Wallace Michigan Preview

Wallace rides consistency to Michigan BROOKLYN, Mich. (Aug. 12, 1998) Miller Lite Team Penske driver Rusty Wallace may be entering Sunday's Pepsi 400 presented by DeVilbiss at Michigan Speedway a little short on wins this season, but from ...

Wallace rides consistency to Michigan

BROOKLYN, Mich. (Aug. 12, 1998) Miller Lite Team Penske driver Rusty Wallace may be entering Sunday's Pepsi 400 presented by DeVilbiss at Michigan Speedway a little short on wins this season, but from a consistency standpoint his 1998 record rates as one of his best ever.

It may be hard to believe but Wallace's record after 20 races this season sports a better average finish than did his 1989 NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship season, even though he had five race wins by this point that year.

The 1998 record carries far better average starting and finishing positions than did his super 1993 season after 20 races, even though he also had five race wins by this point that year.

"I've always said that the key to a good season is consistently laying down the top-fives and top-10s," Wallace said. "The key to a great season is to mix in some wins and come out of the deal with as few DNFs (did not finishes) as possible.

"I've looked at our sport as one that goes in cycles. It seems like there's always one team that is at the top and the envy of everyone in the garage area. Bill Elliott's been there, Dale Earnhardt's been there and we have, too. The 24 team (Jeff Gordon) has been bullet-proof and that's who everyone is trying to beat week in and week out right now. Mark (Martin) has had an exceptional season so far, too."

"It's tough on everyone when you have two teams that have won more than half the races," said crew chief Robin Pemberton. "It's hard to believe that we've finished no worse than eighth in the last five races (averaged a 5.4 finish) and still have actually lost ground to Jeff and Mark. The only thing that we can do is just keep our momentum going. If we knock on the door long and hard enough, we're bound to get in sooner or later."

Wallace enters Sunday's 400-mile, 200-lap Michigan race with a 9.7 average start and an 11.2 average finish for the season to date. He has recorded 10 top-fives, 13 top-10s and two Bud Pole Awards. He has two DNFs with three finishes of 33rd or worse.

During his 1989 run to the title, after 20 races Wallace had an 11.8 average finish (average start was 8.9). He had five wins, three runner-up finishes, nine top-fives, 13 top-10s and four poles. But, he also had four DNFs that all equated into finishes of 31st or worse.

In his sensational 1993 season, which produced 10 wins and a runner-up finish in points (80 points behind champion Earnhardt), Wallace had a 13.0 average start and a 12.4 average finish after 20 races. He had five wins, two runner-up finishes, 10 top-fives, 12 top-10s and two poles. But, he also had five DNFs with four finishes of 29th or worse.

Currently, Wallace has 2,769 points and is in the fourth spot in the standings, trailing Gordon by 312 points. In 1989, he had only 30 more points after 20 races (2,799), but that was enough to rank him second to Earnhardt's 2,852. During the 1993 season, he had accumulated 2,725 points after 20 races, which ranked him third in the standings. He trailed leader Earnhardt by 324 points.

Wallace's boast of comparing this season to last year as being, "the difference between night and day," is definitely supported by the statistical comparison. After 20 races during the 1997 season, he had an average start of 16.6 and a 20.0 average finish. Even though he had a win, two runner-up finishes, six top-fives and nine top-10s, he had a devastating nine DNFs, which produced eight finishes of 31st or worse. He was 13th in the point standings, trailing leader Gordon by a whopping 831 points.

Wallace and team plan on debuting a new car at Michigan this weekend.

"We ran the PK-02 (Penske-Kranefuss chassis) at Michigan during the first race back in June," Pemberton said. "We qualified well (started third) but never could get a handle on it and finished 17th. We'll be giving the PR-21 car (new Penske Racing/Hopkins chassis) its break-in run this weekend. We tested last month with it at Indy (in advance of the Aug. 1 Brickyard 400) but chose to race another car there instead. We think that this new car will perform well on a two-mile high-banked track like Michigan and we're out to prove that this weekend."

Michigan was the site of Wallace's first career NASCAR Winston Cup Series pole position win (on June 26, 1987) and his first career oval superspeedway NASCAR Winston Cup Series victory (on June 26, 1988). His career record sports four wins, 14 top-fives, 17 top-10s and the one Bud Pole Award in 29 events. His average speed of 166.033 mph (took 2 hours, 24 minutes and 23 seconds to complete) in winning the June 1996 race is the track record for a 400-mile race.

Bud Pole Qualifying on Friday at 3 p.m. will set positions 1-25. Bud Beer Second-Round Qualifying on Saturday at 11:15 a.m. will fill the 43-car starting field for Sunday's race.

The Pepsi 400 presented by DeVilbiss has a scheduled 12:30 p.m. EDT starting time on Sunday. Live media coverage will be provided by ESPN and MRN Radio.

The Miller Lite Team Penske "dynamic duo" of driver Wallace and crew chief Pemberton reach another milestone this weekend. Of course the one they are both hoping for is notching another victory in Sunday's Pepsi 400. But aside from that, they'll be celebrating birthdays at Michigan. Wallace turns 42 on Friday and Pemberton matches that feat on Saturday.

Source: NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon
Teams Team Penske , Team Penske