Sonoma: Ford Racing - Rusty Wallace interview, Part II

Rusty Wallace, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Taurus, has two NASCAR Winston Cup Series wins here at Sears Point (1990 and 1996) and four road course victories overall. Wallace, who is sixth in the point standings going into Sunday's ...

Rusty Wallace, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Taurus, has two NASCAR Winston Cup Series wins here at Sears Point (1990 and 1996) and four road course victories overall. Wallace, who is sixth in the point standings going into Sunday's Dodge/SaveMart 300, held a Q&A session before practice Saturday morning.

Part 2 of 2

RUSTY WALLACE --2-- Miller Lite Taurus

ARE SOME OF THESE NEW SETUPS RISKY?

"I used to think so, but it doesn't seem like they are. I think that's what you've got to have to have the fastest car nowadays and compete with the current rule. But I think when you soften the tires up and take the rear spoiler off, then everything will kind of get back to normal."

HOW MUCH REAR SPOILER SHOULD COME OFF?

"Do you remember when we had the five-and-five rule? The five-and-five rule was probably not a bad rule, but what happened there was instead of just taking the back off, we ended up taking the front off too. Then we got right back to when we got behind a car we couldn't turn. That air dam needs to be real low to the ground so the front end sticks, and then you've got to take some of the back off so you can't drive in the corner and charge into the corner so hard. They were five inches back then and now we're six-and-a-quarter. I think the cars should probably have five-and-three-quarters or five-and-a-half inch spoiler somewhere to start. I know they did a nice test up at Kansas City with the big greenhouse car and Spencer tested with all the rear spoiler off and he said it was so nice to drive a car like that with softer tires and the spoiler knocked off. We've got to keep working on it, but that's what we've got to have. We've got to get the tire softened back up and get the downforce off so the tires live."

DID YOU EVER THINK YOU WOULD BE ASKING NASCAR TO TAKE SPOILER AWAY?

"You never thought you would, but the only reason you want more spoiler is because this guy thinks you've got something over him, so he wants it and the bar just keeps getting raised and gets out of control. It'll happen again because once you knock all the spoiler off of it, you'll see Chevrolet, Ford, Dodge -- all of them will say, 'I'm at a disadvantage. I need this and I need that.' It'll go over again, but they've got to knock it way off. The key is to get the tire softened back up so they'll wear. We've got to do whatever it takes to get the tire softened up and get rid of this stupid aero-push we've got."

DO THOSE CHANGES THROW THE ADVANTAGE BACK TO THE VETERAN DRIVERS?

"No, I think that stuff is pretty well gone. I think everybody is sick of hearing all this young guns stuff and all this veteran stuff. We're just all race car drivers trying to do the best we can do. Somebody hyped all that crap up and I'm sick of it, but it's tapered off a little bit."

IS NASCAR LISTENING?

"Oh yeah, everybody is listening. Darby and Helton have been real good listening on it and they agree. But Goodyear is the key in it. They're the ones saying, 'Hey, look, we're ready to pull the trigger on a softer tire if we can get the downforce off.' So, hopefully, we can talk them into targeting some races in the second half."

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE SPOILER REDUCTION FOR THE TAURUS AT DAYTONA?

"That eighth-of-an-inch off the back is a tenth of a second on the race track. So, if you run a 49.50, you should run a 49.40 and that's about it. We had a five-and-three quarters spoiler in Daytona and I thought the Fords were competitive. I didn't see them dominate and I didn't see anybody dominate. I thought it was a good race. Then they put the quarter-inch back on us for Talladega and the Chevy won again for three out of four races. I think when they looked at the three out of four, that's when they said, 'Hey, we need to try to work something here.'"

WHEN THEY TORE YOUR ENGINE DOWN HERE A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO, DID THAT HAVE AN AFFECT ON YOUR PROGRAM?

"I would say that that race here two years ago was a key blow to our engine development that was going on for a long time. A lot of work went into those engines and then for that engine to be torn down and set out in the middle of a dirt floor so everybody could look and say, 'Oh, that's what we need to be doing or hey, that's how we need to make our engines better,' I just didn't think that was right. That was a setback, but that's not the reason the poles didn't happen last year. The reason the poles didn't happen last year was because when all the new hard tires came back, that took every one of my setup and canned them all. I had to learn again and I'm still learning."

IS THERE ANY PLACE ON THE CIRCUIT YOU COULD GO AND HAVE SOMETHING THAT WORKED FOR YOU THREE YEARS AGO STILL WORK?

"No, not nowadays. You couldn't to anything. I don't think you could go back any further than two years with your notes and expect that to be close. In fact, I went to Richmond this year with my old reliable Richmond setup and old reliable Richmond air pressures. Last year I led 275 laps the first race and in the second race I led 280 laps and finished second and third. This year we go back and they put a coat of sealer on the bottom lane of the race tack in November, which nobody knew. I didn't know. They put one coat of sealer on the bottom lane and then they went back at the first part of the year and re-sealed the whole entire track. So the bottom groove had two coats and the top groove had one coat and nobody could pass anybody at Richmond this year. Plus, we had a new developed tire that was pretty hard. It got developed because we used to run the same tire at Phoenix that we run at Richmond. So at Richmond the tire was fine, but it failed at Phoenix. So they went to Phoenix and rebuilt the tire. The tire was great in Phoenix, but when you bring it to Richmond it's a little too hard. So with that extra sealer on the bottom, you could really rip around the bottom and nobody could pass up top. So Tony and I went back and did the test and put last year's tire on, and, all of a sudden, everything came back alive and it was great. So that's another thing we're politicking for is to get last year's tire put back in for Richmond. What they're gonna do is go up there and test after the IRL race and a lot of the races are over, and do one more test to verify that last year's tire will be OK. Then that second groove will come in and, hopefully, a lot of that sealer will get worn off. Then I think they will have learned their lesson that more sealer is not better."

WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ON THE OFF WEEK?

"Every year I've gone to the Mediterranean, but I'm not going this year. I'm going to stay in the state of California the whole week. I'm gonna hang out with my good friend Greg Penske for three or four days and I'm gonna be at my friend's, Don Prudhomme, down at Carlsbad for the next three days golfing down there. So me and Prudhomme are gonna hang out and we're just gonna cruise up and down the coast. Then I told Patti, 'We'll get all that done about Saturday and then you pick a place between here and Carolina and we'll stop there for a couple days.'"

HOW SERIOUS IS THIS TALK ABOUT YOU SWITCHING TO DODGE?

"There's nothing to that at all. I mean, we could probably do that if we wanted to, but I'm telling you what, we're real happy where we're at right now. We've got so much money and time invested in what we're doing that I think that would be a real tough switch, and why do we want to do that? There aren't enough reasons to do that, so, no, we're not changing."

WHAT ABOUT THIS NASCAR MOVIE? DO YOU PLAN TO BE IN IT?

"I don't know. I saw that and I read about it, but I don't know anything about it. I'm always trying to do things like that because, as a race driver, insurance is the toughest stuff in the world to get. I spend over a quarter million a year in insurance for disability and health and all that stuff. I'm a member of the Screen Actors Guild, so whenever you can do commercials for my sponsors or whatever, all that credit goes towards the Screen Actors Guild and that's what keeps my insurance active. So the more of this stuff I can do. When somebody wants me to do something, I say, 'Well, hey, the only reason I'll think about it is to get in my Screen Actors Guild, to keep it active,' because the stuff is so expensive."

SO YOU COULD MAKE A CAMEO APPEARANCE?

"Oh yeah, not a problem. That's the only reason I did Days of Thunder, so I could get my insurance."

SHOULD DRIVERS START LOSING POINTS FOR POST-RACE INFRACTIONS?

"I'm not for that because rules are so tight. You'll roll through that room in the morning and go through the stick and everything is fine and you have no intentions for that car to come in a quarter-inch low and when it goes through be illegal. It's something you didn't intend on. I don't know how hot a spring is gonna get and how much it's gonna sink or what's gonna happen. I remember here one year I led the race all day long and all of a sudden the car started pushing the front end real bad and I said, 'Man, what is causing this,' and Jeff Gordon got past me and I was running second. With like five laps to go, we had a restart. Everybody put four tires on and I beat him into that corner and I pulled away. Then Mark Martin got past him and I won the race. As we went through (tech) the right-rear jack bolt vibrated up about a half-an-inch and the car came in a quarter-inch low and they fined me 60 grand. I'm like, 'Man, do you think I meant for that jack bolt to come up like that? No.' But this stuff of being an eighth-inch low and all that, I mean, that doesn't have anything to do with performance. I understand you've got to stay with rules, but if you've got to do it, I'd rather just stay with the fine. But I think what they're trying to do is to cure this aggressive thought of, OK, these guys know when they get to the race track, it's gonna slam on the ground, and if you want to get that aggressive in the thought process, then you better be willing to pay the price."

So that's what they've instilled because the money doesn't seem to be affecting it. Again, it doesn't concern me much because I've got such a conservative approach compared to some of this aggressive stuff that I haven't got in trouble, yet."

IS IT FUN COMING OUT HERE TO RACE?

"Oh yeah. I don't like the course, but I like the area and I like running Sears Point Raceway. I don't agree with the way the way the course is laid out because I'm a driver and I know what the best course is and this course is not the best course. The old carousel was the best course. They should have left that there and changed all the scenery around it because we had a lot of passing going on. It was fun and all that stuff, but I do love coming out to the area. I'm going to go out there in 15 minutes and drive my guts out and do the best job I can and, hopefully, at noon I've got my hot rod as best as I can get it, and then I've got all my buddies from L.A. and a bunch of people and we're all going to the golf course."

-ford racing-

Rusty Wallace Part I

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Rusty Wallace , Don Prudhomme , Mark Martin