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

8 October 1997

 #2 Rusty Wallace, Miller Lite Ford Thunderbird
 NASCAR Winston Cup Series
 DieHard 500 Advance
 Talladega Superspeedway

                   "NO MORE KNIVES AT THE GUNFIGHT"

TALLADEGA, AL - As strange as it may sound, Rusty Wallace and his Miller Lite
Team Penske are actually looking forward to this weekend's return to NASCAR
Winston Cup series "restrictor-plate racing" in Sunday's DieHard 500 at
Talladega Superspeedway.

"I know it's hard for a lot of people to believe when they hear it coming out
of my mouth, but we're really looking forward to the Talladega race," said
Wallace. "When you look at the way that our season has gone and analyze all
the pluses and negatives, it's our restrictor-plate program that without a
doubt is the high point of the year."

Wallace, long known for his struggling with the races held on the circuit's
biggest tracks at Daytona and Talladega, has experienced an amazing turnaround
in recent races held there.

"We've qualified extremely well in those (restrictor-plate) races and been
among the top competitors since we've 'beefed up' our program," said Wallace.
"I know that the results sheet for this year doesn't offer the statistics to
back me up, but we've made a ton of progress. After disappointments in the
first Daytona and Talladega races, we bounced back to finish sixth at Daytona
in July (his best career Daytona finish). We think we can be a factor in 
winning the thing at Talladega this weekend.

"We broke a connecting rod in the Daytona 500 and that took us out. What 
happened there is that we decided to use the same motor in the 500 that we
used in our Thursday qualifying race (in which he finished sixth). We carried
it all the way back to our shop. We made mistakes in re-freshening it and that
bit us in the race (in which he finished 41st).

"At Talladega in the spring, we had another great qualifying effort and
started fourth. We were able to run with anybody. We'd get hung out (of the
draft) and then were able to motor right back up to the front. These plate 
motors are just super-sensitive and we just killed ours near the end of the
race by running it out of fuel (finished 37th, finishing 180 of the 188 laps
in the May 10 Winston 500).

The "beefing up" that Wallace refers to within his operation is centered
around results from hard work put in by his Mike Ege-led engine room in
enhancing their restrictor-plate motor program.

"I always said that we can be competitive anywhere that we race, provided that
we're on the same playing field equipment-wise," said Wallace. "Mike Ege and
his guys have been successful in finding us the horsepower that we need to get
the job done. To be successful in this kind of racing, you've gotta' have a
real slick race car and all the horsepower possible. We finally have all of
that going for us and it's showing up in our competitiveness.

"Until recently...until Mike and the engine room really got our act together
with the restricted was like we were coming to the gunfight with a
pocketknife. Most of the teams were killing us with horsepower. We'd always
qualify way back in the pack and get caught up in stuff. The horsepower is so
critical in these races that just a minor gain can produce major results."

As to what progress the team has made since finishing sixth at Daytona on July
5, Wallace just smiled and offered, "Mike (Ege) tells me that they've found
some more horsepower. They 'dynoed' our Talladega qualifying and race motors
and came out with the biggest numbers yet. We may have a bazooka to fire at 
'em this time around."

If not...maybe at least a shotgun...and that's a far cry from bringing the
pocketknife to the gunfight.

After failing to finish any higher than 20th at Talladega since the May race
of 1993, Wallace returned to the top-10 finishing order in last year's DieHard
500. Although he started back in the 32nd spot, he drove to a 10th-place

In 28 career starts on the 2.66-mile Talladega track, Wallace is still
looking for his first win and initial pole position. His record sports
one top-five finish and eight top-10 finish.

Qualifying sessions for Sunday's race are set for Friday at 3:00 p.m. local
time (for positions 1-25) and Saturday at 10:45 a.m. (to complete the
potential 43-car starting field).

Sunday's DieHard 500 has a scheduled 12:15 p.m. CDT starting time and
features live coverage by CBS-TV and MRN Radio.

RUSTY TIDBITS: How costly was the controversial Martinsville "jumping the
start" penalty for Rusty?  Finishing 15th and leading the most laps, he earned
118 points. Had he won the race, the difference in points earned (67) would
mean that he would currently be 10th in points with 3,170...only 22 points
behind 9th-place Ted Musgrave. A second-place finish would have seen Rusty
(with 3,165) in 10th...27 points out of ninth and 33 points on 11th. Even a
fifth-place Martinsville finish would have had him in 10th spot, 47 points out
of ninth. COSTLY DEAL!!! 

Only five of the top-10 drivers in points have earned more bonus points (for
leading laps/most laps) than Rusty. Only Gordon (130), Jarrett (125), Martin
(110), J. Burton (85) and Elliott (60) have more than Rusty's 55. Rusty has 
led 7.7% of all possible laps (659 of 8584) for the season. CAN YOU BELIEVE
that Rusty has one more DNF than he does top-10 finishes this season (10
top-10s to 11 DNFs). It's incredible that he is nearing the top 10 in points.

By Tom Roberts Public Relations