Rusty Unresticted At Talladega

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TALLADEGA, Ala. - Rusty Wallace gave a new meaning to the term "high speed communication" on Wednesday afternoon when he piloted his Miller Lite Dodge at speeds up to 228 mph at Talladega Superspeedway.

"We hit 228 (mph) at the end of the straightaway and averaged 221 (mph) for that overall lap segment," an excited Wallace said late Wednesday as he prepared to head back home to North Carolina. "It was a helluva deal that I certainly will remember for the rest of my life. We'd all been wondering what it would feel like to run at Talladega again without the (restrictor-) plates and now I know. I'll bet we could be running speeds up to 235 (mph) without the plates if we spent time doing some tweaking.

"But I'll tell you this -- there's no way we could be out there racing at those speeds," Wallace offered. "It was neat to be out there running that fast by myself, but it would be insane to think we could have a pack of cars out there doing that."

Wallace's high-speed opportunity came at the request of NASCAR officials on behalf of series sponsor Nextel and Racing Radios, the Hampton, Ga.,-based company that serves as the "Official 2-Way Radio provider" for all three of the major NASCAR racing series.

"I've enjoyed a long-standing relationship with Racing Radios and I jumped at the opportunity to assist them with their 'Communication of the Future' program for NASCAR," Wallace said. "We were invited to bring our Miller Lite Dodge superspeedway car down for the test to assure quality audio at high rates of speed. The NASCAR, Nextel and Racing Radios officials were all extremely pleased at the end of the day, so I'd say that we did a good job for them."

Wallace's speed far exceeded the official track qualifying record of 212.809 mph (44.998 seconds), set by Bill Elliott on April 30, 1987.

"I guess it was about as official as you could get as we were operating under the watchful eyes of NASCAR," chuckled crew chief Larry Carter, who flew to Talladega with Wallace after testing at Sonoma, Calif., on Tuesday. "John Darby (NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Director) and Buster Auton (long-time series official who has served as the pace car driver since 1997) were in charge, along with officials from Racing Radios and Nextel. So, there were plenty of witnesses on hand.

"They were timing lap segments and straightaway speeds and Rusty's fastest lap had him running an average 221 mph in that segment and 228 mph at the end of the straightaway," Carter offered. "The overall lap time was a 44.27 (-second, 216.309 mph) and that beat Elliottt's old record by more than seven-tenths (of a second). It was some sight to see, I'll tell you that."

"It was one of the most exciting experiences I've had in a long time," said Earl Barban, spotter for Wallace's team who was on the other end of the communications link with Wallace during his fast laps around the Talladega track. "One of the things that impressed me most was the sound of the engine screaming down the straightaways and into the turns. It's totally different than what we're accustomed to hearing with the (restrictor-) plate motors. As for the actual audio test, Rusty was out there barreling into the corner at 228 (mph) and I could here him crystal clear. So, I'd say that it was a successful test for our friends at Racing Radios."

Wallace and his Miller Lite Dodge team head to Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania this weekend for Sunday's running of the Pocono 500 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series race.

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