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NASCAR Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  NASCAR

NASCAR Media Conference

Rusty Wallace
November 1, 2005


DENISE MALOOF: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to the NASCAR Nextel teleconference. First our usual housekeeping this. Week's Nextel Wake-Up Call begins at 8 a.m. for all of you early risers Friday at the Texas Motor Speedway infield media center. Matt Kenseth is the guest. Today we're joined by Rusty Wallace, who is nearing the end of a very remarkable NASCAR Nextel Cup career. A former series champion, currently ninth in the Chase for the NASCAR Nextel Cup standings. He has three top five and four top 10 finishes at Texas Motor Speedway. His top finish there was a runner-up effort in April of 2000. Rusty, last Sunday's event in Atlanta didn't really end the way you wanted. But I also know you'll be scrapping for every point these last three races.

RUSTY WALLACE: There's no doubt about that. I'll be going as hard as I can to salvage what we can. It's been real upsetting the last three weeks. We've had good cars at all three races only to be taken out real late in the race at Martinsville, and real late at Charlotte by some cars. This deal at Atlanta was just unbelievable. Seven laps in the race, a fellow blows a right front tire, spins in front of me, there's nowhere to go. That's three in a row. That really, really hurt. We got the car to be in the top one or two in points easy, but we just haven't had the luck.

DENISE MALOOF: Well, you've got three left. If you wouldn't mind, would you quickly just share your favorite memories of these last three venues, starting with Texas, then Phoenix, then Homestead.

RUSTY WALLACE: Well, favorite memories, I don't know. I'm not much about reminiscing about stuff. But Texas, I've had some good runs there. I remember going to Texas and getting in all kind of heat with Bruton Smith and the guys about me making some negative comments about the track (indiscernible) a water leak in turn one, then the way the track was designed off of turn four. Since then, they fixed everything. It's one of my favorite tracks now. I enjoy going there. I'm looking forward to going there this weekend. I'll be driving my own Busch Grand National car, the Miller Highlife car there. Jamie McMurray will be driving a second RWI Busch car sponsored by Bell Helicopter this weekend. Then I'll be in the familiar No. 2 Miller Lite car obviously. Texas is a fun place. I enjoy it. I like the area. Phoenix, Arizona, one of my favorite memories there is winning the race. As the race is over, it starts pouring down rain. We set up a temporary Victory Lane in the garage area. That was a pretty neat deal. Would have rather won it in clear skies. Was able to win that race. Homestead, you know, one of the best times I've had at Homestead was last year. Myself and Greg Biffle led that thing off and on throughout the day. I had a great car. Ended up finishing seventh, I guess. I did two tires. Should have done four. Biffle did four and beat me. All three good tracks. My arsenal I think the remainder of the year my goal now is to win a race and get back in the top five in the points at least. Again, the last three races have been devastating just because these crazy wrecks that have happened around me.

DENISE MALOOF: Sounds good. Let's take some media questions for you.

Q. The Chase is probably down to five, maybe even three. Could you handicap the Chase going into the last three events.

RUSTY WALLACE: I will tell you the Roush guys are lightning hot right now. When I saw the way the car that Edwards had ran at Atlanta, it's really surprised me. I haven't seen a car handle that well in a long, long time. When I looked up on the board, I saw just a pile of those Roush cars, you know, second, third, fourth and fifth. I'd say Jack right now has his cars handling better than anything. I'm talking about the way the car sticks to the track, the actual design of the cars, the drivers are doing a good job. If I can't win this thing, I'm obviously -- if myself, my teammate can't win, I'm definitely pulling for Mark Martin to win the thing, that's for sure.

Q. There's never been a repeat winner in the spring race at Texas.

RUSTY WALLACE: Texas, it's a smooth track. It's got a big bump down in the center of one and two. It's a track that you run on the bottom of early in the race, then all of a sudden a groove really widens out. You can run all over the racetrack. I think it's a very, very competitive track to run on. It's one when I go there, I really look forward to going to. I'm excited about getting to Texas this week, not only because it's a neat track, but it's a neat area. My personal friend is a guy from Bell Helicopter, headquartered right there. There's a lot of reasons I like going down there. Why is it that there's been not the same winner? Again, I don't know. All I can tell you is that you can race all over the place. Once you get say a hundred laps into the race, the groove widens out, maybe that's the reason. I just don't have a good answer to that one.

Q. Could you talk for a second, the mindset you have to have coming from a longer track like Texas to a short flat one like PIR.

RUSTY WALLACE: It's really not much of a mind difference. We get that same question when we go from a Martinsville to a Talladega. The cars you drive are built for those style tracks. Now, when we go to Phoenix, it's more -- it's a big short track I call it. The setups are real similar to what we run at Loudon, New Hampshire, some places like that. Once the race we just previously ran is over, we got about a solid week in between to get in a different mode. So the cars we'll bring there will be specified cars for short track races. They won't be cars we run on intermediate, 200 mile an hour racetracks. A little lighter weight. Built a little lighter, things like that. They're more suited for tracks like that. It's not hard at all to change your thinking.

Q. As a car owner and someone who has seen the inner workings of this sport, what advice or what challenges does a team being formed by Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman have as they enter NASCAR? They already have a sponsor and work with Joe Gibbs Racing.

RUSTY WALLACE: It's going to be an incredible uphill battle, no doubt about it. I wish them all the luck in the world, I really do. It's a tough deal. You look at guy like Bobby Labonte, who is with Joe Gibbs right now, obviously a talented driver, knows what he's doing. Those guys have had a really tough year. They've struggled real, real hard. To think about a new car owner, a driver, a new driver so to speak, all new, new, new, and have to make all the races early, things like that, it just is a huge uphill feat. Again, I wish them all the luck, but it's going to be a tough one.

Q. What do they tell their sponsor, Texas Instruments?

RUSTY WALLACE: Hopefully they told their sponsors that this stuff is like going to war. It's tough. It's real, real tough. You got to hang because there's going to be a lot of bad and there will be some good, too. But earlier there's probably going to be a lot of bad stuff happen that they got to be prepared with. They just need to be long-term with their owners and understand that it's a building process. That's what it is.

Q. Your thoughts on the 1989 race out in Phoenix. You were running for the title with like 47 laps left, got put into the wall.

RUSTY WALLACE: Well, that particular race right there, I thought I had a big, big lead. Evidently when I went down into turn one, I cut Stan Barrett a little bit too tight. He got in my left rear quarter panel. I went in the wall. I learned a big lesson. I had such a big lead. There's not any chance I should have took or would have had to take at all with anybody. I did. I ended up paying for it. That was a tough one that day. I tell you what, I thought I was going to lose that title. I won that thing barely.

Q. When you look at where you're at right now, does it make you want to keep racing more or does it make you feel that you've made all the right decisions on how things are unfolding here?

RUSTY WALLACE: No, I've made the right decisions. I love racing, no doubt about it. I got behind in the points now because of these crazy wrecks that happened three weeks in a row, which I never would have believed it happened. It makes me want to keep on racing and try to get myself back up in there. But that's unfortunately over, and I've got three more to go. That's going to be it. But I'm comfortable with my decision, I really am. I made the right decision. I'm driving my brains out. I'm running good. Even the last three races that we've had problems at, we've had really good cars. You look at the deal of Martinsville, that was a tough one to take with 10 laps to go or whatever it was. You had the spinout there after running so good all day long. Charlotte, North Carolina, the same thing. I look at all those second place, top five finishes that we had this year, those consistent runs, I'm proud of my team, I'm proud of what I've done, and I am going out on top of my game.

Q. Are you going to have to force yourself not to be frustrated? You've had such a great career, you're going to go out going to New York and all of that.

RUSTY WALLACE: I'm going out going to New York. I'm not beating myself up. If I wasn't in the top 10, I wouldn't have felt good about it. I'm in the top 10. Everybody knows I've run well. The fans are really behind me and pumped up about it. If it wasn't for these last couple weeks, I wouldn't be so damn dejected like I am now. I just can't believe this is happening. I'm devastated about what the hell has happened because I really thought I was a legitimate candidate to win this championship, only to have, you know, some lap cars and different things have the outcome of what's happened here.

Q. Given where you are right now and the way things have played out with those wrecks, do you allow yourself to just enjoy it a little bit the last few runs?

RUSTY WALLACE: No, I'm not going to enjoy anything right now. I'm just going to race my brains out and try to get all I can with three to go. I want to win some races and I want to get the points back up and things like that. I'm not giving up at all on anything. I've got three races to get all I can. My goal is to get back in the top five at least and to win a race before the year's over.

Q. Carl Edwards, I don't want to overstate or understate his potential. You've seen a lot of good young drivers come along. Is this guy special or is it the equipment? You tell me.

RUSTY WALLACE: Well, I mean, there's a lot of special drivers out there. Carl is a darn good one, no doubt about that. Anybody that can run that hard. He was using the high lane, the bottom lane. He's really got to talk to his crew chief in order to get the setup that right. I will tell you right now, I think everybody will tell you, the Roush cars, they've built some great cars. The way the front ends are designed on them, their aerodynamic package they got, you got to hand it to Jack Roush for assembling a group of guys like the for getting it done. Back to Carl, he's had a lot of experience in the trucks, Busch Grand National racing right now. He's got a ton of racing underneath his belt. He is just taking his talent and using it the right way.

Q. I know you're bowing out so it wouldn't affect you, but I'm wondering, is there anything you would recommend changing about the Chase either in terms of the races it involves or the way the points are handled, anything you think would make it better?

RUSTY WALLACE: I guess the thing I think would make it better, I would have never thought this unless it's happened to me, because of some lap car problems, just cars that are racing for the Lucky Dog, the Lucky Dog has caused a lot of problems for the Chase for the Championship, I think. Right now I really wish the way it's turning out that the top 10 cars are racing theirselves. I wish when they went down to playoff format, championships for 10 cars, I wish those 10 guys were racing against each other instead of having the rest of the field intermingled in the outcome of that.

Q. So you're saying actually stage the last 10 races with a 10-car field?

RUSTY WALLACE: No, no, not with a 10-car field. Let's just say Tony Stewart finished fifth and Rusty finished 10th. I would basically finish second to Tony Stewart.

Q. The points would be distributed based on how the 10 of you fared to each other only?

RUSTY WALLACE: That's right. That's the way I think it should be. Right now there's been too many bad things that's happened to me personally and other people that have happened from the rest of the guys in the field. If I were to adjust something, that's what I would do. I got three more races to go and I'm damn proud to be in the top 10, I'll tell you that, if you're asking my opinion.

Q. In general, do you think it's worth staying with this Chase format or go back to the old way? Do you think this was a good idea?

RUSTY WALLACE: I think it's a good idea. It brought a lot of attention to the sport. Really with 10 to go, the guys that made it into 10, it brought a lot of relief on us to say, okay, good, we're done with that, we're in the top 10, instead of racing your brains out till the very end. This schedule is long enough with 36 races. I like the format. I think it brought a lot of excitement and it's good. If you want to tweak it, that's what I would have tweaked on it.

Q. If it were up to you, Bristol would be in the Chase as opposed to some of the other tracks. Are you happy that a track maybe like Texas was added to the mix because maybe one shot in the spring wasn't enough to figure out how this track lays out, seeing the different conditions in the fall, you really get a good feel for a track?

RUSTY WALLACE: First of all, I'm really happy that Texas did get a second date. Any track that puts 160,000 or plus in the grandstands and fills it up, people want to come see you all the time, deserves a second date. It's a huge city, Fort Worth and Dallas area. A lot of my sponsors are from there. Miller Brewing Company, that's their largest city for beer sales. It's important. My sponsor, Lennox Heating and Cooling is from there. My other sponsor for my Grand National car, Bell Helicopter, Lear Jet people, people I do business with, they're all down there. There's a lot of good reasons why Team Penske and Rusty Wallace likes going to Texas. You can't deny the fact when you get there, it's such a big metro city, the grandstands are packed solid. They pay big, big purses. They're obviously deserving of a second date.

Q. From a racing standpoint, did you look forward to this race because one race per year in the past wasn't really enough to get a good feel for that track?

RUSTY WALLACE: No, not really, because that's one of the tracks we always went and tested at. We did a lot of testing before the year at Texas. We went from Texas on over to Las Vegas. We got the testing pretty good. Not really. I mean, I just like going back the second time because it's such a big venue. But I hear what you're saying. We might be overthinking it.

Q. How does 2006 look for you? Do you have all your plans ironed out for next season?

RUSTY WALLACE: I don't have anything ironed out, no. I mean, things are still developing, all in a good way. I'm happy with my decision, what's going on. We'll see what happens on the news front of it, the television front. I got my plans with my Busch Grand National team lined out, Jamie McMurray and my son will be driving it. That car, I'll be actually involved with Team Penske still, involved in all the sponsorship end of it, maintaining our sponsors, doing a lot of meet and greets, stuff like that. Very involved in all my car dealership business up in east Tennessee, things like that. I've already got a lot going on, that's for sure. But there's two or three things I'm looking forward to putting to bed.

Q. You got three races to go. Has that hit you yet emotionally that this is it?

RUSTY WALLACE: No, it's starting to hit. But I'm not too much of an emotional person, although I think it will be a little bit of that in the last race at Homestead because I'm sure there's going to be a lot of cool things that are going to be happening. Then after Homestead is over, I got another shot where I'm still in racing when I go to New York. When I get up and do my speech in New York, that's probably where I'll have a little struggle. I hope I don't, but I probably will.

Q. Even though you said you're not an emotional person, everything was going just great for you in the Chase until the last three races. Was that a tough emotional situation for you afterwards to know you'd done your best in your final season and be caught up in something not of your doing?

RUSTY WALLACE: It's very, very tough to take that one because I try to drive so careful, I told a lot of people I've been driving conservatively aggressive. That process has worked for me through the whole year. But then, you know, this problem started at Talladega. You look at Talladega. When the wreck happened at Talladega, that really didn't surprise me because I figured something was going to happen anyway, and it did. Then we went to Charlotte. We're running along, got a flat tire. Man, here we go. We go lap down, get it back. Once I get all these laps back, I got a loose lug nut. Incredible. I drive that baby back up there. We are going for 10th. We want to go for a real solid top 10 finish. God, I'm passing a car. Another guy makes it three-wide on the bottom. Where did this come from? That problem happens. Man, two in a row, this is unheard of. This is amazing. I can't belive it happened. Then when I went to Martinsville, there's 10 to go, I get hit in the back end by Jeff Burton, which didn't mean it. You start looking around going, Lord, why in the world, all 43 guys, why are you doing this to me? Of all the 43-car field, why do you have to pick me to happen? Then I went to Atlanta last weekend, that's where I really got to say that, again, Lord, there's 43 cars in this field, we're only seven laps, why do you pick this particular character to spin out right dead in front of me? But it happens. Those are things you shake your head and go, Man, that is some bad luck. All those races we had great cars, good-handling cars. Not much I can do about it. But I'm not a quitter. I'm going to give it hell the next three races and try to salvage what I can. What I want to salvage is a victory and get to back up into top five in the points.

Q. Would a victory at this point make it a complete season for you?

RUSTY WALLACE: Oh, yeah, it would for me. It would solidify going out on top. I'm definitely going out on top of my game right now the way it is. But it would definitely make you feel better.

Q. Probably asking the obvious, but has the Chase intensified some of the feelings between the drivers? I'm thinking of Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle at Martinsville. Tony reacting to Chad Knaus, what he said on the radio.

RUSTY WALLACE: Yeah, there is a lot of that going on. I see some tenseness, some of the guys that were real nice to each other, sharing some notes, talking about how their car is doing, everybody has kind of clammed up. Everybody is now getting kind of bitter, talking smack about each other. I haven't been involved in any of that. I've been kind of watching what's going on with some of the other guys. You can definitely feel it.

Q. I guess that's natural, to be expected?

RUSTY WALLACE: Yeah, it's natural. There's all kinds of different feelings going on, too. I'm seeing guys that are not in the Chase really bitter that they're not in the Chase and driving with, hey, I don't care about who's in the Chase attitude, making comments like that, the way they're driving. It's all what it is. The year is about over and everybody is getting tense and everybody is getting heated up.

Q. They tested the Car of Tomorrow yesterday at Atlanta. They're continuing to develop it. What is your spin on the whole project? Do you like what they're doing or do you think it's unnecessary?

RUSTY WALLACE: I really don't have many thoughts at all on it. I haven't been kept in the loop on it. I would have been if I'd have asked a question. They built those cars, obviously trying to make it bigger so the drivers have more room in the car, things like this. NASCAR has invited me to come over to their design center in Concord, North Carolina, look at it. Honestly, I haven't had time to do it. I haven't figured it's going to affect me personally so I haven't got involved in it much. What I'm more interested in right now is what the new rules are going to be for next year. I hear there's going to be a lot of different body rules for next year, people cutting bodies off, redesigning. That might affect me personally in my Busch Grand National team. I'll be paying attention to that a lot real soon here.

Q. What do you think have been the most important changes in NASCAR racing over your long, successful career?

RUSTY WALLACE: Over my career, probably the most successful changes has definitely, for sure, without a doubt, been in the safety aspect of it. It's not performance. We put good races on our entire life. Ever since I've been in this sport, we've had biased tires, radial tires, whatever, you always put good races on. We used to blow a lot of tires out when we had the biased. Now they've went to the radial. That's gotten a lot better, a lot safer. Now we've gone to the soft wall technology. I think if anybody deserves an award, it's definitely over the soft wall technology. I've hit them suckers, they don't hurt near as much as when you hit a soft wall as when you hit a concrete wall. That's been the biggest innovation in the history of the sport.

DENISE MALOOF: Thank you very much, Rusty, for giving us this time today. We appreciate it

RUSTY WALLACE: You got it, no problem.

DENISE MALOOF: Thanks, everybody, for your participation today. We'll see you next week.

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