RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Intrepid) "The most frustrating thing in the world right now is to have a car running as good as my car has been running all year long and I guess I hold the record right now for weird things going on. I go...
RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Intrepid)
"The most frustrating thing in the world right now is to have a car running as good as my car has been running all year long and I guess I hold the record right now for weird things going on. I go to Darlington and pit running fifth and the caution flag comes out and I lose two laps. I got to Bristol, one of my favorite tracks, running fourth and I pit and I lose two laps because the caution flag comes out again. I go to Texas running seventh, and I pit and the caution flag comes out again and I lose another two laps. That's three weeks in a row that I went down two laps because the caution flag comes out. I told Billy (crew chief Wilburn) that if I had a thousand gallons of gas I'd just stay out and keep running. The tires are so hard they'd run for 10 years. I love 'em to death. They don't blow out or nothing, but they don't have to be that hard.
"I'm a little frustrated. I want to get this victory and keep going. It's crazy to go out there three races in a row and lose two laps every time you pit. It gets you spooked off of pitting. I want to pit. Usually we pick up spots when we pit. I was just totally in disbelief in Texas when the caution came out.
"I think it's OK to do that. If that doesn't happen then really there's not much of a chance unless you've got a powerful enough car to go up and pass the fastest car on the race track to get your lap back. A lot of guys give people laps back, and that's OK. The things I've noticed, especially at Martinsville and Bristol, you get yourself in a real volatile position because some of the biggest wrecks happen coming back to the start-finish line with the cars that are a lap down trying to race everybody to get back to the line. There's been many times I've been leading the race and barely missed getting crashed because of guys trying to race me back. Because of that, I really don't get out of the gas much unless it's Ryan or somebody that really gave me a favor in the past that I'm trying to pay back. I keep the momentum going because I'm afraid of getting run over from (behind) by doing that. Last week was just a mistake I guess. It was pretty clear what the deal was and we all know what the rule is. It was just a mistake on NASCAR's part last weekend, and they admitted it and that was it. I watched it on television, and I didn't know what the big uproar was all about. Then I looked at it and it was pretty obvious that Gordon beat him back to the line and Kenseth got out of the gas to let a bunch of guys by. I don't know if I would have done that.
"I was at Las Vegas this year, and I pitted and a caution flag came out and I went a lap down for the fourth time. I was trying to get the lap back. Dale Jr. of all people got out of the gas and gave me my lap back, another beer car. I thanked him at Darlington and told him I'd pay him back. The next time I'm in that position I'll pay him back. Bobby Labonte, I gave him a lap back at Daytona one year. They were really in trouble and I was leading the race and gave him his lap back. Four races later he gave me a lap back. It works like that, but you've got to be real careful doing that because it sets up a bad position. When you roll out of that throttle and the field is coming at you that hard you've got to hold your line.
"I've been looking at alternate places to go test, and I talked to some Late Model Stock guys about it. I asked them what they though was the closest to Martinsville. Some guys said Greenville-Pickens, but this guy named Dexter Canipe who's been winning everything up in the Southeast says, 'Rusty you ought to go to Lonesome Pines Speedway.' I raced up there in ASA Racing. I flew up there a couple of months ago and walked around the race track with angle finders and measured the track and everything. Then I went to Martinsville and measured the track and they were identical. They're both 12 degrees in the bottom lane. Lonesome Pine up high is 25 degrees, but on the bottom where you race it's the same angle, so we went up there and ran all day long. I feel like we learned four or five things, enough that I'm going back. We learned we didn't have a low enough gear. Martinsville is a half mile and Lonesome Pines is a three-eighths mile. We learned we're going to have to get a different gear-ratio when we go back, but we'll definitely go back. People were so courteous, and there's an airport exactly like Concord just two miles from the track, so that was a no-brainer.
"I make a lot of decisions myself here at Talladega. There are a lot of blind spots, especially coming off turn four. It's really hard to see. I rely on the spotter more nowadays. You can't see out of these cars as well as you used to. We've got all the head and neck restraint systems and the horseshoe things that go around your head. It really knocks out your vision. Before you used to move your head around a lot and see what was going on easier. Now, I rely on the spotter quite a bit more. They're so helpful you've got one on the front straightaway and one on the back straightaway.
"Of late, a lot of people have had trouble running well at Martinsville because Martinsville, unfortunately has turned into a lot of track position stuff. I'm constantly complaining about the tires being too hard, and I'm going to keep it up because it is ridiculous. We go to Martinsville now and you just stay out there forever on tires. The handling of the cars doesn't go away, so you just find yourself running bumper to bumper. Martinsville is one of the sad scenarios. I've won there six times and it's always because of good handling cars. You put four tires on and you go out there and rocket through the field. Your tires wear out and you're sliding all around. Now you just go out and run around and they ask how the car is running and it's perfect. You can't do anything about it, but you can't pass anybody. Last week we had the very hardest tire that Goodyear produces. The track seasoned in and now we got too hard a tire. I'm real excited that NASCAR is going to run a new tire at Charlotte and Dover.
"The Dover tire, which was a stickier tire that I did real good on. I got the pole, new track record, everything and ran good all day long. They're going to run that tire at Kansas City and Charlotte and I think that's a step in the right direction. We've still got way too hard tires at Bristol, Martinsville and it's a shame. We could have a lot better races going on.
"I saw the Visa bus. It's really cool. I saw it at Daytona. With all new logos on it, I know the fans are going to walk through that thing and think it's amazing. It's a brand new H3-45 Featherlite, and it's going to be beautiful. They're going to have a great time. You talk about luxury. When NASCAR takes you and says you get to go anywhere you want and do anything you want, along with Visa, that's pretty slick. The fans are going to be able to do things I can't do. I'm always working the system with some of these things. They're going to be able to get in more places than I am.
"The cars are a lot safer than they've ever been. You've just got the issues, like I talked about earlier, about being able to see out of them real good. I haven't been on my roof, and I hope I don't ever get on my roof with these new rules. I know the two guys who have been have been a little nervous. Steve Park and Ryan Newman showed some concern about wishing they could pop their belts and climb out the window, but there's a lot more things you've got to pop.
"I love IROC. Jay and Barb (Signore) are fabulous. I had a lot of invitations to run it, and I passed on it only because the schedules have got so long, 38 races really, the test sessions. Then it came down to the drivers getting hurt. Should you take the chance and run IROC and messing up your Cup stuff? The fire that I had to run IROC left me for reasons like that. Earnhardt used to say when he was running it he'd get a great car and the next time he'd run last. I asked Ryan what happened at Daytona, and he said the car wouldn't run. You go from the ultimate great feeling to humility. They do the best job they can. They're the coolest cars. The preparation is really nice in those things, but they have a problem getting them equal. That's the tough part.
"NASCAR has made it crystal clear what they will tolerate and what they won't tolerate on the rules. The line around this race track, Daytona or Talladega, if you get below it, you can expect a black flag. If you don't get a black flag and you got below it, it's just because you got lucky and they didn't see it. I don't think you even think about trying to make a pass now below that line. The old story was I passed them and got knocked down there. They won't even got for that anymore. If they start pushing down, you'd better get on the brakes and get back behind them because they're not going to tolerate it at all, and I understand that.
"I understand everything. Unfortunately there have been some gray areas that have popped up that NASCAR hasn't had any experience with. The one with the kid that spun the tire. Here's a kid leading the race and the guy in front of him is down on his luck or else he wouldn't be sitting there a lap down. He grabbed the gear and started spinning the tires and he couldn't go. You're thinking you've got to get around him. It was probably a bad call to black flag the kid. Not this year's Daytona 500 but last year's Daytona 500, I was at that place a week testing and two weeks for the Daytona 500, there's six laps to go and I'm running seventh and a guy misses a gear up front and wiped out seven guys. The whole field spun to the infield. If we weren't so beat into our minds that you've got to pass to the right side, you would have gone to the left to avoid that accident and there wouldn't have been that big accident. Instead, it stacked up seven people on the front straightaway.
"Now this kid (Brian Vickers) saw the guy spin the tires, went to the bottom and got black flagged. It's a tough call. If I was a NASCAR guy and two guys were in front of me, I'd say 'hey, I didn't pass anybody to improve my position.' I would have let it slide.
"The only controversy was when Gordon passed him to take the lead (at Texas) some of his peers probably wouldn't have thought that was a cool move. If I had done it, I would have been getting death threats from all these drivers for making that move. That wasn't real smooth what Jeff did. When Kenseth got out of the gas, he just stayed in it and went to the front. I don't think I would have done that one.
"We (Alan Kulwicki and Wallace) grew up together in the Midwest. We did tons of ASA racing, short track racing. In fact, Lonesome Pines Speedway, that's one of the races Alan and I went to. I think Alan sat on the pole and I was second. We raced first and second for that race that night. I raced with that guy all over the country. He could make more out of nothing than most people.
"He (Tony Stewart) is a regular Saturday night racer. He got brought up through all the dirt and thrashing and banging just like I did and Alan Kulwicki and Mark Martin. We all did that. We did the same thing he did except we did it on asphalt and he did it on dirt. I've been down in the ditch many times. I've been spit at, run over, drug through the mud, and those guys have, too. He's a hell of a talented driver, no doubt about that. He's just got to learn he's got to calm his confidence down. I was real mouthy, cocky, the whole thing. I had to learn you've got to keep your mouth shut occasionally. I said occasionally.
"I wish there was no testing. Kentucky Motor Speedway, it's cool to go down to Greenville-Pickens and I had a good time up at Lonesome Pines the other day. When I showed up, they said it was the biggest thing that had ever happened in Coeburn, Va., with that big stainless steel Penske truck pulled across the gates at Lonesome Pines, everybody went, 'golly, what is this?'
"The team owners had a discussion. Dr. Dieter (Zetsche, President and CEO - Chrysler Group) wanted to know what he could do to improve everything. We've obviously been doing a lot of work with the Evernham team after Daytona. We've been going back and forth with restrictor-plate work and everything to try to make the cars better, but I think week in and week out, I think we've had one of the strongest cars. My car has been top five every single week. To pit and have these caution flags come out has just killed me, but even in that process, we still keep gaining two positions a week in the points it seems like.
"It's different nowadays. Everybody is out there for their own team and their own sponsor, and we're just doing what we've got to do. There are guys I like and guys I don't like, guys I respect. I respect everybody that respects the sport. I don't respect any of the cocky guys that come in, it's my way or the highway. Get out of the way, I'm the new hotshot guy. I took my bumps and bruises a lot in this sport, along with all the veterans that came on. I love the new stuff going on, as long as these guys have got the respect. That's all I ask for out of them.
"I did it all the wrong way, too. I came on and immediately started winning. I thought the best driver in the world was me and everybody else was in my way. I had that attitude and I got that straightened out real quick when I had Cale Yarborough and Davey Pearson looking me in the eyeball and Richard Petty wanting to kill me, I figured it out real quick that I'd better get some respect. Live and learn. I've been there. My all-time hero always will be Bobby Allison. He taught me so much stuff, and I've been on so many Miller Genuine Draft cruises with David Pearson running around in his shorts and gambling and having a blast. I love hanging out with those dudes. They're so cool. Some of the new stuff out there nowadays, it seems like we've forgotten and lost some of the respect from those guys.
"You could talk to them all the time. They were great to talk to. It's so high-pressure nowadays. You're running the damn race on a laptop computer nowadays. It's tough. It's different, but that's what you've got to do. That's the way the sport has changed.
"I brought a Busch car down here one time. I had Bud Moore, Bobby Allison and David Pearson over saying, 'OK you've got to change this and that.' It was this race, me Harry Gant and Richie Evans. I had this trick Grand Am car I'd built. I would run USAC with it back in the Midwest and I'd drag it to Talladega and put these trick fenders on it and ask the veterans how I could get it running better. They had be changing everything. I sat on the pole and won the race. Harry Gant ran second and Richie Evans was running second and broke a shock. That would have been 1981. I've got pictures of me with hair this wide sitting in victory lane, and victory lane was a dirt road."