The 700 Club

KANSAS CITY - Kansas isn't exactly a home race for Rusty Wallace, but it's close enough.

The Missouri native comes into Sunday's Banquet 400 at Kansas Speedway with a great deal of confidence, and a milestone to accomplish.

It will be Wallace's 700th career NEXTEL Cup start and the retiring veteran is happy that the historic start will take place near his Midwestern roots.

"Having the 700th start at Kansas City makes it even more special," Wallace said. "The fact that my career started just down the road in Missouri and this being my final race there in the Midwest where it all began, I'm really pumped up about this weekend. Kansas is at the top of the list of my favorite new tracks and I'm really eager to get back there."

Although he hasn't made it to Kansas Speedway's victory lane yet, Wallace has been impressive in the first four races held at the track, including the inaugural Banquet 400 in 2001.

Wallace led the most laps in that first race and was leading with less than 40 laps remaining. A pit road speeding penalty dropped him from the lead to the 17th spot for a restartwith 32 laps remaining. He mounted a charge that got him back up to fourth before the laps ran out.

"Now that first Kansas race was definitely one of the big wins that got away," Wallace recalled. "To have led the thing all day like that and have the field covered, then get slapped with a stop-and-go (penalty) for speeding -- it was a hard pill to swallow, that's for sure."

After taking a hit in the "Chase for the NEXTEL Cup" championship race last weekend at Talladega, Wallace is looking to rebound in Kansas.

"It may sound crazy, but I really think that is a big reason why we do so well at Kansas is because we really, really love racing there," Wallace said. "Maybe the fact that it's right there in the heart of the Midwest - a place that was starving for a first-class facility like that - maybe that's a big part of it. But it's not just the location; it's the layout of the track that I really love, too."

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