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NASCAR Winston Cup Series Suzuka Thunder 100 Preview: #2, Rusty Wallace

19 November 1997

 #2 Rusty Wallace, Miller Lite Ford Thunderbird
 NASCAR Winston Cup Series
 NASCAR Thunder Special-Suzuka Advance
 Suzuka Circuitland


SUZUKA CITY, JAPAN - Last year's Suzuka Thunder "100" champion Rusty Wallace
welcomes the opportunity to defend his crown in the Nov. 23 race at Suzuka
Circuitland, but he is quick to point out that it will not be an easy task.

"We're really looking forward to our return to Suzuka and our attempt to make
it two (wins) in-a-row," said Wallace, who drove his Miller Special Ford
Thunderbird from the pole position to an impressive win in last year's
inaugural visit to the Orient by the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit. "The
competition will be even greater this year so we all know that it will be a
tough measure to accomplish.

"The format will be different this year as everything will be done straight
up, so to speak," added Wallace. "That will definitely put the demand on
performance all the way around."

Unlike in last year's Suzuka Thunder "100" when qualifying featured three laps
with a pit stop sandwiched in between, this year's starting field will be
determined by single-lap time trial runs. This year's race will see 100 laps
of all-out racing, instead of the twin-50-lap segments and inversion format
used last year.

"We'll have to be extra-sharp and on top of things from the moment we get
there if we're to take the winner's trophy home again this time around," said
Wallace. "Qualifying will be extremely important this time, especially from
the standpoint of where you start relative to track position from the
beginning of the race. It's so difficult to pass on the track that getting a
good starting spot will almost be a necessity in order to win.  

"Since there is no half-way break, the pit crew better be on top of their
game. A lightning-fast stop could pick up spots and give you the track
position that could be the difference between winning the race or not."

Wallace led on two occasions for 84 of the 100 laps en route to the impressive
win in last year's race. He emerged with a 1.192-second margin of victory over
runner-up Dale Earnhardt.

"That will be a tough act to follow, that's for sure," said Wallace. "But, we 
know that we'll be up for the task. Inasmuch as defending our title is our
ultimate goal during the return trip to Suzuka, we also hope to spread the
exposure of our great sport to even more race fans.  

"Of course our trip last year was highlighted with our success on the race
track, but we also had a very enjoyable and entertaining journey along the
way. The Japanese fans were so enthusiastic about and appreciative of NASCAR
being there that it really impressed all of us. Their hospitality was second 
to none and we're really looking forward to bringing our brand of racing back
to them for the second time around."

The Suzuka schedule of events calls for practice on Friday, Nov. 21, and
qualifying on Saturday, Nov. 22. The 100-lap race starts at 12:30 p.m. local
time in Japan. The timing of the event allows for live coverage by TBS, shown
during "prime time" hours (Sat., Nov. 22 at 10:00 p.m. EST) back in the United

By Tom Roberts Public Relations