Dodge Motorsports Teleconference Rusty's Last Dodge Call RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) NOTE: Wallace, a 49-year-old veteran from St. Louis, will make his 706th and final career start in Sunday's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race ...
Dodge Motorsports Teleconference
Rusty's Last Dodge Call
RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger)
NOTE: Wallace, a 49-year-old veteran from St. Louis, will make his 706th and final career start in Sunday's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race at Homestead. Wallace has 55 victories, 202 top fives and 349 top 10s to go along with his 1984 rookie of the year title and 1989 series championship.
OPENING COMMENTS "My feelings going to Homestead are kinda mixed. I've told everybody for a long time that all I'm thinking about right now is the championship. The tough thing for me is we went the whole year with having no problems at all. Everything was just perfect. Even going into Richmond, locking a spot in The Chase a race early. All I had to do was start the California race to get in. That's how good we were doing. We went to Richmond and I had a good top-five finish there. We went to Loudon and had another top-five finish there. Everything went great and after that things started to crumble. Crazy things happened, like the wreck at Talladega, which wasn't a big surprise because people know there's that possibility. We got to Charlotte and have a great run there and with 10 laps to go we have a problem with a couple of cars racing three wide. I end up losing it there. Then going on to Martinsville, running second and everything going great and get hit in the back accidently by Jeff Burton. That was a crazy thing. Texas, sitting there running sixth to eighth all day long. We decided to stay out and didn't put tires on and got blowed out there. Take what happened this weekend. We were running second and got right-side tires at the very end. Everything going great, running fourth and the left rear lugnuts came loose. Everything we'd worked for all year long just fell apart in these last six or seven races.
"I've got one more shot. I went down to Homestead, Fla. I tested. I was quick. I felt really good. I did an extensive two-day test because I want my last race ever to be a good one. I feel real confident. I've got one more shot to get into victory lane, and I'm goingfor it, but the championship is really gone. That was one thing that was drawing a lot of excitement and a lot of hope. It had me really excited. The air is kinda out of my saddle when it comes to victory. It looks like I'm going to end up eighth in the points. That's the way it's looking. I sure thought I'd be a lot higher than that.
"It's the last one, and I think some of the emotions is starting to set in a little right now. When I start that race and get out of that car around 7:30 at night it's going to be 'OK, what's next. You're not going to get back in the car.' A new chapter in my life is going to start. A lot of things are going to be different, and I'm excited by them. It's a little bit sad. I've been doing this my whole life. I got to meet a lot of you guys and had a lot of fun and I'll continue to have fun, continue to see you, just not behind the wheel or a car. It's going to be an adjustment. I've talked to a lot of people. I was talking the other day in the Action Suite at Phoenix, Ariz., before the Busch race. Herb Fishel was up there, the old Chevrolet guy, and he said it took him about two years to realize he wasn't the big dog at Chevy no more, that he was retired. I talked to my buddy Don Prudhomme. He says some of the same things. There will be a little of adjustment, but I've got a lot of things going on. I've got a lot of things happening, so I hope it'll keep me going. You can plan all you want, but until it happens that's when reality sets in."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOUR COMPETITIVE FIRE WILL STILL BURN AFTER RETIRING? "The competitive fire will be burning. This huge NASCAR ball keeps rolling and that's my core business, that's what I've been doing my whole life. I've got to get on the game. I can't be sitting reminiscing about the way it used to be at all. I've get in touch with the new stuff and get going, but there's going to be an adjustment time. When they drop that flag on Sunday and I'm not in there, there will be a million times I'll say I wish I was in there because I could have done this or I could have done that. That'll be going through my mind."
HAS ROGER PENSKE HELPED WITH YOUR TRANSITION FROM DRIVER TO TEAM OWNER? "He's been wonderful to me. He's been absolutely wonderful. He runs tons of ideas past me. He's absolutely perfect. I'm going to be involved with Roger in the future whether it's in the business or a sounding board or whatever. It was tough watching what I started years ago with Roger and Don Miller back in 1991. I remember they paid D.K. Ulrich $1,000 for car No. 2. I purchased the No. 2 for hardly nothing and started the team. It's hard now seeing the team as big as it is now. They're going to have the IRL team there. They've going to have the Porsche team there. They've got their stock car teams there. All of the things I was involved with starting, it's hard to sit there and watch it just riding off into the sunset. It's like watching your kid grow up and go off to college. That's kinda the feel I got with Team Penske. I've got my own Grand National team. I've got my TV career ahead of me. My son is racing. I've got car dealerships. I've got different interests that will keep me going. I'll be involved in the sport. I'll always be involved in the sport and be competitive. You can't be reminiscent with the old times. You've got to get with the new times and get with the new stuff and get rocking 'n rolling."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THE NEW DRIVER OF THE 2 CAR AFTER WHAT HAPPENED THIS WEEKEND? "Well, there's one thing about Mr. Penske. He always stands behind his guys through thick and thin. I've seen me down in the dirt and he's down there with a shovel digging me out. He's always behind his drivers. Obviously it wasn't good. There's no doubt about it. It wasn't good, but the guy did not get a drunk driving citation. I think Kurt's learned a lot, and that's one thing that Penske can definitely help Kurt Busch with. Roger is one of the most respected men in the world. I think between myself and Roger we can help him, if he wants the help to learn how to not let this stuff happen again. Take me out of that one for awhile. Roger is the right guy to help him. He always stands behind his drivers. It's a big black eye, but he's going to be driving the Miller Brewing Company's car next year, but that's next year. The guy didn't get a citation and that's good."
COMMENT ON YOUR SPORTS CAR PLANS "Right now I had a plan on running the 24 Hours of Daytona. Jimmy France would like to see me run the 24 Hours of Daytona. Nothing has materialized yet, but it could. I've been so busy with the Cup car and trying get the Busch team turned around. I haven't had to focus on the 24 Hours of Daytona like I told everybody I wanted to. I still want to do it, and if we get this things together I'm still interested in doing it. Right now it's in Jimmy France's hands."
COMMENT ON RICKY RUDD'S LEGACY ON AND OFF THE TRACK "Ricky has always been known as a hard-core competitor. He's always been sort of a silent guy. I compare him to Terry Labonte. He's an unbelievably tough competitor, but he's kinda silent behind the scenes. He drives real hard. He's had enough for right now and he wants to take a break, but I think he's smart enough to know that once you retire then it's done. He's not going to say that because he wants to leave the door open to come back if he wants to. I said I'm done and I am done. That's it. I'll be doing some testing with the teams and I'll be behind the wheel a little bit only testing with my kid and maybe the 24 Hours of Daytona and things like that. As far as coming back full time and running a competitive NASCAR Cup schedule, Sunday will be my last deal. I've always said what's on my mind, and I think I've got the respect of NASCAR. They know Rusty and they know his personality and they know they can trust me, but they know if I don't like something I'm going to say it. I'm never going to do anything to jeopardize the series by saying something the wrong way."
HOW HAVE YOU SEEN THE SPORT BECOME MORE IMAGE CONSCIOUS? "I think we've all grown into the new style of thinking and the way the world thinks nowadays. We used to do things that people laughed at and had a fun time with, too. To be quite honest I think the whole entire United States would like to see that back. It's not public friendly to do it that way. I remember some wild things I did that were great. I'll never forget a long time ago that myself and the local radio celebrities -- John Boy and Billy -- we did a race across town live on radio at speeds beyond 90 mph. I had control of the car and never jeopardized any lives or anything, but if they even heard you breathing anything like that right now they'd throw you in jail. I never thought if I said a curse word I'd be fined NASCAR which I was when I said (the S word) over the radio and got fined $5,000. I had a fine time with that and took Mr. France $5,000 worth of pennies and paid him. Nowadays you've got an eye on everybody and you have to be so careful. You know you've got to do it, but is it fun doing it? I don't know. Do the people in the grandstand want to see a little controversy? I know they do. There's just a lot of people that are very, very straight arrow, you can't offend them or have fun."
WHY THE CHANGE? "More people see us now. We're live TV and radio every single race. All the newspaper people are there at every race instead of just a couple at every race. It's one of the biggest sports in the world and it's got a big magnifying glass on it. That's the change. We're more in the public eye than we've ever been."
WHAT ARE SOME WEIRD GIFTS YOU'VE RECEIVED ON THE LAST CALL AND WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MOST SPECIAL THINGS? "I don't think I've received anything at all weird yet. I have a hard time still with the governors. I've received do many Rusty Wallace Day proclamations and keys to the city it's unreal. It makes you feel really, really good. It's like 'am I deserving of this?' I don't know. I've been a great ambassador for the sport I think, and I've enjoyed all that. I guess the most wonderful award I've got so far, definitely, has been from Bristol Motor Speedway. They created my own trophy for me, a replica of the racetrack out of solid bronze. It weighs about 400 pounds and has all my victories on it. Then they paid a big television tribute with about 160,000 people there that night and named the upper part of the grandstands in one and two the Rusty Wallace Towers. It was just wonderful. The Charlotte Motor Speedway did some great things naming the road out front Rusty Wallace Blvd. They named one of the roads at the airport Rusty Wallace Drive. Texas Motor Speedway named roads after me and the governor made a proclamation. One of my favorite racetracks, Martinsville Speedway, Clay Campbell gave me a huge grandfather clock with all of my victories. Then I've had silly gifts like Daytona International Speedway gave me a three-wheel bicycle like an old man riding off in the sunset. I really didn't know how to take that. I heard they bought it at Wal-Mart two hours before they did it. I guess there was not a lot of thought put into that one, but that was one of the weirdest ones. The greatest one was definitely Bristol. St. Louis had a Wallace Family Night and named a grandstand after us. It was the largest crowd in the history of the speedway, and that was fun. Lesa Kennedy gave me a really great photo of me and Mark Martin at the drivers' meeting for the Firecracker 400 and that was really a neat thing she did for me. I kinda would have thought, the biggest speedway in the world, Daytona International Speedway, would have given me something different than a three-wheel bicycle, but other than that, I'm grateful for everything."
HOW DO YOU THINK YOU'LL SPEND SUNDAY MORNING AT HOMESTEAD? "I'm going to be down on Mr. Penske's boat in Florida. I'll wake up and have my breakfast, get ready and my mind will be on the car, how it's going to handle because it's the last shot at doing really, really good. I'll be really focused and be ready for the game. We had a great test down there the other day, so I'll be in the car until the race is over and then it'll be time for tears in your beers or enjoyment. Hopefully I'll be saying this is awesome, isn't this the greatest time in the world to win my last race? Then if I don't, one thing I can say it's been a great year. I went out on the top of my game. I made The Chase for the Championship. I made a lot of money. I made a lot of fans and everybody treated me really, really good and it was a great last year. At least I won't be saying it was the (%#@**&est) year of my life and I looked like crap out there and it's over now. The misery stops. I won't be saying that. I went into the Chase feeling really good about it. I'm in the top 10, and I'm going to New York."
IS THERE ANYTHING THAT SETS TONY STEWART APART FROM OTHER DRIVERS? "Nothing is separating him at all, and if you tell him he's got the championship locked up he'll shoot you because he isn't very far ahead of Jimmie Johnson. One bad pit stop and he could be out of the championship for sure. He's not even close to having it locked up."
WILL YOU SPECIFICALLY NOT DO A LOT OF PRE-RACE SUNDAY AT HOMESTEAD? "I won't be doing so much. I've got some meet and greets I'll be doing at the track for some of my sponsors, but only two or three. The Miller Brewing Company is throwing a big party at the Hardrock Hotel Seminole on Wednesday evening. That will be the last big thing this year for the Miller people, and then they're going to leave me alone and let me race. They're going to let me focus on what's going on. In fact, I'm not even going to drive the Busch car, my own Miller High Life car that I was scheduled to drive. It's all red and gold, but I just want to stay focused on the Cup car this week, so I'm going to let my brother Mike drive it for the final Busch race of the year. My mom and dad are coming in and my entire family will be there. The Penske family will be there. Everybody is going to be there for the last race of the year."
WILL THERE BE A VOICE LACKING IN THE GARAGE AFTER YOU RETIRE? "I don't know. There's so many new guys and this incredible ball just keeps rolling. There are a lot of spokesmen for the sport out there. When I was a fulltime driver I had a right to comment on it. Now I don't know if I have a right. I don't think anybody accepted that torch after Earnhardt died. I really don't think so. They all labeled me as the guy, and I tried to do the best I could. He was always the dominate guy carrying that torch and knocking the door open in the NASCAR trailer when he had something on his mind. They've always been nice to me and listened to me. They might laugh at me, but I don't if anybody wants to be dominate and go in there and say 'you've got to do this or you've got to do that.'
HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED AND WHAT ARE THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS YOU'RE MOST PROUD OF? "I'm definitely most proud of my only championship, which I thought I'd have plenty more after that one. The driver of the year awards were nice because I was voted in by the media and other drivers. The IROC championship was awesome and 55 wins is a lot of wins. To have that many wins, and I feel like I'm going out respected, at the top of my game. I just wanted to be remembered as one of the competitors who quit at the top of his game. When they talk about Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty, I want my name to be mentioned with those guys."