October 8, 2001
Mike Wallace Notes, Quotes: Old Dominion 500
Carrying momentum to Martinsville
Fresh from a front-of-the-pack debut in his new car, Mike Wallace and the Mobil 1 Taurus team head
to the .526-mile Martinsville (Va.) Speedway this week for Sunday's Old Dominion 500.
Wallace crawled behind the wheel of the Mobil 1 Taurus for the first time last week at Charlotte,
N.C., and immediately showed what he could do. With the help of good calls in the pits from crew
chief Peter Sospenzo, lightning-fast pit stops from the Mobil 1 crew and Wallace's ability to work the
race track, he moved from his 39th-place starting position to the top 10 quickly, and ran a good bit of
the day among the top five. Only a broken front pulley on the engine was able to stop the team.
Wallace, a native of St. Louis, Mo., is one of stock car racing's most versatile drivers. He is one of the
few who has found success in three NASCAR divisions, and began building a new legacy in NASCAR
Winston Cup when he joined forces with Penske Racing and the Mobil 1 Taurus team last week.
The thoughts of Mobil 1 Taurus driver Mike Wallace heading into Martinsville:
"Charlotte was a great
start for us. We had a good car. Peter made good calls in the pits. The guys did an incredible job with
the pit stops. And we were able to show what we could do. Things didn't end quite the way we had
hoped they would but you're going to have stuff like that from time to time in this sport.
"All we can do is what we did - work hard to get to the front and work hard to stay there. I think we
all showed what we are capable of doing.
"The way the schedule is there isn't much time to celebrate how well we did run or worry about what
happened at the end. Right now we have to forget Charlotte, the good parts and the bad part, and start
thinking about Martinsville. There isn't a whole lot of time in this sport to do much of anything except
move forward. Anybody who isn't moving forward is moving backwards.
"I like Martinsville. It's a unique race track because it's got characteristics that other race tracks don't.
There are two lanes of concrete in the corners only, it's got a curb on the inside and it's a race track
where you have to have a lot of motor to pull you up off the corner but a lot of brake to slow you back
down at the other end. At the same time, the car has got to roll good through the center of the corner.
"In some ways, Martinsville is like driving on the streets - curbs, lanes, different track surfaces. The only
difference is you're going over 100 miles per hour and then slowing down to 65 or so through the turns.
Then again, that does sound a little bit like downtown Charlotte at times.
"Martinsville is a good driver's race track. Handling or forward bite is the key there. You have to be able
to drive up off the corner but it's got to roll through the center. It's a real easy track to over-drive. If you
do a good job and don't over-drive it, you'll run good.
"You sit there knowing you have that transition from asphalt on the straightaways to concrete in the
corners but it's not like you go from one grip level to another. Originally the concrete was put there
because the asphalt was tearing up and they were trying to eliminate that. It's just unique the way
it's done because it's just in the corners. You know it's there, you just have to be cautious about it.
"There's plenty of traffic but it's not the worst deal in the world. Forty-three cars are okay on a half-mile
track. The trouble comes when 21 of them are trying to win the race on the first lap or during the first part
of the race. "Everything happens so fast at tracks like Martinsville and Bristol. You can race but you don't
have to run into people. Until our car got tore up at Bristol in the spring, for example, I didn't even have a
ding in the nose. You've got a brake pedal in the car and you need to keep from running into the guy in front
of you. Other guys don't mind driving that thing in there, hitting you in the quarter panel, loosening that thing
up and driving right by you because that's the only way they can get by you.
"Nobody likes getting run into. That's a part of life. First of all, you try to get your car good enough so you
don't have to get run into and you can drive out in front. If somebody does run into you and roots you out
of the way, you hope you can get back to them and root them right out of the way. It's kind of touchy. 'You
hit me, I'm gonna hit you. You hit me again, I'm gonna hit you twice as hard as you're gonna hit me.' Then
it ends up in a big wreck and it doesn't do anything any good but that's the way it always ends up being
"We have to take all of that into account and we want to give this Mobil 1 Taurus the best run we can this
week. We're coming off a little bit of momentum at Charlotte and we want to keep that going."