Wallace Has Little to Complain About

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (April 10, 1998) Miller Lite Team Penske crew chief Robin Pemberton is pleased with the 1998 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season so far, even though driver Rusty Wallace is still looking for its first win. "We have...

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (April 10, 1998)

Miller Lite Team Penske crew chief Robin Pemberton is pleased with the 1998 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season so far, even though driver Rusty Wallace is still looking for its first win.

"We have some real good races coming up, so I'm confident that the wins will come," Pemberton said. "With Martinsville up next, you've got to like our chances. Heck, with the way we ran at Daytona, we've got the best chance ever to win at Talladega.

"But what pleases me most is the 'big picture' deal for the year. We're still leading the points. The secret to that is 'dodging bullets' and we've done a pretty good job at that. So far this year, the only bullet that's hit us was at Bristol. The motor going away on us put us in the situation back there to hit the metal that fell off of Rudd's car. That's the only bullet we've taken so far and that's what the championship is all about. It's the team that avoids the most bullets at the end of the year that wins the thing.

"That was the big plus for us at Texas; we avoided all the bullets. Sure, we ran as high as third and had hoped for more than the 12th-place finish, but we still came out of the deal in good shape, even expanding our points lead. We were able to dodge that big bullet at the beginning of the race when all those cars got caught up in the crash in between one and two. That was a direct result of Rusty really stepping up his qualifying this season. When the crash happened, I immediately got on the radio and said, 'R.W., there's the big plus for your bustin' tail job in qualifying this year and we all thank you for it.' He came back and said, 'You've got that right and thanks.'"

Pemberton has now been Wallace's crew chief for an even 100 races, and together they have piled up eight wins, 36 top-five finishes, 54 top-10 finishes and two Bud Poles.

While Wallace's average start at this point last season was 15.3, he has a 10.3 average this year. Ironically, the Texas crash started among drivers running only two spots behind Wallace at the time.

Other notes from the Penske/Miller Lite camp:

Wallace and the team spent part of this week (April 7-9) testing at California Speedway in preparation for the May 3 California 500.

The Ford Taurus race cars utilized by the team during the three-day test were the "PC-3" (which finished second at Charlotte last May in the Coca-Cola 600 and was most recently raced at Dover last September) and the "PK-02" (raced last Sunday in the Texas 500). The team has shelved the idea of debuting a new car (the "PR-21") in the race.

Wallace, Pemberton, and "Ronnie" will again be attacking the .526-mile Martinsville Speedway in the April 19 Goody's Headache Powder 500. A new Ford Taurus body has been placed on the "PR-16" chassis, a race car originally scheduled for "retirement" seven months ago.

As unbelievable as it may sound, although Wallace had won three races and posted six top-five finishes in the first seven races in 1993, he has a bigger points lead after seven races this year than he did then.

In 1993, a season which saw Wallace win 10 races yet lose the points title to Dale Earnhardt by 80 points, it wasn't until after winning in the seventh race of the year at North Wilkesboro (also won races at Rockingham and Bristol) that he took the points lead. At that point, he held an advantage of 18 points over second-place Earnhardt. Even though without a win this season, his five top-five finishes and 8.9 overall average finish has him atop the current standings by 24 points over second-place Jeremy Mayfield.

During his 1989 championship season, Wallace was fourth in points after seven races. He trailed leader Earnhardt by 30 points even though he had won three races compared to Earnhardt's one victory.

Source: NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt
Teams Team Penske