Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Taking Stock Pioneer Race at Indy Special for Wallace

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Taking Stock Pioneer Race at Indy Special for Wallace

Article excerpt

When Rusty Wallace gets to a race track, he slaps on his game face and zeros in on the target.

Sometimes it's Dale Earnhardt and sometimes it's Ernie Irvan and sometimes it's even young Jeff Gordon, who outfoxed Wallace's team in winning the World 600 at Charlotte on May 29.

This weekend, the Wallace target is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

How important is the Brickyard 400, the first stock-car race ever held at the famed 2 1/2-mile oval?

"We've never been to the first Masters. We've never been to the first Super Bowl," car owner Roger Penske said. "But to go to the first Indy for stock cars . . . It's going to be unique for everybody that goes, even if you don't do well. But more important, if you can do well in that race it's going to set you up for the long term because of the credibility it gives you as a team and a driver."

Wallace, the native St. Louisan who is one of the top drivers on the Winston Cup circuit, has to be considered one of the favorites for Saturday's Brickyard 400, which will start at 12:15 p.m., St. Louis time, and be televised by ABC-TV.

The 1989 Winston Cup champion and a two-time runner-up, Wallace has been the hottest driver in NASCAR the last two years. He won the most races (10) last year and has won the most thus far this season.

Rusty has been in Victory Circle five times in 1994 and, at one point, he had won three consecutive races. The one race that probably makes him the hands-down favorite for Indy was his victory on June 19 at Michigan in the Miller Genuine Draft 400.

That's the race in which "Captain" made its successful debut.

Wallace likes to name his race cars, all Ford Thunderbirds this season. One is called "Midnight." Another is dubbed "Midnight Rider." After winning at Michigan International Speedway, which is owned by Penske, Wallace named the new car "Captain."

Wallace is the driver for the Penske South racing team. Penske was the car owner who gave Rusty his first big break in a race car back in the early 1980s. Wallace likes the guy - a lot. I'm Your Captain

Penske's nickname in racing circles is "Captain."

In the only start of the year for "Captain," Wallace led three times for 83 of the 200 laps at Michigan and took the checkered flag.

Wallace then took all of his race cars to Indianapolis for testing. "We tested there after the Michigan race (June 21-23) with four cars and 10 engines and we are confident that we're bringing what it'll take to get the job done during the Brickyard 400," Wallace said. "We decided `Captain' was our best weapon for this race."

Wallace and the boys aren't shooting from the hip in matching the race car to the race track, either. Buddy Parrott, veteran crew chief, and Ronnie Hopkins, who designs the chassis for the team, work closely with the driver in making these decisions. It's the Penske style.

Penske has won 10 Indianapolis 500s as a car owner, including May's race with Al Unser Jr. as his driver.

Unser said last week he had no particular advice for Wallace except to keep the pedal pushed down. …

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