Winston veterans, and their cars, all bent out of shape Young drivers are in over heads: Wallace

June 13, 1993|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

Rusty Wallace has been run into, run over and sideswiped His cars have been airborne, rolled, crushed and turned into something that looks like an accordion.

"I feel like I'm driving around out there in a magnetized race car," Wallace said. "It's like other cars are drawn to me. They hit my rear quarter panel, my rear bumper, my front quarter panel. They hit me right where the car door ought to be. They just haven't been able to miss me."

In fact, Wallace believes there are a lot of drivers out there who can't seem to miss anyone. And he's not alone in his observations.

Last Sunday at Dover Downs International Speedway, cries of outrage could be heard all around the oval as 22 cars in the 38-car field wound up in wrecks.

"There are about 10 drivers out there who are real good, reliable and know what they're doing," Wallace said. "The rest are still learning."

Among those apparently still learning is Greg Sacks, who eliminated Bill Elliott from contention.

"Dang Greg Sacks," said a red-faced Elliott. "What else can you say? He came right down on me. There was absolutely no place for me to go. I never had a chance."

There weren't enough words in the dictionary for what Darrell Waltrip wanted to say about rookie Jeff Gordon. Waltrip had seen Gordon wreck Harry Gant early in the day, and when he and Gordon came together in the late going, Waltrip was convinced Gordon was at fault.

"I didn't know Harry's car was still under me," Gordon said. "No one said [on the team's radio] he was still outside me. I figured he was gone. When I came off turn two, I just drove right into him. I wrecked myself and Gant. I had no idea he was outside me.

"But with Waltrip, you just look at the film, I was as low as I could go. He just misjudged it. He drove his left rear into my right front. I wasn't trying to race him, I was moving over all day for guys."

Waltrip looked askance. "How do you drive your left rear into the right front of the guy behind you?" he asked.

Wallace was reluctant to name names. But he said most of the good drivers are obvious and listed Dale Earnhardt, Gant, Waltrip, Davey Allison, Mark Martin, Ricky Rudd and himself as among the sport's best.

"Some of the rest are driving over their heads," he said. "More this year than ever before. I looked at that finish at Dover, and I can't believe 22 cars were wrecked on a day when the track was good and the tires were the best we've ever had. Trust me, there are no excuses for that.

"It's just that the sport has gotten so much more popular and brought more money and major sponsorships in. Drivers are overextending themselves to impress their sponsors, to keep a job and to keep a lifestyle. I can almost hear their thoughts: 'If I lose the ride, what am I going to do?' "

Wallace's biggest concern is what those drivers are going to do today on the tricky 2.5-mile tri-oval at Pocono International Raceway in the Champion Spark Plug 500.

It's a worry because Wallace has his sights set on his second Winston Cup championship and the driving skills -- or lack of them -- of his competitors are getting in his way.

He is second in points, 209 behind Earnhardt. But he has led more laps, 1,300 to Earnhardt's 977, won more races, four to Earnhardt's three, and is tied for pole positions with Earnhardt and Ken Schrader with two each.

"Dale's the best driver out there, and he's inspired," said Wallace. "He's got this thing in the back of his head that he wants to beat Richard Petty's seven championships. I know he does, he's told me so. He's got five, and after that, what's next except winning another and another.

"But I've got one championship and I want another one and to beat Dale is to beat the best. And I've got part of his inspiration. Dale and I both ran badly last year and that's tough on winners."

But what irks Wallace this season is that he wouldn't be 209 points behind if some other guys would stop smashing into his race car.

"We've done more than anybody," Wallace said. "The trouble isn't with our team, it's with the circumstances."

Last Sunday, Wallace seemed positioned to challenge Earnhardt for victory at Dover, but with 76 miles to go, Mark Martin weaseled his Ford under Wallace's car between the third and fourth turns.

"Mark said when he jammed the gas, the rear end slid out and that's why he got up into me and crashed me into the wall," Wallace said. "Those things happen. But this year, they're happening more and more. I hope someone feels sorry for me [today] and gives me a break."

A FEW GOOD DRIVERS

1989 Winston Cup champion Rusty Wallace says there are only a few good drivers on the circuit and the rest are "still learning." Including himself, here is Wallace's seven best:

Davey Allison ... ... ... ... Mark Martin

Dale Earnhardt .. ... ... ... Ricky Rudd

Harry Gant ... .. ... ... ... Wallace

Darrell Waltrip

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