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NASCAR Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  NASCAR

NASCAR Media Conference

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Rusty Wallace
November 2, 2004


TRACEY JUDD: Welcome, everybody, to the NASCAR NEXTEL teleconference. The Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup continues with round seven on Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway. NBC will carry the race live at 3 p.m. eastern time. NASCAR Busch Series Championship points leader Martin Truex, Jr. will try and close the door even further on the 2004 title also at Phoenix, that will be on Saturday, and NBC will carry that race starting at 3:30 p.m. eastern. The close race for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series also rolls into Phoenix, that will be Friday, and SPEED Channel carries the trucks live beginning at 5:30 p.m. eastern time. The NEXTEL leader bonus is at $50,000 for Phoenix. The bonus goes to the winning driver if he is also the points leader at the end of the event. For your information, there is a slight change for the NEXTEL wake-up call this week at Phoenix. It's scheduled for Friday morning at 8 a.m. in the infield media center. Scheduled guest is NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series points leader Kurt Busch who will join at 9:00. So 8:00 for the breakfast, 9:00 for Kurt Busch. Our guests today are Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Rusty Wallace. Dale, Jr. will be up first and Rusty will join us at the bottom of the hour. The driver of the number eight Budweiser Chevrolet, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., is currently fifth in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, 98 points behind leader Kurt Busch. Dale, Jr. has won a career-best five races in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series this year, most recently adding to his dominance at Talladega last month. He's had eight top 10 finishes in his last 12 races, and shows 15 top 5 and 20 top 10s overall this year. He's won two of the four NASCAR Busch Series races he's entered and is the co-owner of the Martin Truex, Jr. team that is close to clinching the 2004 NASCAR Busch Series title. In four career series starts at Phoenix, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., has one win, which was last fall in this event, two top 5, and two top 10 finishes. Dale, thanks for joining us today. We appreciate it.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, thanks for having me.

TRACEY JUDD: Phoenix is a strong track for you and comes at what seems to be a perfect time in the chase schedule for the 8 team, especially following the bad luck you guys encountered in Atlanta on Sunday. Can you talk a little bit about your plans for Phoenix.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I like that racetrack. We had a great car there last year, and we were able to pick up a win, which is really good for us, especially at Phoenix. Especially when you travel to the west coast, anything other than a win is kind of difficult, makes it a long ride home. But we feel pretty confident. I mean, you know, of course, got a new tire throughout this year that's changed the way our cars drove at some of the tracks. We always anticipate having to make some changes to the setup. But we'll probably start with what we had last year and go from there.

TRACEY JUDD: Let's open it up, please, for questions for Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Q. After a Sunday like you had this past Sunday, what is Monday like with you and the team? How do you guys regroup?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I'm in LA shooting commercials for Budweiser, so I haven't really had time to be around the team. Me and a couple of my buddies went out Sunday and just kind of let off some steam. I was pretty disappointed with the way things went Sunday. You know, just racing harder than -- I don't know, I guess I raced harder than I should have. I ended up in the wall. But I was kind of having a hard time justifying to myself, you know, whether what I was doing was what I was supposed to be doing or, you know, it's an age-old question of, "Well, you should have just got the points or you should have just chilled out." But, man, I had an opportunity. I saw an opportunity to win. My car -- we just got my car really good right then. I thought we had a good enough car to challenge Jimmie. I knew he was going to get up there and get clean air and I had to really run hard to get there as soon as I could. I don't know, just got to racing too hard. Didn't cut Carl any slack. He didn't cut me any slack. You know, that's what you're both doing at that time. Every once in a while, you'll get wrecked. But, you know, if it happened any other time in my career, I guess it wouldn't be such a big deal. But being where we are in the points chase, it's a pretty big deal to a lot of people.

Q. With the 2 team, Martin, there's a very good chance he's going to win the title. Just my opinion, but I got to be thinking that in your head you're saying, "What a way to have a great year, win the Busch Series title with the car that I own and I win the NEXTEL Cup title in the DEI car"?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, that would be awesome.

Q. Does that put more pressure on you? Has that entered into your mind?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: No, it don't put more pressure on me. Winning the Busch championship and a Cup championship, it's definitely two different things. You know, I wouldn't be able to -- I mean, when you're young, like a Martin or like I was running in the Busch Series, you're doing the best you can to win that thing, and you're giving it all. But it takes a different caliber of person to evolve into a NEXTEL Cup champion. You know, it's a totally different deal, you know. When I'm competitive every year, like we have been the past two or three years, we'll win championships and we'll get us a championship. If not this year, it will be next year or whatever. We'll just keep on running as hard as we can, try not to make the mistakes like I made this past weekend. But, you know, I like racing Atlanta. It's hard not to race like we were racing. But I don't know. I mean, I think Martin has done an awesome job. I'm really, really proud of him as a person, the way he was put in a situation that I don't know if a lot of people could have handled themselves. I've seen a couple drivers this year even lately sort of self-destruct a little bit under the pressure. But, you know, it's just a tough situation when you're racing for big organizations, how to handle yourself and maintain yourself and do the right thing in and outside the race car. Martin has done an awesome job of that.

Q. Chip Ganassi was out here in Fontana for the Grand American race. When he saw what happened to you and Kurt, he said he would be in favor of the top 10 guys having a different points system so they couldn't lose so much ground on one given weekend. Does that sound like a good idea to you?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, you know, what I think would work is we use the points system we have now, but from 25th on back to the tail end of the field, everybody gets the same points. So if you do have a bad day, you pretty much get 25th place points and it would keep everybody in the chase all year long, throughout the regular season. It would keep everybody a lot closer, the battles for each position would be more challenging and closer. So, you know, I think that's a good way to do it. I mean, there's a million dang ideas. People are coming up with something every day about how we should do it different, do this, that or the other. You know, NASCAR may change a little, but I think that they're going to stick to their guns with what they got. This is an exciting points race. A lot of the times, you allow favoritism to enter your opinions. Whether it's me or Kurt, whoever wins the title, I mean, that's the guy that earned it, you know. You have to, you know, do well and you can't make mistakes. Fortunately, a couple of us had some bad weekends and it's really tightened the chase up. I mean, that's what they want. That's the kind of chase we want. This is working out to be a wise choice because it's getting pretty exciting, and the fans will tune in, and the fans will want to see what happens next. That was the object, that was what they were wanting to achieve by the change. I think, yeah, I'd rather not have lost so many points. But in NASCAR's eyes, I wouldn't assume they are glad I had a bad weekend, but as far as Kurt and everything, narrowing up the points chase, I'm sure that they're pretty pleased with how the ratings will be next week.

Q. Seeing what happened to you last weekend, does it change the way you approach anything the next few weekends? Will it be points first and then the win, or will it still be go for the win no matter what?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I don't know. I mean, I was racing for points when we first came into the chase and we got, you know, good finishes and stuff, we were doing good. Then we went to Martinsville, and the car wasn't any good. We couldn't do anything right. We had a lot of problems. It was pretty much worthless to race for points, you know, after that, when you get back to 125 behind. We had a bad weekend again, yet we gained ground. I mean, it wasn't a disaster, you know. But I'm 98 points out and I'm racing four or five guys instead of one or two. You know, really we got to race hard. We got to race hard, beat (inaudible), try to keep it straight this time.

Q. I noticed the other day that Tony Yuri, Senior was voted by the fans as the Crew Chief of the Year. A little surprising they made that announcement so early. Could you talk a little bit about Tony, Senior and how you guys worked together the last couple of years.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I was really proud of Tony to win that award. Hey, he's paid his dues like everybody else. He's one of a rather large group of individuals that's came in and out of the sport. He's done it as hard and as long as a lot of these guys without really getting a lot of credibility. I mean, he's kind of always been dad's friend, you know, dad's Busch crew chief, my Busch crew chief. When we came into the Winston Cup Series, we all kind of felt, you know, almost in over our heads. But he's really worked hard to bring his abilities and his talent and his credibility to a higher level. You know, I've been able to sit there and watch it the whole time. So I'm really happy to be able to work with him. We have a love for each other through our kinship. He's going to take care of me in a situation where, you know, other guys might think differently or think another route. He's going to always look after me. He's not going to send me out there in a dangerous situation. So racing with him is really kind of like racing with your dad or a close family member, because that's what he is to me. We had a lot of fun, and hopefully we'll have a lot more. I mean, you know, the thing about this past weekend, it's kind of tough on them because they hadn't seen me make mistakes, I guess, big ones like that. I've been talking to him all day about racing for points, the big picture. We all were kind of reciting that over and over to ourselves, then that happened. You know, we grow. They've seen me make mistakes and grow. We try to learn. I don't know. I mean, it's just -- I'll just say that I probably learned a whole lot more working with Tony than I would anybody else, I guess.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about your team has come back from adversity several times during the season. You'll have a bad race, you'll come back with a strong race. But it seems that if you don't have the best car during the race, you guys have a hard time recovering from that. Can you discuss those two sides of it.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, we always, you know, have a bad weekend, we've come back and won after that. We were kind of anticipating that happening again this past weekend, but fate intervened. But, you know, I don't really know -- I'm not so sure that there wasn't something majorly wrong with the car we raced at Martinsville that wasn't supposed to be like it was. I mean, that thing was so bad in the center of the corner, we weren't just a little bit off. I think there was something majorly wrong maybe dealing with the rear-end that eventually broke or something was askew on the car that wasn't found that morning or happened some point during the race, because it started out pretty good that first run, then it just was nothing like it was after that. But sometimes you'll have that. I don't know, I've never driven anybody else's race car enough to know. But, you know, we deal with a lot of different things. Every time you drive a car, there's a different vibration or a different shake, the calipers or something in the car feel different. So it's hard to feel -- it's hard to pinpoint or say that, "Yeah, this is the problem or this is why the car doesn't work or maybe this is why it's giving us trouble." At Martinsville the car didn't give me any indication anything was wrong. Just went in the corner, went straight, when I turned the wheel, I mean, severely like it had been wrecked into the wall or something and I was trying to race it. But when the rear finally broke, we didn't have to worry about it any more. But this past weekend, the car was off a couple times. I mean, there was one run where I was really, really, really loose. I actually got into the wall in turn one one time, but then we got it better. I mean, me and Tony, Junior, we have kind of understood, not recently, but over the last year or two, how to work together better during the race. We used to come into races, and if the car wasn't any good, we would fly off hot at each other before we ever got it fixed, and that would be the end of it. But here lately, we've been, you know, understanding that we got to work together. The only way -- the car is not going to get better until we work together to fix it. Every once in a while, like the car was loose all day, and after about four stops, you know, I get a little irritated because I've been asking for it to get tighter, and it doesn't happen. We keep on like dancing around the changes. Like we'll put some bite in it to tighten up, but we'll raise the track bar to loosen it up just because we don't want it to get too tight. It just seems like we take one step forward, one step back, and I go out there, the car is still loose. Eventually at the end of the race, I hollered on the radio for it to get tighter. They tightened it up too much. Then we went back a little bit, we were good to the end. Right before I wrecked, we were pretty good. We're learning. I mean, one of the things that we never did learn, me and Tony, Junior struggled with, was when I say the car is loose, he doesn't exactly know how much or how bad it is. A lot of guys, like Elliot Sadler, they'll use a scale of 1 to 10, they'll call out a number from good to bad. I don't know, I kind of thought about that. Tony, Junior and them guys are old school. They probably won't know that. But sometimes we have a hard time, I guess by the tone of my voice is the only way he can tell, or how many times I repeat it loudly (laughter).

Q. The ESPN movie about your dad is scheduled to debut next month. I understand you've met Barry, who plays the lead role. Wondering about your feelings about that movie coming out.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, from day one, I've been pretty excited about it myself. I really, really hope that they did a good job. You know, the stuff that they've done in the past on that network has been pretty good. I've been pretty surprised actually by the quality of the films that they've had. I think a lot of people agree that they've been pretty good or better than anticipated at times. And I expect that it would kind of be the same. I think there obviously will be a little bit of a Hollywood twist to a few things. I'm sure you can't expect somebody to tell the most accurate story unless you're going to write a book. You know, every film has a twist, a Hollywood flair to it. I'm sure this will one, too. I was, you know, pretty excited about it. I know that Theresa and our whole organization would have rather done something and been more involved in something down the road. But if that's not the case, then that's not the case. I mean, it doesn't really necessarily take bread off my table. So, you know, I'm pretty excited. I thought Barry was really genuine. I spoke with him at Richmond earlier this year, and he was really genuine and really cared about the situation and the project itself. I think he came across to me that he went in and did the best job he could, and I really admire that. So I'm looking forward. I think it will be good. I think the Earnhardt fans will probably like it.

Q. I wonder if you recall last year's interview session after you won the race at Phoenix, the female fan outside the window there, if that happens a lot to you.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: No. I recall that. Jimmie Johnson tells me, he's like -- he tells me all the time that he sees that kind of stuff in the grandstands. I've been looking really hard over the last year and I haven't seen anything like that since. But, I mean, at times I guess that would be kind of a pleasant occurrence. In Phoenix, it wasn't quite that way. It was kind of disturbing. But I'm glad that most of you all got to see that anyway. Y'all know some of the tougher stuff we have to deal with sometimes. They're not all peaches, right?

Q. A lot of people thought it was kind of big of you to push frustration off, not kick the car, then step in front of the car and say you didn't blame Carl Edwards. A lot of drivers, even if they know the guy, racing hard with him, will be still be mad. You stepped up and said it wasn't Carl. Some fans said the sea of red would hate Carl for that. In a way, though he's not in the chase, do you somewhat respect him for not giving up that position when you were racing toe to toe there?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I would have rather him had give up the position myself. But that's not my decision, that's his decision. And he will -- you know, he will find himself learning a lot over the next couple of years. I've never raced in the Truck Series, but I can assure you that the style of give and take and the style of racing is different in the Winston Cup Series than it is in the Truck Series, and I think a lot of the veterans in the Truck Series that have raced in the Cup Series will tell you that's probably true. Kurt came from the Truck Series, and he raced as hard when he first came here and over time kind of learned patience, I guess. I don't know, I mean, I'm not one to really speak for him. But I thought over time he got more patient with the car. As he started winning more races, he started having just a more laid-back approach to each weekend instead of the rough and tumble of the Truck Series. You know, I figured that Carl would race really hard. I mean, I thought at one point to the corner I had him cleared, and I didn't know how much I had him cleared. I spun Ryan Newman out twice on the backstretch there in the last year and a half, so I knew when it happened I couldn't get out of the car and say a word because I'd been on the other end of that, too. It's kind of a difficult spot because you get up on the bottom there, and the guy's got a lot of momentum coming off the corner, he's going to get back beside you if you can't get in front of him fast enough. And we kind of just came to a meeting there, and it wasn't good for me. You know, I'm not mad at Carl. He had control of his own car, and he did what he wanted to do. It wasn't wrong. It's just what happened. I should have been a little smarter maybe and understood my situation and my opportunity I had all day long. You know, I just chilled out and rode. There were a lot of times throughout that race that I was only running 90% probably because I didn't want to do something stupid, lose control of the car and wreck, after seeing the opportunity I had to gain points on the guys falling out and had trouble. Then I went down in that corner and saw a different opportunity and forgot about the championship for, you know, half a mile, and it kind of cost me. I'm a little disappointed in myself. I could have been smarter. But, you know, I ain't been in this situation a million times, so I learned my lesson and maybe next time I'll do better.

Q. Are you sort of surprised at your own maturity at that stage that it shows how you've grown and you were able to step up there and not let the anger overtake you? A lot of guys don't do that.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, it depends on the guy, I guess, that you're racing with a lot. I mean, I ain't got nothing against Carl. I know he races hard and he can be aggressive. I've seen him be aggressive. But I think he races -- he can be aggressive, but he doesn't do anything intentionally, he just races hard and close sometimes to people. You know, but I admire him for his aggressiveness and his determination. You know, we've talked in the past, and I think we got a good understanding about each other. But there's other guys out there that I don't know if under the same circumstances I would have been the same guy in front of the camera. I don't know. Depends on how you get treated in the garage or outside the race car, depends on how you handle a situation like that, I think. And Carl's been pretty cool.

Q. I know that you took a big hurt this week, even though you admitted it was your fault with what happened with Carl. Being 98 points back, with only three races left to go at Phoenix, Darlington and Homestead, how confident are you about those three races? Are you going to be able to make a chase?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I don't know. You know, I try not to worry about it really. But I'll just go into each one of these races and take it one lap at a time. I know, number one, I mean, if anybody on my team is listening, I think they'll agree that we have to run each lap in practice one at a time, find out what the car's doing and have the best car we can have each day. I mean, for us to win or have an opportunity to win, we can't get a top 10 any more, we can't get a top five, we need to win one or two of these races convincingly. We need to lead a lot of laps, lead in all three of them. We need to be in front. If I can finish in the top 3 in these last three races, I would consider that the best we could have put forth and best effort we could have put forth. So we're going to have to work hard. I can't really focus I guess on where things are and who's where, how many points I need here and there, whatever. I mean, that gets old anyways. I mean, I've been around. Shoot, I watched Daddy deal with championships and I've counted points a million times for him. That just wears you out. It's not much fun. What's fun is getting out there and giving her hell, you know, just going at it. That's what we're going to do.

Q. What is your opinion on the Mountain Dew moving to a night race, how do you feel about that? Are you going to enjoy this a little bit more? I know you like the superspeedways a little bit more.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, you know, I've -- I've got some good finishes at Darlington, but I struggle -- actually I struggle with the track. Self-discipline is a huge thing there. It's kind of tough sometimes. But I think the thing that I'm excited about is that it will be at night, it will be under cooler temperatures. The tire wear situation that you have might be a little bit better for a lot of us. You know, the cars may get a little bit more grip for the racetrack. I tend to run really well at night races, due to that fact, that cooler temperatures, the more grip. When we go to tracks like Darlington and Rockingham that don't have a lot of grip, I always struggle with those places. So I'm pretty excited about the change, you know. I mean, I realize the tradition of the past, but it's six one way, half dozen of another when they have all these races. We just hope we get to them, back home safe, and have a good run.

TRACEY JUDD: Dale, we appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule on the west coast for joining us. We'll let you get back to it. Best of luck to you and the 8 team at Phoenix and throughout the rest of the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: All right, guys. Y'all take it easy. Thanks for having me.

TRACEY JUDD: Joining us now is our 1989 premiere season champion Rusty Wallace, the driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge. Rusty is currently 18th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series points, just 32 points behind Michael Waltrip. In his 20 years of full-time competition in the Cup Series, Rusty has never finished out of the Top 20 and has been in the Top 10 16 times. Rusty has one win this season, that was in Martinsville back in April, and has also collected three top fives and nine Top 10 finishes. He came home 11th on Sunday at Atlanta. Rusty has been a factor at Phoenix, too. In 16 career races at PIR, Rusty has a win that was in 1998. He's got three poles, the last was in 2000, and seven top five and seven Top 10 finishes at the track. He was 33rd in the race last season, but started fifth on the grid. Rusty will also run in the NASCAR Busch Series race on Saturday at Phoenix, his second Busch appearance of the season, and his first runs in the series since 1993. Rusty, thanks a lot for being with us today. We appreciate it.

RUSTY WALLACE: Thank you very much. Won't be able to spend a lot of time, but I wanted to call in and do what I could do.

TRACEY JUDD: We appreciate what you can give us. You're coming off a solid finish at Atlanta, a great track for you throughout your career, and coming to another venue at Phoenix where you've historically done well. Can you talk about this week's Cup and Busch races at Phoenix?

RUSTY WALLACE: Yeah. It should be a big week for us. We feel like we got a really good car for Phoenix, for the Cup race. Phoenix has been a great racetrack for me. I think I've got one of the best qualifying records and finishing records of all competitors out there, which is something I'm pretty proud of. This year, obviously we've had a lot of mechanical failures. We've lost I think it was three transmissions, we've blown four engines, and boy that right there just took me completely out of the Top 10. I haven't been out of the Top 10 in a long time. In the last year or so here, it's been a problem. But, hey, there's not much I can do about it. My goal is to go out there and win everything I can the next three races, try to get another victory, another two, whatever it takes, whatever we can pull out. I took my Busch car out there and tested out there two weeks ago. I feel like we had a good run. By the way, before I get out of here, or lose track of this situation, we got a major announcement on Friday morning at 8:30 at Phoenix. We're going to be announcing our new Busch Grand National driver lineup with our brand new sponsors. We're going to have both cars out there painted up, looking great for photography. I'll have both the new drivers out there ready to go. We tried to do this at 1:00. It wouldn't just work out. 8:30 a.m. is when it's happening. Hope everybody can be there.

TRACEY JUDD: Let's open it up to questions for our former Cup champion, Rusty Wallace.

Q. We got a notice this morning on a penalty at Martinsville. What is your reaction to that? Do you feel like you've settled things with Ryan Newman? Little up in the air at Atlanta.

RUSTY WALLACE: No, we got a long way to go yet. We haven't had time to sit down and work it out. We definitely got a lot of work to do to get all the teams working together. He's seeing red and I'm seeing blue. We're not seeing eye to eye at all on what's going on right now. We got a lot of work to do. But right now there's not enough time to concentrate on it right now. I'm doing my deal; he's doing his deal. And next year we're going to try to get all the cars working together. The $10,000 fine I got was something they had to give me to keep the consistency going. They did it to Robby Gordon and three or four other guys this year. When I bumped into Ryan with a little frustration after the race was over at Martinsville, they had to fine me. I understand. I talked to Darby about it. I'll pay the fine, get on down the road. But, yeah, that's true. It is a fine. No, we don't have the personalities worked out yet. We'll continue to work on that but it won't happen till after the season.

Q. Jimmie Johnson has won three races in a row. Do you feel like he's in the driver's seat in this championship? Of the 12 guys with three consecutive victories, you're the only one that did it three times. How hard was it to do it when you did it? How much harder has it been for Jimmie to do it now?

RUSTY WALLACE: It just happens. When it happens, it happens. It's always about getting the car handling right, having the right pit stops, having the right breaks fall for you. It's happened three times in a row for him. I might have won that race in Martinsville, if I wouldn't have had the problem with my teammate at the very end. I felt like I was in a position to win the thing and it didn't work out. You know, if Mark Martin would have pitted, maybe Jimmie wouldn't have won that thing last weekend. All the moons got to line up. They lined up right for him. You got to hand it to him, he has been in the front the whole time while it was going on.

Q. Is momentum big enough that you feel like he's the one driving the bus in the championship?

RUSTY WALLACE: I wouldn't say that. The cars are all going to handle different at Darlington. Darlington is a real slick, wore-out racetrack that beats the crap out of tires. We're going to feel like we're running the Baha 1000 it's going to take so long. But it's going to be just a tough, tough race. That's going to change the points standings there a little bit. Also then when we go to Phoenix, that's a different style of track completely there. Then when we got to Homestead, it's a completely different style of track. I don't know if Jimmie's, you know, strong enough to hang in all of those, although he did test in Phoenix and looked good. I know he's going to run good in Homestead. To me if he gets himself through Darlington, then he probably is in the driver's seat.

Q. Since you had the announcement in Daytona, have you ever had a second thought about making the announcement to retire next year?

RUSTY WALLACE: No, not at all. I haven't. I mean, in my mind I thought maybe I should go another year because I feel like I'm really on top of my game. I'm running strong, I'm up front every single week. People keep saying, Why are you going to retire? Why are you going to quit? There's so many reasons, I can't list them. I want to grow my car dealership business, I want to watch Steve get up there running. He just won three out of the last four races, my son Steve did. Locked up the Rookie-of-the-Year title. We're putting him in Hooter's Pro Cup Series next year. He's just doing fabulous and he needs some personal attention from me, and I'm going to try to do that. The other thing, there's no way I'm going to be able to fix this Team Penske problem without everybody not getting along unless I get out of the car and oversee it myself. I just need to do it. I can't fix it unless I'm the one that fixes it, it doesn't look to be.

Q. Obviously, you're watching Steve, have a close eye on him, but some of the rookies coming into NEXTEL Cup, do you think some of it has just been the push for the young guns and perhaps they're not as ready to jump in the cars as, say, you were when you got a solid ride, Terry Labonte, Ricky Rudd, any of the veterans now?

RUSTY WALLACE: I don't really know. It's so different now than it was back then. Before you had to do a lot of racing. There were a lot of things. We had no technology back then whatsoever. It was all seat of the pants. It was go the to race track, throw a spring and a shock in the car and drive. The only way you were going to learn anything was the more seat time you got. You just had to keep seat time, seat time, seat time. Now we got a lot of teams testing like crazy, all kind of computers aiding these guys. And these guys can do it at a younger age with not having to do near as much work.

Q. Does this next generation that's sort of coming up fill in the spots that you guys are fixing to vacate, do you think they've got what it takes to lead the sport for another 15, 20 years with all the demands on them that you guys didn't have at the beginning of your careers?

RUSTY WALLACE: They can if they realize how important the sponsors are and how important the media is, because without the media, we're in trouble. Without the sponsors, no money. Without attention towards the team, the sponsors aren't going to win. There's no use doing it. If they say, I just want to drive the car, stay out of my life, don't bother me, they'll fail miserably. They got to do what I think I'm one of the best at, which is work like hell with the sponsors and work like crazy with the media and treat everybody good.

Q. As far as your retirement situation is concerned, how much or more of an ownership role in the Penske team will you take than you have been doing over the years? You have a lot of things going on. You're working with Steve, car dealerships. Will you play a far more active role in the team itself?

RUSTY WALLACE: I will play a major active role in the team - a lot more than I've ever done. I was just at the shop the other day, touring the shop. My office is a nice, big office right dead middle of the whole operation. So I have a large presence there. I plan on being one of the major guys that leads the team into the future.

Q. You've never been one to hold your tongue if you see something you don't like. Are there things that you're looking at that you'd like to make major changes on as you get more involved in that ownership role?

RUSTY WALLACE: Absolutely there is, and I'm not going to go into it right now. But I've got them located, and I think there's definitely a lot of things that I'm going to be able to help with when it comes to the technology sharing, when it comes to general race operations as the race goes on, how the three teams work together, and the morale through the team. There's a lot of things right there that I'm going to be totally hands-on. When it comes to bookkeeping, forget it. When it comes to taking care of the sponsor, I feel like I'm A No. 1 on that. When it comes to keeping the team morale up, I think I'm really good at that. When it comes to keeping the teams working together well, sharing information, pulling in the same direction, I feel like I'm good at that. By God, when I'm done at the end of 2005, I'm going to jump right in there.

Q. 16 races here, 14 winners. Why is it so hard to repeat?

RUSTY WALLACE: It's hard because the track is a slick racetrack, it's flat. Handling is very, very important. Track position is very, very important. It's really hard sometimes to get all those things lined up at one time. So it's definitely a handling racetrack, and something I'm proud of. And those are many, many reasons. That's one of them.

TRACEY JUDD: Rusty, we know you have to run. We appreciate the time you were able to take with us today. So good luck to you and the 2 team at Phoenix in your Cup race and also in your Busch race as well as the rest of the season. We'll see you out there in Phoenix.

RUSTY WALLACE: All right. 10-4, thanks a lot. Remind everybody 8:30 Friday morning, you'll love what you see.

TRACEY JUDD: We'd like to thank you for your participation on the NASCAR NEXTEL teleconference this week. Have a great week, everybody.



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