Rusty Wallace has strong run in No. 2 car
January 10, 2014, Holly Cain, NASCAR.com
NASCAR Hall of Fame spends some time behind the wheel at Preseason Thunder
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Rusty Wallace conceded that by the time he was scheduled to climb out of the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford late Friday afternoon, he was reluctant, but ready.
"It was damn hot in that thing," Wallace said, sporting the same huge grin that’s been on his face for two days of Preseason Thunder testing at Daytona International Speedway.
Wallace spent about three hours in his former ride – the first Sprint Cup laps he’s turned since retiring in 2005 -- and shared testing duties Friday with the car’s current driver Brad Keselowski. And it didn’t take long to show some of the same form he showcased in a 25-year career that landed him in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
"Right off on the very first lap I was up to speed," Wallace said. "What really felt good was they were making a lot of changes and I was feeling all the changes.
"I was giving them feedback and I felt like, man, I’m really adding to this program, which was nice."
Wallace’s qualifying lap run at the end of his stint was at the time fourth fastest lap of the afternoon.
"I had a little bit of butterflies and felt a little strange walking around in a uniform instead of street clothes," Wallace said. "and then got in car and started sweating and running fast and I thought, 'oh yeah, I got my mojo back, this is what I remember.'"
Keselowski, who encouraged Wallace and Team Penske to make the day happen, climbed inside the Ford to help Wallace get his seat set-up. And he offered the 1989 Cup champ only a single word of advice, "Go" as he helped push the car out of the garage toward the track.
"It is really cool to me," Keselowski said. "Rusty is probably the reason why Miller Lite and Penske stayed together and got to the point where I have this opportunity.
"I like to think that I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for guys like Rusty and what he has done for the 2-team. It is our way of showing respect back."
Wallace had such a productive day in the car, he said he’d even be open to additional opportunities to test. He is fully approved with all the updated medical clearances and new NASCAR license.
"I don’t know why I couldn’t [test again]," Wallace said. "I’d need a lot more reps and seat time to go to places like Charlotte and Vegas and hold it wide open like a daredevil. These places I wouldn’t be opposed to."
Then he added with that wide smile, "Or Martinsville or Bristol."