racing is in this day and time, you could easily say this year was a bigger deal than 1993," Wallace said of the season in which he won 10 of 30 races and had 19 top-5 finishes. "I'm proud of my numbers
"This season makes us feel like we're a championship contending team. Winning races and poles and leading laps is a pretty good start, because to win a championship you have to do that. If it wasn't for the DNFs we had this year we'd be right there in the point chase, and that makes me feel good about the direction this team is going in." -nascar.com-