Wheeler Picks Wallace in the Winston

Wheeler tabs Wallace for The Winston By Shawn A. Akers CHARLOTTE, N.C. (May 6, 1998) Winning The Winston at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1989 doesn't exactly conjure up great feelings for Rusty Wallace. In fact, in some ...

Wheeler tabs Wallace for The Winston By Shawn A. Akers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (May 6, 1998)

Winning The Winston at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1989 doesn't exactly conjure up great feelings for Rusty Wallace. In fact, in some respects, Wallace would just as soon not have taken the checkered flag in the all-star event, considering the circumstances.

With just over one lap to go, Wallace was racing hard with Darrell Waltrip. Wallace bumped Waltrip, who was leading at the time, from behind, spinning him out and relegating Waltrip to a seventh-place finish. Wallace went on to win the final 10-lap segment, earning his only victory in The Winston.

Wallace's win wasn't a popular one with the crowd of over 84,000 in attendance, who adamantly voiced their displeasure with what they thought was a "dirty" move by Wallace to gain the victory.

"A lot of things have always happened in this race, and it tends to be very dramatic," said Wallace, speaking via telephone from a test session in Pocono, Pa., during a press conference at the Stock Car Cafe at Charlotte Dougas Airport Wednesday. "But I think the thing that bothers me the very worst, and there's no doubt about it, wasn't the competition, because the competitors have come to expect stuff like that.

"What I was totally unprepared for was the wrath of the fans. I had no idea that day I would lose as many fans as I did. And I didn't know that it would be so dramatic that it would effect my life for the next year-and-a-half, maybe two years. At that particular point, yeah, I'm a competitor and I want to win, but I've got to tell you, I would have given that win up and that quarter-million dollars, no problem at all, not to lose the fans I lost. Thank God I got them back, and in big numbers. It was a tough race and I learned a lot, and I'm not going to change my driving style, but I hope I never have to go through anything like that again, ever."

Wallace went on to win the 1989 NASCAR Winston Cup championship, and he slowly began to get his allegiance back. He now enjoys his share of NASCAR Winston Cup fans among the sport's top drivers.

Currently fourth in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series standings, Wallace has enjoyed a solid season so far, but is still looking for his first victory in 1998. In an annual pre-race event, Charlotte Motor Speedway President H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler predicted Wallace to be the winner of this year's The Winston, to be held Saturday night, May 16, at the 1.5-mile superspeedway.

Wheeler also picked Wallace to win back in 1989. In nine previous attempts, Wheeler has been right six times in picking the winner of The Winston. Last year, he chose Dale Earnhardt, but Jeff Gordon won the race for the second time.

"I feel really good about Humpy picking us to win because he's always right," Wallace said. "We came there and tested a couple of weeks back and me and (Penske-Kranefuss teammate) Jeremy (Mayfield) had two pretty good times there. So we've put a lot of effort into that track. We love The Winston simply for the fact that it really helps me get tuned up for the 600. They're both night races, and we can take what we learn from The Winston and fine tune the car a little bit and get it ready for the 600."

Wallace said the No. 2 Miller Lite team will bring their best Charlotte car to the track for The Winston. Should it survive, it will also participate in the Coca-Cola 600 the following week.

"Most guys take their second best car to Charlotte for The Winston, but we're going all out," Wallace said. "Our backup car is a pretty good one, too, the one that was running second at California before we blew a motor, and the one that finished second at Atlanta. We're going to be prepared when we get there, that's for sure." Notes A record purse was posted Wednesday for Coca-Cola 600 month at Charlotte. Competitors will be racing for a total of $4,595,936 for the events held between May 15 and May 24. The 39th running of the Coca-Cola 600 will offer a record purse of $2,428,798, up 20 percent from last year. A total of $1,338,000 is posted for The Winston and The Winston Open on May 16. NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division drivers will race for a record $613,330 in the Carquest Auto Parts 300 on May 23, up nearly 35 percent from 1997.

Source: NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Darrell Waltrip , Rusty Wallace