Rockingham II: Dodge - Kenny Wallace interview

KENNY WALLACE (No. 23 Hills Bros Coffee Dodge Intrepid R/T) NOTE: Wallace, a 39-year-old St. Louis native, won the pole and finished second in last year's fall NASCAR Winston Cup race at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham. Making his ninth ...

KENNY WALLACE (No. 23 Hills Bros Coffee Dodge Intrepid R/T)

NOTE: Wallace, a 39-year-old St. Louis native, won the pole and finished second in last year's fall NASCAR Winston Cup race at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham. Making his ninth start of the season for car owner Bill Davis, Wallace hopes to improve on his 10th place finish earlier this season at The Rock. Wallace qualified ninth earlier this season at Rockingham and hopes to contend for a top starting spot when time trials get under way at the 1.017-mile track at 3:05 p.m. on Friday.

"What I'm getting excited about right now is we're getting in the part of the year where we're going to start doing a lot of testing. The team is out of tests, so we're saving our last test for this week at Homestead. We've been going to Kentucky a lot. Unfortunately, Rockingham was not one of our tests, but everybody knows we know how to get around there. That's for sure. I know what it takes to run good there.

"There are certain tracks on the circuit where you know what it takes to run good, and you've just got to go do it. That doesn't mean we're going to run good, but I'm really excited about it. We've had such good runs there in the past in Winston Cup and Busch. I'm ready to go. Our car was really good there last year. We won the pole, led the race forever and finished second to Joe Nemechek. That was very disappointing because I want to get that first Winston Cup win. We've run second three times, second to Dale Earnhardt at Talladega, second at Rockingham, second at Loudon. All-in-all it was an awesome week at Rockingham last year. We qualified second in the Busch race and won it. We got the pole for the Cup race and finished second. It was an incredible week. They knew I was there, and it was fun. You never think you're going to get a chance to have cars that are that fast. We capitalized on it, and came up with a good week. I'm extremely excited about these last three races. We've got tracks coming up that I excel at and I think I can really help the team.

"I haven't been able to test for years with a Winston Cup team, whether it's budgets or things like that. We've been going to Kentucky a lot, and we had a lot of fun there. We had so much fun we're going back again for balance and chassis stuff. I think we're going to Kentucky two or three times before Daytona. It's not that Kentucky is so much like any track. When you run Kentucky it's more like going to Vegas, Michigan, Fontana, Chicago and Kansas City. That's one thing about getting those free tests at Kentucky. It seems like everybody is building those semi-flat mile-and-a-half race tracks, so we've got to be better there. They're starting to give me choices now when we go test, asking me what I want to do. It's tough going to these tracks with a new team and get everything right in 40 minutes of practice. You can't go through everything you want to go through.

"I've got a lot of adrenaline going into Rockingham. I'm jacked up about it. There's no secret. Everybody asks me why I'm good on the short tracks. I don't think it's about the driver being good as knowing what you need and fighting for it and getting it in the car. I went to Rockingham my first time there and didn't do very well. I went back and did better and I remembered that feeling. You've just got to get a car hooked up there. It's got to be balanced well and have a lot of forward bite. It's kind of like that everywhere, but I think when a car is not competitive there I can still stay competitive.

"We've had high points since I've been in Bill Davis' Dodge. We've run 14th and 16th and 18th. We've had two bad runs at Dover and Charlotte. I don't think I've had any problems meshing with the team and owners. Everybody is being patient right now, knowing this is an all-new deal. We're trying to feel everybody out and get the chemistry right. I still think the most important thing coming up is the testing. I put that high on my priority list right now. We went for a day and a half shock test at Kentucky and learned an awful lot. Now we're going back to test the chassis.

"I think the Dodge Intrepid R/T is a great car. I think the neatest thing about being with Dodge is there's such a pride factor with all the drivers. Dodge does so much. They came into the sport right. They didn't come in halfway. They came in wide open. Everybody's got the proper attire, testing, motor programs and aerodynamic programs. Everything is in place. You feel fortunate to be a part of something like that. Everybody here up and down pit road is not a part of a great factory-backed program like that. It feels good to be with Dodge.

I'm happy for Rusty coming with Dodge. He's excited about it. We all knew that any decisions Roger Penske makes help benefit his business. Rusty and Roger told everybody that the switch to Dodge would tie into his businesses. Roger has got so many. It's kind of odd that Rusty and I will be able to share the same auto make. It's going to be a lot easier. In case I need to borrow one of his jackets it'll already have the Dodge logo on it.

"Rusty and I don't talk too much about the cars. I think the only thing that has come up lately is really intense right now on trying to finish as high as he can in the points and get his first win of the season. He called me up a few weeks ago and wanted to know about Gateway International Raceway in St. Louis. He wanted to test for Phoenix and didn't want to go all the way out there. He had used up all his tests. I told him a lot about the race track, told him how Gateway is similar to Phoenix in many ways. He feel in love with the race track. He thought he learned a lot. We do that, but Rusty, many years back, we both realized how much effort our teams put into all this work we do. Rusty is never going to write down a setup and hand it to me. That's for sure. I wouldn't ever expect that or even want him to. I don't even have a clue if one of his setups would work for me. There's so many variables. We talk racing a lot, not so much about how we're running, just about how things are going. He's really hell bent on winning right now. I hope he gets it. It really bothers him. He likes to be on top all the time, and I can understand that because I'm the same way. I'm a competitor, too. We all want to be on top, but there's a lot of good teams out there right now.

"I know he can win at any given time. We were out there at Phoenix last year and qualified seventh and ran well. We had two flat tires, got down a lap and made it up and finished 11th. I want the best for Rusty, but not at my benefit. He can finish second.

"I'm not mentally burned out. I need a fresh piece of paper. So far, the Busch Grand National season has been competitive. We've finished the most laps. We're seventh in points. We haven't run the way we wanted to, but we've had a great year with the Stacker 2 sponsorship. It's been a great year. We started out in Cup with the Pennzoil car and then we hooked up with Bill Davis. I want to go into next year knowing more about what I want in the car than just showing up at these practice sessions at the race track. I'm ready for the year to be over so I can start that. Every winter is good for me because you always need that fresh piece of paper. You always want to feel like you're separating years.

"My wife and kids are going to Hawaii on a cruise ship. We're going to take off out of Charlotte and fly to San Francisco for a day to break up the monotony. We'll go to Hawaii and get on a cruise ship and cruise the islands. We'll spend a lot of time in St. Louis over the holidays and before you know it, December is over. We've got a little time in January, but we'll be getting ready for 2003. We'll do all we can with the family and when the 2003 season starts, we'll be fresh. Every year I want to get back to Daytona. It's exciting.

"We have a lot of expectations for 2003. I want to win a race, get a pole and finish in the top 20 in the points. Those are everybody's goals, but I think those are good goals for this team. The 23 team has been winless through a handful of drivers. I'd like to be the first driver to win for this team, so we'll see how it turns out."


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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Joe Nemechek , Kenny Wallace , Roger Penske