2 Race Update / Rusty Quotes / Pre-Race News ...
RACE DAY REPORT, MBNA AMERICA 400, DOVER INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY, SUNDAY, SEPT. 26, 2004
STRONG RUSTY WALLACE HAS TO SETTLE FOR 13TH AT DOVER
-Rusty Wallace, Miller Lite Dodge Driver Able To Bounce Back From First Tire Problem, But Not Second-
DOVER, Del. (Sept. 26) - After running second for much of the race and in the top-four for at least 75 percent of the 400 laps here at Dover International Speedway today, tire problems relegated Miller Lite Dodge
driver Rusty Wallace to a 13th-place finish in this afternoon's MBNA America 400.
"It's a shame - it really is," Rusty told a group of reporters who gathered around his No.2 Dodge back in the garage area after the race. "It was yet another day of lost opportunity - another one of those woulda-coulda-shoulda races we've had the whole darn year."
While running third behind leader Ryan Newman and second-place Mark Martin on Lap 245, Rusty was forced 2 hit pit road when he felt his right front tire began 2 go flat. The stop under green temporarily put him 2 laps down and in the 15th position. However, the race stayed green and a round of green flag stops saw the lead cycle back around on Lap 267. With luck on his side, Rusty wound up back in the 2nd spot behind leader Newman.
But, when an identical problem with the right front occurred again on Lap 316, Rusty would not be as fortunate. Forced 2 pit under green, he again fell 2 laps down to the leader and was running in the 15th spot. Unfortunately for Rusty and his Larry Carter-led team, the fifth caution of the day flew only 10 laps later and trapped the No. 2 team down the full 2 laps.
Rusty admittedly "babied" his Dodge to the 13th-place finish.
"We were on the verge of having another problem with the right front tire," Rusty continued explaining back in the garage area after the race. "They were coaching me 2 stay in front of the 18 car (Bobby Labonte), who was the next car back. I knew I couldn't push it any more that I was or we'd been in for more serious problems.
"Today's race was pretty typical of how the entire season has gone," said Rusty, who remains 17th in the NEXTEL point standings with 3,020 points. "We had a possible winning car and at worst a fourth-place car and we get hit by the tire problems. It seems like that has happened 2 us about 90 percent of the time and nobody really sees our team's full potential.
"The guys did an absolutely killer job in the pits here today and I'm proud of them," said Rusty. "Larry said they had 2 stops way down in the 12-second bracket and it surely must have been the case. They really worked hard and kept us up there in the front until the tire problems occurred."
Rusty's Penske Racing South teammate Newman wound up winning today's race in dominant fashion, leading an impressive 325 of the 400 laps.
Newman was so dominant after the final restart on Lap 336, that he pulled out to almost a five-second lead on second-place Mark Martin before putting it on "cruise control" for the final laps in his impressive second victory of the 2004 season
The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup tour now heads 2 Talladega Superspeedway, the longest track on the circuit at 2.66 miles, for next Sunday's EA Sports 500. The 188-lap race is scheduled to begin at 12:30 EDT and features live coverage by NBC-TV and MRN Radio.
2 Rusty will retire after the 2005 season ...
Conversation: Rusty Wallace
By Dave Rodman, NASCAR.COM
August 31, 2004
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Monday was a celebration of career and family for NASCAR Nextel Cup Series veteran Rusty Wallace.
Wallace, 48, and NASCAR put 2gether a gathering at Daytona that included dozens of media, NASCAR officials, family members and individuals who played key roles in his racing and business career of more than 20 years.
On the stage of the Pepsi Theater at DAYTONA USA, Wallace announced that he would retire from competitive racing following the 2005 Nextel Cup season.
Later, during a private reception, Wallace sat down with NASCAR.COM senior writer Dave Rodman to discuss, among other subjects, the impact on his career of Earnhardt's untimely death, the dynamics of his "Last Call" tour, the importance of going out on top of his game and choosing his successor.
Q: Everyone has 2 retire eventually, and today's announcement was expected. But the surprise 2 everyone was the way you couched it, saying that Dale Earnhardt's death really affected you, more than anyone else probably realized. What was the significance of Dale's death, in terms of this announcement?
Rusty Wallace: That was in the back of my mind and at that particular point it just kind of came out. I'm never, ever scared driving a racecar. I never have been. When I get in the car I just give it (my all).
In fact, I get people on my butt all the time because sometimes they think I don't wear the exact, perfect head and neck restraint system and things like that. But I don't ever think about that.
I honestly don't think (about it). But Earnhardt, that bugged me when we lost him. I had Mr. (Bill) France tell me, "Man, you've done everything in the world. You've won every single race there is 2 win. Yeah, I know you want 2 win the (Daytona) 500, but don't just keep doing this and doing this and doing this until you finally get hurt and you can't enjoy life after racing."
I thought about that and that stuck in my mind. And then I got thinking, I really enjoy this sport. I love driving the car. But I don't like being at the racetracks a lot. I like to get in there and do my deal and get out of town.
I want to go out on top, and above all I want 2 spend a lot of time with Patti and the kids, and I don't want to be some invalid or hurt and killed because of something that went wrong. I love golfing. I've had a great time hanging out with the guys from Callaway Golf (equipment manufacturers). I love 2 golf and I want 2 hang out with the kids more.
You heard the speech that (oldest son) Greg did this afternoon. Everybody in the room was just buzzing about how good a job he did -- it was amazing what he did, you know?
I want 2 hang out with the guys more, and I want 2 grow my car dealership businesses more and I want 2 get more involved with Team Penske. There's a lot of stuff going on there that we can make better. We've got 2 get the three teams working together better.
There's a lot of things that I just can't do while I'm driving. But once I get out of the car there's a lot of stuff that I'm going 2 fix, and I can get that done.
Q: Describe the process, in terms of the time frame, of deciding 2 retire. You said about eight months ago you really started 2 think about it, you decided maybe 2 months ago and the point of no return was when you met in Phoenix with the folks from Action Performance. How did this Last Call tour come to fruition?
Wallace: Yeah. The point of no return was when I finally (met with the Action people in Phoenix). I was on-again, off-again, on-again, off-again. Then I kept saying, well you know that the worst-case scenario was that I was for sure going to be out of there at the end of 2006.
Then I got to thinking about what Mr. France said to me -- "Don't push it too long." That stuck in my brain. Don't push it. Why push it another year?
And (wife) Patti's like, "We've saved, you've built a good career, we've got a couple good businesses, we feel good (and) you're at the top of your game." I said, "You know, you're right -- 2005 is it."
Eight months ago I really started talking about it. And then I made a couple trips out to Action Performance in Phoenix and we really started planning and hiring these people and getting stuff put together, it started getting more locked in.
The final deal was when I picked the phone up and called Mr. France and told him I wanted him 2 host the event, here. I wanted 2 do it live from the world center of speed.
We had talked about doing it on the South Lawn of the White House, about doing it at Rockefeller Center, and then one day I just woke up and said, 'you know what? I want to do it at the world center of speed because I'm a racecar driver and that makes the most sense.'
When I asked Bill (France) to do it, he said "Hell yeah, buddy -- I'll handle it." And I knew then when he said, "yeah, we're on," that it was done (laughing).
I hope I didn't mislead anybody too much when I said I plan to drive a couple more years. I was counting this year.
I know everybody wants to get the first story and talk about it, but I really wanted today to be a special day for everybody. I just couldn't spill all the beans right then, so it's this year and next year. That's 2. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Q: You had a pretty impressive assembly of people here this morning -- everyone from some of your key crewmen, like crew chief Larry Carter and Earl Barban; to your car owner Roger Penske, who gave you your start in Cup racing in 1980. How meaningful was that 2 you?
Wallace: That was very, very meaningful 2 me. And I had a lot of people invited that really wanted 2 come (but couldn't). Cliff Stewart, my first (full-time Cup) car owner was invited but couldn't make it.
Raymond Beadle (1989 Cup championship car owner) was invited and couldn't make it. But my championship winning crew chief, Barry Dodson was here with me and I had the entire France family -- all of them were in the front row and they said some nice things about me.
One of my very best friends of all time in racing, Don Prudhomme, I asked him 2 come and speak and he flew from Los Angeles, straight out here with his family 2 do it. We had a great night last night, you know, talking racing and talking about the future over at Lesa (France) Kennedy's house.
It was fun. We talked until my words started to get a little bit not right, because I was drinking a little bit 2 much wine, I think (laughing). But it's been a great day-and-a-half.
Now, since Rusty's Last Call is announced and we're going 2 2our all around the country, I'll be focusing on the 2our, I'll be focusing on trying to win and honestly, once I get the 2005 season started, I'll be looking towards the end of the year.
Q: You unveiled the Rusty's Last Call racecar, with all your statistical highlights on it, this afternoon. How significant was the return 2 that kind of "Midnight" looking, black racecar that you previously had so much success with?
Wallace: That was a cool car (but) whether that car will ever be raced, I don't know. That car was meant for the announcement and it was a car that we made a lot of diecast on and gave out 2 the media 2 thank them for all they've done for us.
We might run that car in the Bud Shootout. We might do that, I don't know. We've talked about it, but (right now) that's the announcement car.
We've got several other paint schemes to follow. Miller Brewing Company has made (the car) available, for next year, for me to sell off 12 races. That's something that's never been done in the industry that I know of.
They feel they've got a lot of equity built in the name "Rusty" and "No. 2" and Miller Lite and a lot of people know who that is, so we're going 2 take the money that we (make) off of those cars and put it back into television ads and we're going 2 start getting back into the business of making a lot of TV commercials, which is gonna be cool.
Q: As much as you can talk about it, what are the dynamics of the Last Call tour going 2 be? Are there going 2 be special appearances away from race markets as well as events at the races that fans can participate in?
Wallace: First of all, it's still a work in motion, I can tell you that right now. We don't have all the answers, but one thing we do know is that I've went 2 a lot of autograph sessions this year that were out of the race markets.
I've been 2 Minot, South Dakota; I've been 2 Minneapolis; I've been 2 Wyoming. I've been 2 places where there are not NASCAR races and the line for autographs was 2 or three thousand (people) long -- just huge, huge crowds.
And right then I understood that the United States is still starving for NASCAR racing and it's got a lot of room to grow. And so we're going 2 take the Rusty's Last Call tour 2 a lot of those places -- a lot of places where people can't come to see us.
We're going 2 have autograph sessions; we're going 2 have bands. It's going 2 be like a mini Rusty-fest. There will be a lot of entertainment, interactive stuff, show cars, autograph sessions and things like that.
There'll be a lot of special events and stuff around the racetracks, also. A lot of stuff I will personally attend (and) a lot of stuff I won't be able to attend, because I'll be racing or practicing or whatever.
But these 20 markets, outside the (NASCAR racing stops on) tour, I will be there.
Q: Looking ahead to 2006, on a percentage basis, where do you feel like your time is going to be spent? Obviously, you'll take a more active role with Penske Racing; you've got your RWI race team that's really coming on strong; of course, the family and Stephen's racing career. Where do you see your time going?
Wallace: Well, I've had some of my employees, say, 'what's your plan, three and four years down the road?' I say, 'guys, I can't think that far ahead.' All I can tell you is that right now, I will be super actively involved in Team Penske.
Like I say, I know there's a lot of things I can fix and help get done quicker once I get out of the car. I can't do them while I'm in the car, but once I get out of the car I got 2 get these three teams working together better.
I've got 2 get us some better pieces and parts put 2ogether. There are a lot of things I need to improve and I'll be looking real hard for a driver to replace me.
I'll be spending a lot of time with my Grand National (Busch Series) team, which I spend a lot of time on. It's going to run the whole series next year with a couple of Cup drivers that I'll be announcing here shortly.
Greg has been helping me with that along with numerous people back at the shop: Tom Knox and Tom Polansky and Barry Dodson, just 2 name a few.
I'll also be trying 2 grow my car dealership business. I've got five dealerships in East Tennessee right now and we'll probably add 2 or three more to that. I've got some ideas and some deals I've got cooking on that.
I've got a lifetime personal services contract with Miller Brewing Company, which takes me through age 55 is what that means, speaking on behalf of those guys.
I want 2 be in TV and I think there's a career for me in that. I also plan on doing a lot of my endorsements and keeping that going, so it looks like I've already filled up my plate, doesn't it?
Everybody's told me that that's going 2 happen, but the one thing is I won't have 2 be living at a racetrack all of the time, this way.
Q: What's your role going to be in that driver search, and what kind of individual do you see replacing you in the seat?
Wallace: It's got 2 be a qualified driver. We're just not in the mood right now to start teaching a young guy, to bring him up. I just don't think there's enough time, so we'll be looking for a qualified guy, that's for sure.
Q: People might be frustrated at this announcement, saying 'who are we going to follow, now?' But how important is it for you 2 go out on top of your game?
Wallace: It's everything in the world 2 go out on top. You know what? If I go out next year and I don't have a great year, I'm still going out on top, because I've won this year, I've had tons of top-five runs only 2 get spoiled by mechanical failures.
I know I'll run good next year because that's just me. I feel like, at age 48, I'm one of the youngest feeling 48 year olds out there. But I think I'm making a smart decision and I think I've done it the proper way.
I'm going 2 give back 2 the fans with this tour we're going 2 do, and I just want 2 let these fans know that I appreciate what they've done for me and it's very, very big.
Q: Next year will be your final shot to win the Daytona 500. What does that mean?
Wallace: I've come close 2 winning that thing many times. I've got 2 get really actively involved with that team because I've got 2 go 2 Daytona with the best car I've ever had in my life. I've got 2 have the most horsepower, I've got 2 have the best car, I've got t2 be well tested.
I've got 2 have a real commitment from my team 2 get it right because this is my last one. You're going 2 see me real focused, very much paying attention 2 that race. I've won about everywhere. Heck, I felt like I won the Brickyard 400 about five times. How many times have I been leading that race only 2 finish second?
The Daytona 500 is still the granddaddy of them all. It's the race I haven't won, and I'm going 2 try my (best) 2 win that one.
Q: Are you proud of your accomplishments in the sport?
Wallace: I'm real proud of what I've done for the sport, and I'm going 2 continue doing all I can for the sport. A lot of that stuff gets overshadowed right now with the hardcore racing. A lot of things are going on and some of the young guns showing up and all that.
In the back of my mind I chuckle a little bit because I started that. I made that happen, and I did this and I did that. It feels good saying that. Again, I'm honest with my beliefs in it, and I want 2 continue in the sport and make everybody happy.
Q: In a 20-year career, it can be hard 2 look back and single anything out, but what would you say is your biggest accomplishment in your racing career?
Wallace: My biggest accomplishment was definitely winning my title -- the 1989 Winston Cup championship -- and also the driver of the year titles (in 1988 and 1993).
Wallace Makes It Official: 2005 Will Be His 'Last Call' As A NASCAR Driver
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 30, 2004)
An emotional Rusty Wallace made official Monday what had been rumored in recent weeks, that 2005 would be his final season as a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver.
"It’s something I’ve thought long and hard about," said Wallace, whose final season will be known as "Rusty’s Last Call." "I didn’t know what I wanted 2 do or how soon I wanted 2 do it. I just didn’t know."
However, in June Wallace began finalizing plans for his last season as the driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge.
"I want 2 go out on the top of my game," Wallace continued. "I want 2 go out a champion, a front-runner. I’ve won this year; I’ve had a lot of great runs this year. I still feel like I’m at the top of my game."
Wallace snapped a 105-race winless streak at Martinsville Speedway in April, bringing his career victory total to 55. The pole total on his resume stands at 36.
During Monday’s announcement, the 1989 champion admitted that after Dale Earnhardt lost his life on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500 "it kinda got 2 me, made me a little nervous, made me think hard about it."
"I’ve won a lot of races, I want to have fun in the sport, and I don’t want 2 get hurt," Wallace told those attending the press conference in the Pepsi Theater at Daytona USA. "So I’m announcing my retirement. I still feel like I’m a champion."
Wallace, who started his own Busch Series team this season, said he planned 2 remain in the sport and be very involved in Penske Racing South, of which the Missouri native is a co-owner.
"I don’t have all of the answers right now for my career, but I’ve got most of them," the 48-year-old Wallace continued. "There’s always things that happen. My career will go on. I will learn things as I go on. I will meet more people.
"But like I said, I have most of the plans in order and I feel comfortable with my decision. I’ve had a wonderful career. I’m proud of all of my accomplishments.
"I’ve made a lot of fans happy but there’s one thing I know for sure, without me spending a lot of time with the fans and the fans supporting me, I couldn’t have got where I am today, so I want 2 thank all the fans for supporting me. A lot of them have pleaded with me not 2 retire, but it’s time. I feel it. It’s the right time and I know I’m doing the right thing, and I feel good about it."
Even though Wallace said he was comfortable with his decision, it was remarks from his oldest son, Greg, that brought tears to his eyes. Greg, who was joined on stage by his mother, Patti; his sister, Katie; and his younger brother Steve, described the day as "a strange and very difficult day for all of us."
"Racing is what we know; it is what we love," Greg continued. "2 have Dad not out there every weekend is going to be really odd.
"The life he has lived has been almost surreal. We’ve seen the highs of winning the Winston Cup championship, the lows of barrel rolling in the Daytona 500, and the terror of watching our father flip wildly down the frontstretch at Talladega. As much of an emotional roller coaster as this has been, I think I speak for my entire family in saying that these are experiences which we wouldn’t trade for anything."
Greg also noted that Miller Brewing Co. had been his father’s primary sponsor for 15 straight years, longer than any driver/sponsor relationship currently involved in NASCAR.
"As rumors started to fly about Dad retiring, people started asking me, ‘So, Greg, how do you think you father’s career should be remembered?’" said Greg, who described his father as his personal hero. "I thought long and hard about this, even staying awake at night sometimes thinking about it. I decided Dad’s stats and accomplishments speak for themselves.
"His battles with our friend, the late, great Dale Earnhardt, were legendary, and they brought NASCAR to the forefront of the American sporting scene. So when friends ask me now how my father’s career should be remembered, I have to say it should be remembered just like those battles with Earnhardt were, nothing short of legendary."