Rustys Recipe For Success
June 13, 2003 | 12:20 A.M. EST
No, this is not one of Wallace's latest endorsement deals coming from the Minnesota-based conglomerate. Instead, it is Wallace's "Cliff Notes" version of what it takes to get the job done on the wide, fast and demanding Irish Hills area oval race track. He hopes that his team can utilize the recipe to win Sunday's Sirius Satellite 400 and break his winless streak that now is up to 76 races.
"Motor, machine (handling) and mileage, that about sums it up," said Wallace, a five-time winner at MIS. "Those are the vital ingredients to winning races at Michigan and we've used 'em all at one time or another through the years to come home the winner there.
"Through the years, we've definitely had some really strong hot rods under us at Michigan and the guys in the engine room have given me some flat out stump-pulling engines, that's for sure," Wallace recalled. "I remember the win we had with the car we called Mad Max there a few seasons back (in the August 2000 race). "We were out there at one stretch running laps almost three tenths (of a second) faster than the closest other car and most of that was because we could pull everybody else a good 10 car lengths down the straightaways. You pick up that much per lap on a guy and it's pretty easy to see how you can build up a straightaway lead like we did in that race."
Among Wallace's wins is the only victory he can recall during his illustrious career that was due to his car getting superb fuel mileage.
"That first race of 1998 will always stick out in my mind as being a special win because we won it on fuel mileage," Wallace said. "What's really so unique is that through the years we've lost a ton of races because some other team would get a little bit better mileage. Well, this was the one time that we actually came home the winners that day due to getting the best fuel mileage."
"We weren't 10 laps into the race when Rusty had already commented about the engine being down on power," recalled crew chief Bill Wilburn, who was serving as front tire changer for Wallace during that race. "I remember that we were down on power, but we were able to take advantage of the situation. Robin (Pemberton) was calling the shots from the pits back then and we planned our strategy long before the halfway mark and it all worked out in our favor. We had it nailed right to the lap in making the pit stops work out and we came home the winner with the gas tank almost bone dry. They asked Robin after the race how much fuel we had left and he told them that he wouldn't be afraid to drink all that was left in there."
The Michigan speedway has been the site of several "firsts" during Wallace's 20-year career in stock car racing's most elite tour. He claimed his first career Winston Cup pole in qualifying for the June 1987 race at MIS. His win in the June 1988 event marked his first oval track superspeedway victory.
Wallace's career record at MIS sports five wins, 15 top-five finishes and 20 top-10 finishes in 38 races. His first career Winston Cup pole also rates as his lone top qualifying spot earned at the Michigan track.
Wallace started 25th and finished seventh in last year's Sirius Satellite 400.
"My car was just a little on the tight side all day long," Wallace recalled. " We kept on adjusting it with air pressures and all, but it was tight over there at the end. We stopped on the next-to-last stop -- the one under green -- and took on right side tires. When a bunch of them pitted there before the restart, I called for lefts. That kind of balanced us out and helped the handling and probably got us a few spots further up at the finish."
Friday's 3:05 p.m. single round of two-lap qualifying will establish the 43-car starting field for Sunday's race. Saturday's final "happy hour" practice session is scheduled for 11:15 a.m. till 12:00 noon. Sunday's Sirius Satellite 400 features live broadcasts by Fox-TV and MRN radio beginning at 12:30 p.m. EDT.