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NASCAR Winston Cup Series ACDelco 400 Preview: #2, Rusty Wallace

22 October 1997

 #2 Rusty Wallace, Miller Lite Ford Thunderbird
 NASCAR Winston Cup Series
 ACDelco 400 Advance
 North Carolina Motor Speedway

                  "SALVAGING" THE 1997 WINSTON CUP SEASON

ROCKINGHAM, NC - Rusty Wallace and his Miller Lite Team Penske took another 
step closer to the goal of "salvaging" the season with their 10th-place 
finish in the circuit's most recent race, the Oct. 5 DieHard 500 at 
Talladega, Ala.

"That's another one down and just three races to go," said Wallace after the 
Talladega finish helped him climb back into the top 10 in the current Winston 
Cup points standings. "That's two straight top-10 finishes in the restrictor- 
plate races (finished sixth at Daytona in July) and it shows just how far 
we've come in gaining ground in that part of our operation. Again, I can't 
say enough about the great job Mike Ege and his engine guys are doing with 
our restrictor-plate program.

"But, it's a giant step when you look at the big picture, too," said 
Wallace. "I said about six races ago when we were back in 15th in the points 
and really struggling that the best we could hope for was to get some 
consistency going, maybe win us a race and get back up into the top 10 in the 
points before the year is out. We're headed in that direction. We're trying 
to save face...trying to salvage something out of the season. We need to wind 
it down on a positive note and have something to build on for next year."

After his third DNF (did not finish) of the year in the May race at Sonoma, 
Calif., Wallace fell from the top 10 in points. He fell to a low of 17th 
during the 12-race stretch ending at the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis in 
August, due to suffering an additional seven DNFs.

"Our team really started turning the corner right after we hit rock bottom at 
Darlington where we started last and finished last," said crew chief Robin 
Pemberton. "We finished fifth at Richmond, got crashed on the last lap while 
running 10th at Loudon...and then there was the Martinsville fiasco. The big 
thing is that we've been gathering a lot of momentum even though the results 
sheet don't show how competitive that we've really been."

With three points-paying races left for the year, Wallace enters Sunday's 
ACDelco 400 at North Carolina Motor Speedway at the head of a six-man battle 
for the top-10 pride. Only 62 points currently separate 10th-place Wallace 
from 15th-place Ricky Rudd.

"We prefer to not look behind, but instead look ahead," said Wallace. "We can 
still go forward from where we are. We're only 80 points out of ninth. That's 
what we're shooting for.

"The bottom line is that we don't want to finish out the year like we did 
back in '92," said Wallace. "It was embarrassing. It was the worst finish 
points-wise I've had and it wasn't any fun at all, I'll tell you that. We 
went to New York (for the annual NASCAR Awards Banquet) and got completely 
overlooked. We didn't get to take to the stage and thank all the sponsors.  
We wound up having to sit in the 'cheap seats' in the back of the room. It 
was no fun at all. It was pretty embarrassing."

Since winning his first race during the 1986 season and finishing sixth in 
the points standings that year, the 1992 season was the lone year that the 
1989 points champ has finished outside the top 10.

A brief comparison of the '92 season and this year shows that with three 
races remaining in the 1992 season, Wallace was 12th in points (with 3,217). 
He was 44 points behind 10th-place Terry Labonte. After finishing 21st at 
Rockingham, 28th at Phoenix and sixth at Atlanta, Wallace found himself 
ending the year in the 13th spot, 47 points behind 10th-place Sterling 
Marlin. For the 29-race season, he had one win, five top-five finishes, 12 
top-10 finishes, one pole position and five DNFs. During the 29 races already 
completed this year, Wallace has recorded one win, seven top-fives, 11 
top-10s, one pole and an unbelievable 11 DNFs.

Wallace finished eighth in last year's ACDelco 400 at N.C.M.S. He started 
23rd and finished sixth in the Goodwrench 400, held earlier this season 
(2/23/97) on the 1.017 track near Rockingham, N.C. In 27 career starts on the 
track, Wallace's record sports five wins, eight top-five finishes and 13 
top-10s. He has won one pole, coming in the first event of his 1989 
championship season.

Qualifying sessions for Sunday's 400-mile, 393-lap race are set for Friday at 
2:00 p.m. (for positions 1-25) and Saturday at 9:30 a.m. (to complete the 
potential 43-car starting field). Saturday's excitement also includes the 
annual Rockingham Pit Crew Race at 11:00 a.m.

Sunday's 33rd Annual AC-Delco 400 has a scheduled 12:30 p.m. EDT starting 
time and features live flag-to-flag coverage by TNN and MRN Radio.

By Tom Roberts Public Relations