RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Intrepid) NOTE: Wallace, a 46-year-old St. Louis native, will make his 600th consecutive career start under the lights Saturday night at Richmond. He made his 600th career start earlier this year at ...
RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Intrepid)
NOTE: Wallace, a 46-year-old St. Louis native, will make his 600th consecutive career start under the lights Saturday night at Richmond. He made his 600th career start earlier this year at Rockingham and led the most laps in that race before finishing seventh. Wallace scored a season-best third-place finish at California Speedway last week and moved up to 12th in the NASCAR Winston Cup Standings.
"We've got a brand new car for Richmond. We took it to Memphis, Tenn., last week and shook it down. I liked the speed I saw in it. Going to Memphis, I didn't know how fast I was supposed to run, but the times from what I heard, we did pretty good. We worked on a new spring and shock package and we learned a lot there. We've got it all ready to put in, and we're definitely going to try it in pre-qualifying practice. I'm real excited about it.
"We didn't qualify well for this race last year, but we got to the front real quick. We blew tires, readjusted camber, thought we had it fixed and didn't have any problem the rest of the run and backed it back down. We raised it up two, backed one out of it and the thing blew out again. Because of that, we took the tire that we were going to run in Phoenix and went to St. Louis and tested it. Hopefully we perfected the tire blowing out problem. We didn't have any problem in Phoenix with the tire and tire pressure settings. I feel real good about my chances here based on the way we ran last time. We ran real strong, almost won, had the million dollars on the line we were going for. I was looking right at Matt Kenseth, and I guess I was catching him about four tenths a lap. The doggone tire blew out and that was it.
"You can't come back with the same setup because every time you do that you get your doors blown off, every single time. You can't rest on what you did last time. If you do, you'll be in trouble for sure. We do have this new combination we're going to try and see if it pays some immediate dividends.
"We've been running strong all year long, but stupid things have been happening. I've never in my life encountered three races in a row when caution flags come out when we've been running between third and fifth. That happened at Darlington, Bristol and Texas Every single time I hit pit road for a schedule green flag pit stop, the caution flag would fly and we'd go down two laps. At Talladega when Ryan wrecked and we got involved in it, we had a great car. The car has been strong all year, and finally last week we were able to show it and almost won.
"We had that battle going trying to keep the lead and Junior trying to get past me. Knowing what was going on, now I just would have let him go and everything would have been better. That's what I had planned, but he just got to me too quick off turn four and got me sideways. That's what lost me the race, I really believe. I watched the race again last night on TV and that was a key moment. When I lost track position, I lost the race. That's racing.
"I knew whoever was in front was going to win the race. There wasn't a lot of passing that was going to go on at that particular moment. We were all comparable on tires and track position was everything. I was just happy I was able to make a run back on Labonte, and I almost got second. From all that racing, I let Busch get away from me a little bit.
"We've got a lot of horsepower, and the car was aerodynamically good. It was one of the first races all year long where you get to look at the Chevys, Fords and Pontiacs and they look pretty close. Five Dodges in the top 10 at California could be just coincidence. I think we're all pretty close right now. Track position was everything. I believe those particular Dodge teams just had good setups in their cars and got 'em handling good. Those real fast, real smooth, semi-flat superspeedways, you've got to get the front end on the ground, you've got to get your tire pressures right, you've got to get your shock combination right. Just following those guys and looking at 'em, they all had it right.
"When you're talking 600 consecutive starts, that's pretty slick. I almost missed it at Sears Point back in '93 after Earnhardt and I had that huge wreck at Talladega. I had a broken arm and I had Scott Sharp standing by to drive my car. I had a hell of a car that day, so I figured I'd stay in it. I ended up missing a shift and tore the transmission out of it and didn't finish the race, but looking at the number now I'm glad I stayed in the car. If I hadn't done that, we wouldn't be talking about 600 straight right now. I guess the 600th start was in Rockingham, but the 600th straight is this weekend, and that's the big number.
"700 straight? I honestly don't think I'm going to make 700 straight, but it'll be probably 675. It's a cool number. You've feel like you've been there, done that and paid your dues and accomplished something with that many starts. You feel real good about it. I don't know if I'm any smarter than I used to be, but I'm sure putting quality ahead of quantity. I used to do everything in the world for everybody, and now I'm getting selective and calming down and putting focus on things I need to put focus on, and I think that's paying dividends.
"It's real easy for people to say you're trying too hard in any sport whether it's golf or bowling or racing or whatever. A lot of people think if you don't try hard it'll come easier. That's not the case. I think we've just got smarter. We had to blend together. We had a lot to learn when Billy (crew chief Wilburn) and I got together. We had to rebuild the whole team. I think he's done a hell of a job and he's coming on real strong right now. I've put a lot of pressure on him, and I put pressure on myself to perform and do what we're supposed to. Trying too hard? I don't go for that. It's OK for people to make those comments. I've made that before, too, but that's not the case with what's going on here.
"I know when I'm trying too hard. Me trying too hard is making crazy moves on the race track or going into a lane that's not burned in yet or running with guys you know are potential hazards to run with or trying an unknown setup and stuff like that, stirring the wheel and gassing it too hard and all of that.
"Being focused and driven is what I am right now. That's a lot different than trying too hard. If I could pick a place to break this (72 race) winless streak, this would be it. When people ask me about my favorite race track, I say Bristol and Richmond. Honestly, Bristol has been great. It's real hard to pass there now with the hard tire we're running. Track position has been important. Now we're here at Richmond and you pass high and low all the way around the track. I've won here six times, and I thought I had it won here last year.
"This is definitely a track I've got targeted real hard to not let escape."