LONG POND, Pa. -- With 10 victories and a close second-place finish in the Winston Cup point race last season, Rusty Wallace had one of those years people insist can't be duplicated.
However, Wallace isn't one of those doubters.
He has finished in the top five in five of his past six Winston Cup races, including a win at last week's Budweiser 500 at Dover, Del. And he cruised to a track-record qualifying speed of 164.558 mph to seize the pole for today's UAW-GM Teamwork 500 at Pocono International Raceway.
With three wins and three second-place finishes, Wallace has shown he has no intention of backing down from the challenge of repeating last season's heroics, or going one step further -- winning the Winston Cup title.
"That car had 10 wins last year," said Wallace, who switched from Pontiacs to Fords this year. "We're going to be a contender. This car is a better car to work with."
Wallace's qualifying speed shattered the track record of 162.934 mph set by Ken Schrader last July. Wallace and six other drivers broke the record in qualifying. Three weeks ago, Wallace was in seventh place in the Winston Cup point standings, but after a fifth-place finish at Sonoma, a second-place at Charlotte and the Dover win, Wallace shot up to third place in the standings, 329 points behind leader Ernie Irvan and 166 behind Dale Earnhardt.
"I'm behind, but I'm on a roll right now," Wallace said. "Last year I was about the same amount behind, and I was able to run [points leader Earnhardt] down, but I came up short in the end."
Today, Wallace will be competing on one of his favorite tracks. He has one victory, six top-five finishes, eight top-10 finishes and has won $360,492 at Pocono.
"This racetrack has been real good for me," Wallace said. "I really like Pocono. The track kind of suits my style of race."
His one win here was the rain-shortened Miller Genuine Draft 500 1991. So yesterday's cloudy skies and steady drizzle were more good omens for Wallace.
But despite the success he has had at Pocono, Wallace remembers vividly the Champion Spark Plug 500 here last June, when he was forced out after four laps with a blown motor. That, he said, was the low point of last season.
But Wallace bounced back and finished second to Earnhardt a month later in the second Pocono race, the Miller Genuine Draft 500.
"I think I'm probably driving a lot smarter now," Wallace said.
Yesterday, rain forced the cancellation of the second-round qualifying, and NASCAR officials filled the back half of the field from the results of the opening round of time trials on Friday. Yesterday's Pocono ARCA 150 and T.G.I.Friday's Coca-Cola Sportsman 150 were postponed and rescheduled for July 14.
1. Rusty Wallace, Ford Thunderbird, 164.558 mph, track qualifying record; previous record 162.934, Ken Schrader, July 1993. 2. Ricky Rudd, Ford Thunderbird, 164.102. 3. Mark Martin, Ford Thunderbird, 163.800. 4. Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet Lumina, 163.529. 5. Ken Schrader, Chevrolet Lumina, 163.330. 6. Brett Bodine, Ford Thunderbird, 163.126. 7. Ernie Irvan, Ford Thunderbird, 162.981. 8. Dick Trickle, Chevrolet Lumina, 162.760. Ted Musgrave, Ford Thunderbird, 162.514. 10. Michael Waltrip, Pontiac Grand Prix, 162.505.
11. Joe Nemechek, Chevrolet Lumina, 162.426.
12. Darrell Waltrip, Chevrolet Lumina, 162.355. 13. Wally Dallenbach Jr., Pontiac Grand Prix, 162.174. 14. Kyle Petty, Pontiac Grand Prix, 162.077. 15. Terry Labonte, Chevrolet Lumina, 162.051. 16. Bill Elliott, Ford Thunderbird, 162.051. 17. Jimmy Hensley, Ford Thunderbird, 162.040. 18. Sterling Marlin, Chevrolet Lumina, 161.888. 19. Dale Earnhardt, Chevrolet Lumina, 161.667. 20. Greg Sacks, Ford Thunderbird, 161.632. 21. John Andretti, Chevrolet Lumina, 161.447.
22. Dale Jarrett, Chevrolet Lumina, 161.224. 23. Hut Stricklin, Ford Thunderbird, 161.204. 24. Harry Gant, Chevrolet Lumina, 161.143. 25. Ward Burton, Chevrolet Lumina, 161.123. 26. Morgan Shepherd, Ford Thunderbird, 161.120. 27. Bobby Labonte, Pontiac Grand Prix, 161.013. 28. Todd Bodine, Ford Thunderbird, 160.548. 29. Jimmy Spencer, Ford Thunderbird, 160.476. 30. Geoff Bodine, Ford Thunderbird, 160.322. 31. Loy Allen Jr., Ford Thunderbird, 160.234. 32. Bobby Hamilton, Pontiac Grand Prix, 159.898.
33. Lake Speed, Ford Thunderbird, 159.736. 34. Dave Marcis, Chevrolet Lumina, 159.665. 35. Jeff Burton, Ford Thunderbird, 159.637. 36. Derrike Cope, Ford Thunderbird, 159.637. 37. Steve Grissom, Chevrolet Lumina, 159.512. 38. Mike Wallace, Ford Thunderbird, 159.103. 39. Rick Mast, Ford Thunderbird, 158.792. Rich Bickle, Ford Thunderbird, 157.997. 41. Chuck Bown, Ford Thunderbird, no speed, provisional starter. 42. Bob Keselowski, Ford Thunderbird, no speed, provisional starter.
What: UAW-GM 500
Where: Pocono International Raceway, Long Pond, Pa.
When: Today, noon
TV/Radio: TNN/WXCY (103.7 FM)
Pole sitter: Rusty Wallace, track-record 164.558 mph
Defending champion: Kyle Petty
` Field: 42 starters