The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

NASCAR Winston Cup Series Hanes 500 Preview: #2, Rusty Wallace

24 September 1997

 #2 Rusty Wallace, Miller Lite Ford Thunderbird
 NASCAR Winston Cup Series
 Hanes 500 Advance
 Martinsville Speedway


MARTINSVILLE, VA - The 0.526-mile Martinsville Speedway is notorious
for its demand on brakes. Rusty Wallace, featured driver for a brand
of brake pads in television commercials, enters Sunday's Hanes 500
with the other kind of "breaks" in mind.

"I guess what happened to us in the last couple of short-track races
is pretty indicative of how the year has gone so far," said Wallace,
driver of the Miller Lite Team Penske Ford Thunderbird. "We just
haven't been getting any breaks, that's for sure. The luck has been
running against us. At Bristol, we got up to third and then had loose
lugs bite us with only 40 laps to go. Then at Richmond a couple of
weeks ago, we got spun out right at the beginning of the race and had
to use up the race car getting back up to fifth.

"We were just a tick off on the setup in the spring Martinsville race
and ran fifth in that race, too," said Wallace, who was going for his
fifth consecutive Martinsville spring race win in the April 20 Goody's
500. "We just need the breaks to fall our way...everything click for
us for once...and we'll be back in Victory Lane."

While many drivers' days in Martinsville races have ended behind the
wall due to brake failures, Wallace has never officially left any of
his 27 career Martinsville races for that reason.

"We learned a long time ago the importance of brakes on the short
tracks, and especially at Martinsville," said Wallace. "The track's
configuration, with what amounts to two drag strips for the
straightaways and two concrete turn-arounds for the turns, is pure
heck on the brakes. Anybody listening in on our frequency will hear
Robin (crew chief Robin Pemberton) continuously telling me to conserve
the brakes. I'll ask him to do that before every Martinsville
race. It's as much a part of our strategy as anything else.  Bottom
line is that you lose your lose the race. It's as simple
as that.

"Brakes haven't been a problem for us at Martinsville, but through the
years we've had our share of blown motors," said Wallace, who departed
last year's Hanes 500 after only 148 laps due to engine-related
problems (water pump).  "Again, it's the track's configuration that
puts such a strain on things.  We're turning such a high rpm band at
Martinsville that it's pushing these engines to the 'max.'

"Our deal at Martinsville through the years seems to be that we're
winning or at least running in the top five if the engine gremlins
don't jump out and get us," said Wallace of his Robin Pemberton-led

Wallace's assessment couldn't be any more accurate. Since his Penske
Racing South Team was formed for the 1991 season, Wallace has recorded
five wins, nine top-five finishes and 10 top-10s in 13 races. The
other three races were DNFs for Wallace as he fell victim to two blown
engines and one transmission failure.

Wallace's overall Martinsville career record sports six wins, 14
top-five finishes and 16 top-10s in the 27 starts. His second career
Winston Cup win came on the track in the September 1986 race.

This weekend's racing action will be the last time Wallace, Pemberton,
and crew roll out their "PR-16" race car, the racer named "Ronnie" in
honor of late chassis builder Ronnie Hopkins. (Note the car's race
history below.)

"The car has been a flat-track work horse for us, that's for sure,"
said Pemberton. "It's going to be unusual to say the least planning
our strategy for Martinsville next spring and not including the '16'
car in those plans.  he new Ford Taurus body just simply will not fit
this chassis, so we'll have to bring something new back to
Martinsville during the 1998 season. I really don't know what we'll do
with the car after this weekend's race...probably either put it in the
museum or use it as a show car somehow."

Qualifying sessions for Sunday's 500-lap, 263-mile race are set for
Friday at 3:00 p.m. (for positions 1 through 25) and Saturday (to
complete the potential 43-car starting field).

The 42nd Annual Hanes 500 has a 12:30 p.m. EDT starting time on Sunday
and features live flag-to-flag coverage by ESPN and MRN Radio.

                  HISTORY OF THE PR-16 RACE CAR ("RONNIE")

The PR-16 was built originally with the intentions of racing it at
Indy in 1994. It was not used there. The car was reworked for a
Phoenix tire test in 1994, but not raced there. The car was not used
in actual Winston Cup competition until Rusty raced it in the spring
race at North Wilkesboro during the 1995 season. Here is the car's
race record:

  4/9/95   N. Wilkesboro/400 laps   11      4              2/56
  4/23/95  Martinsville/500 laps    15      1#             3/175*
  7/9/95   New Hampshire/300 laps   20      6              1/1
  9/9/95   Richmond/400 laps         7      1              4/254*
  9/24/95  Martinsville/500 laps     6      3              3/53
  10/1/95  N. Wilkesboro/400 laps   18      2              0/0
  3/3/96   Richmond/400 laps        14      7              2/26
  4/14/96  N. Wilkesboro/400 laps   12     33@             3/119
  4/23/96  Martinsville/500 laps     5      1              4/164
  9/22/96  Martinsville/500 laps     2     36%             1/35
  9/29/96  N. Wilkesboro/400 laps    9     10              3/43
  4/20/97  Martinsville/500         15      5              0/0

  Totals: 12 races, 3 wins, 7 top-5 finishes, 10 top-10 finishes

 # In Penske tradition, car was named after its first win. Rusty named the car
   "Ronnie" in the Victory Lane ceremony in honor of chassis builder Ronnie 
   Hopkins. Hopkins had succumbed to cancer on the Friday before the race.

 * Car led most laps in these races.

 @ Crashed while leading race with 30 laps remaining. Car was repaired
   enough to re-enter race. New "clips" put on after this race.

 % Broken water pump caused car's first and only DNF.

By Tom Roberts Public Relations