BUSCH: Fontana: Ford - Mike Wallace interview

Mike Wallace, driver of the No. 4 Ford, will celebrate two milestones in California this weekend. Wallace will mark his 200th NASCAR Busch Series start in the Stater Bros. 300 on Saturday while commemorating the three-year anniversary for Biagi...

Mike Wallace, driver of the No. 4 Ford, will celebrate two milestones in California this weekend. Wallace will mark his 200th NASCAR Busch Series start in the Stater Bros. 300 on Saturday while commemorating the three-year anniversary for Biagi Bros. Racing. Wallace has three Busch Series career wins over the span of 199 races, and posted a season's-best 11th-place finish last weekend at Talladega. Wallace spoke about the growth of Biagi Bros. Racing, his role with the team and the budding driving career of his daughter.

MIKE WALLACE -4-GEICO/SportClips Ford Taurus

"Our very first race in California, we had bought two cars from Jimmy Spencer and we rented everything else. We rented his truck, trailer, tools, pit equipment and everything else so we could go to the first couple of races. When we showed up to California for the first time, it was a white car that had Biagi on the side, and it was a start of a good deal. It was a real limited program and we didn't run all that great, but we made the races and went on. It started out just so-so, but I believe the team has progressed. We went through the Chevrolet era of cars and now we're into the Fords, and right now you can go to our race shop and there are eight race cars sitting there complete, and we have a truck, trailer, pit equipment, and everything is in place and it's all paid for. We're at a pretty good striving point. The team has advanced. The performance of the team isn't exactly where we'd like it to be. Saturday, we had good performance at Talladega, but we need to get that week-in and week-out."

THIS WEEKEND WILL MARK YOUR 200TH CAREER BUSCH SERIES START, BUT YOU HAVE RACED FULL-TIME IN ALL THREE MAJOR TOURING DIVISIONS. ARE YOU SATISFIED BEING A BUSCH SERIES COMPETITOR?

"Right now, I'm in the best position I can put myself in. The involvement with the Busch team, besides Fred Biagi owning it, I have an ownership position in that team, so it's more than just a ride to me at this moment. I'm actually involved in the growth of a race team to help be the catalyst at this point, and many years down the road we'll put somebody else in to drive it. But again, that's many years down the road. If it's a Busch program that I'm involved in, then that's what I'll drive. I'm happy with our program, and I'd be lying to you if I said I didn't want to run a Cup car, because I do, but I also have no desire to just get in a car and start the race and run poorly. That doesn't mean anything to me. I like racing the way I did this last Saturday at Talladega where we were able to get up to the front and challenge for the lead."

YOU HAVE AN OWNERSHIP POSITION WITH THE TEAM, BUT IS YOUR ROLE WITH THE TEAM MORE THAN JUST BEING THE DRIVER?

"I'm not going to use the word general manger because I'm not around enough to be a general manager, but I'm just a guiding source. A lot of the things done at the shop get run by me, and at least I have some input or some suggestions. My role varies from making sure we have an airplane to get to the races to buying a show car trailer to make sure a car can get taken up and down the highway to talking to Tony (Lambert, crew chief) about new cars we're going to build or who's going to hang a body on the car. Most of all, it's simply worrying about the budget at the same time. Sometimes you have to say, 'We don't need to be wasting money on this, but if we're going to spend some money let's do it over here.' It's kind of a multi-fold deal. It's a slight general manger position, but also a cheerleader position as the driver and partial owner. Fred Biagi owns the team, he's the one that pays for all of the bills and makes sure we have the financial resources to do it, but he allowed me the position from the day we started the team to have a pretty decent size ownership position that I have a say-so other than just being the driver."

WAS THERE EVER A TIME AFTER THIS TEAM STARTED WHERE YOU THOUGHT IT MIGHT NOT SURVIVE?

"In 2002, I really realized this was a lot of work. This is a lot more than I've ever been involved in. At that time I knew what all of the stuff cost. I saw all of the bills that came through the shop and we weren't getting a lot of sponsorship dollars at the time. At that point in time, it was more of a concern of, 'Will it last?' Fred is a wonderful person and the day we started this he gave us a business plan of how long he was willing to spend some money out of his pocket, and he's still doing that, but I think there's a little light at the end of the tunnel now. It's hard. I can tell you just going and driving for somebody and not worrying about how any of those bills got paid or simply worrying about how the team gets to the race track or how the show car gets dropped off is a lot less stressful. Those are a lot of the logistics that I never had to deal with in the past."

YOUR BROTHER RUSTY STARTED HIS OWN BUSCH SERIES TEAM THIS YEAR. DID HE COME TO YOU FOR ANY ADVICE?

"What he did inquire about, which really shocked me because he's been involved in the ownership at Penske Racing for a long time, but he never paid attention to what anything cost. We're talking about what brakes cost for a Busch car, how many people do you need, and where you need to save money at. He did inquire about that quite a bit. Then he was like, 'Man, do you have any idea how much this stuff costs?' I said, 'Rusty, I've told you for years that what you throw away we could race off of.' He had a good handle on everything, though. There were a few things he was not sure on, but he knew what he was getting himself into."

YOUR DAUGHTER IS INVOLVED IN RACING. WHAT IS SHE RACING THIS YEAR AND HOW IS SHE DOING?

"She races a Legend car, a little '32 Ford coupe is the body style. She won at Hickory the night I went there after the Nashville race. She was second the night she raced there two weeks prior. Chrissy will be 16 next month and she's raced something since she's been 12, primarily at the Lowe's Motor Speedway in the Summer Shootout. She ran Bandalero cars for a couple of years and then we moved her to a Legend car and she's been running well, especially last year, it was like a switch flipped on. She started running in the top five and challenging for wins, and this year she is winning races. She says she wants to drive race cars for a living and we'll take it as it goes. My position, I own that stuff and pay for it, but I have a guy, Kurt Andrews, that actually takes care of it and takes her to the track every week. Other than being the financier of that, I don't have a lot to do with that. She has a lot of talent, and it's not just because she's my daughter that I say that. I'm not pushing her. That's why I hired Kurt, so I can sit back and watch, which has worked out well."

IS THERE ANY FRIENDLY COMPETITION BETWEEN CHRISSY AND HER COUSINS, SIMILAR TO THE WALLACE BROTHERS?

"We've got a unique family. We race against each other, but we sure want to see each other do well. Rusty has always had the greatest programs and won so many races, so he's always expected to run better than us just because of the equipment he's in. Kenny and I want to see each other run well. Of course we're going to try to outrun each other without a doubt, but it's not something we strive against. In the Legends cars, there are some families that race there and there's a more vicious rivalry amongst the family than amongst the other competitors. As far as cousin-wise, Rusty's son Stephen is doing very well racing. Chrissy and Stephen get along really well. She's really happy to see what he accomplishes, and she's still an all-American girl, too. She plays softball and basketball, but when it comes race time, she puts on her helmet and she's good to go there."

-ford-

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About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Jimmy Spencer , Mike Wallace
Teams Team Penske