FONTANA, Calif. (April 30, 1998) While many teams were testing at Martinsville and Talladega during the "off" week following the Texas 500, Rusty Wallace and his Miller Lite crew opted to venture farther west to test at the two-mile...
FONTANA, Calif. (April 30, 1998)
While many teams were testing at Martinsville and Talladega during the "off" week following the Texas 500, Rusty Wallace and his Miller Lite crew opted to venture farther west to test at the two-mile California Speedway in preparation for the May 3 California 500 presented by NAPA.
"We weren't as strong there last year as we had hoped to be, so in order to be better prepared this time around we allotted one of our tests for California," Wallace said. "It's a high-profile race that pays a big purse. All the sponsors look for a great performance because of the importance of the Southern California area market. On top of that, it's one of Roger's (Penske, head of Penske Motorsports, California Speedway and majority owner of Wallace's team) tracks. So you can see that there are so many reasons that we want to do well."
Miller Lite Team Penske team members noticed an enhanced degree of determination in Wallace during the three-day test.
"Rusty wanted to win last year's inaugural race at California Speedway more than any other driver, I guarantee you that," said crew chief Robin Pemberton. "He's done pretty well in new track's races and expected to be much stronger than we were. Even with the fuel mileage deal playing into the equation, he knew that we weren't strong enough to be a major factor and that didn't sit well ... especially at Roger's new track.
"The three days we spent at California earlier this month were about as committed of a test session that I've ever been involved in. I guess that's about the best way to describe it. Rusty and everybody on the team are committed to making the trip to California much more rewarding this time around than last year's."
"Let's put it this way," team shock specialist Tom Hoke said. "I've seen Rusty grow more and more open minded in trying different things during tests. He was really in the game all three days during the California test. He was trying all kinds of different lines around the track. We must have tried 40 different shocks and then combinations of those. He came out of there smiling. Robin came out of there smiling. We all came out of there smiling and that's enough said." Wallace spent Tuesday, April 14, at California filming a special video project with actor Tim Allen which will be a featured segment in ESPN's "NASCAR's Night In Hollywood -- A Golden Celebration" special airing Saturday night at 7 p.m. EDT.
"He's a cool guy, kinda' cocky and sure of himself ... but really a neat guy," Wallace said. "We hit it off from the start. The theme of the video had us talk about racing with me giving him some pointers. Then we had race cars to drive around the track. I had one of our Miller show cars and he had one of the driving school cars all painted up with 'Home Improvement' and all on it.
"I'll tell you what ... Tim Allen didn't need any pointers when it came to driving that car. He's pretty good at the wheel. Had he chosen to be a racer, I think he could have been successful at it, from what I saw. But, I guess since Tim is raking in $1.2 million per episode, you could say that he made the right decision with his career, couldn't you?" Wallace is racing a new 12 car at Charlotte. No, he won't be taking over the No. 12 Mobil 1 Ford of Penske-Kranefuss teammate Jeremy Mayfield. The "12" car is the new PC-12 chassis, the latest edition to Wallace's Penske Racing South fleet.
Wallace and crew used three cars in last week's testing at Charlotte Motor Speedway in preparation for the May 16 Winston all-star race and the May 24 Coca-Cola 600. At the completion of the comparative test session, it was decided that the Charlotte car of choice would be the PC-12.
"We had backed off focusing on the in-house 'PC' stuff and looked at getting some more 'straight-up' Hopkins cars back into our stable at the end of last season," Pemberton said. "We've taken the PR-21 (newest Hopkins chassis) to a couple of tracks now, but things just haven't worked out for it. Rusty climbed into the '12' car at Charlotte and took a liking to it almost immediately. We had 'old faithful' PK-02 there and the performance of the new car was almost identical and that's what we need.
"We've used the '02' a lot this year ... it's been our workhorse ... so it's great that we have another car that we can rely on. I guess the deciding factors for determining which would be the Charlotte car were that the '02' was already committed for the California race and it was easy to just go ahead and focus on the new car for Charlotte...oh, and the fact that he ran a 29.90 (180.602 mph) ... his fastest lap of the test ... in the '12' probably had a little to do with it." Source: NASCAR Online