Auto Racing Notebook
Kenny Wallace is rocking, and not just because the band Aerosmith is a sponsor on his car this week.
Wallace will start 12th today in the 43-car field for the Checker Auto Parts-Dura Lube 500K at Phoenix International Raceway.
It's the latest in a series of strong late-season showings that have Rusty Wallace's younger brother excited about his racing future.
"I'm excited because finally I feel like I'm back to the days when I first started racing," Wallace said. "This year is like a rebirth.
"I was the man when I first started. I was always running in the top five. The last time I ran in the Busch Series [in 1994], it was 17 top-10s and 15 top-fives."
Wallace, 36, is finishing his first season as part of a two-car team with owner Andy Petree. With Ken Schrader leaving, Joe Nemechek will become his teammate next season.
So far this season, Wallace is a career-best 22nd in the series standings and has three top-fives and five top-10s in 31 starts. That would be less impressive if two of those top-fives hadn't come in the last four races--fifth at Martinsville, Va., and fifth at Talladega, Ala.
"I think our chances are good to be competitive here Sunday," he said. "I'm out there practicing to win the race with all the confidence in the world and no doubt in my mind."
As for the addition of Aerosmith to the hood of the car, joining full-time sponsor Square D on the team's Chevrolet, Wallace said: "What kid in his right mind wouldn't want to be a race car driver with America's greatest rock-and-roll band on his race car out in the Valley of the Sun. It just rocks."
Two members of the band, guitarist Brad Whitford and bassist Tom Hamilton, were at the track yesterday, and plan to watch the 500-kilometer race from the pits today.
With 44 entries for a 43-car field, only three drivers made qualifying attempts yesterday in the final round of time trials on the one-mile Phoenix oval.
Mike Wallace, the middle brother of the racing Wallaces, Derrike Cope and Stacy Compton tried and failed to make the race on speed, with Wallace the odd man out.
The drivers who qualified on Friday in positions 26 to 36 remained there, with Ward Burton, Kevin Lepage, Chad Little, Elliott Sadler, Michael Waltrip, Compton and Cope added as provisional starters, based on team-owner points.
Little, who drives for Jack Roush's five-car team, continues to lead the series in provisional starts this season. Little now has used points to make it into the field for 14 of 32 events. Lepage, another Roush driver, is third with 10 provisionals. Johnny Benson--yet another Roush driver--has used 11 provisionals this season, but made this lineup on speed and will start 19th.
Time Running Out
Ricky Rudd, a former Phoenix winner, still needs a victory in the last three races to extend his string of seasons with at least one win to 17.
Rudd, who will fold his own team at the end of this season and join Dale Jarrett as a teammate at Robert Yates Racing in 2000, said: "It's important to the guys on our team to keep the record going. But all you can do is your best. We've been trying to win every race all year.
"But, I like the Phoenix track, and we've got a real good car here. I think we can be a factor in the race."
Upcoming event: Dura-Lube 500, Phoenix, Today
1. Dale Jarrett: 4,772
2. Bobby Labonte: 4,526
3. Mark Martin: 4,438
4. Jeff Gordon: 4,298
5. Tony Stewart: 4,286
6. Jeff Burton: 4,243
7. Dale Earnhardt: 4,082
8. Rusty Wallace: 3,837
9. Ward Burton: 3,682
10. Mike Skinner: 3,603
1. Jeff Gordon: $5,072,956
2. Jeff Burton: $4,886,666
3. Dale Jarrett: $3,331,089
4. Bobby Labonte: $3,055,916
5. Dale Earnhardt: $2,534,739
6. Mark Martin: $2,466,046
7. Terry Labonte: $2,157,521
8. Tony Stewart: $2,112,661
9. Mike Skinner: $2,031,681
10. Rusty Wallace: $2,011,004
-- Through Pop Secret
Popcorn 400, Oct. 24
Busch Grand National
Upcoming event: Miami 300, Homestead, Fla., Saturday
1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: 4,292
2. Matt Kenseth: 4,136
3. Jeff Green: 4,082
4. Todd Bodine: 3,819
5. Elton Sawyer: 3,649
6. Jeff Purvis: 3,446
7. Jason Keller: 3,409
8. Dave Blaney: 3,361
9. Mike McLaughlin: 3,260
10. Randy LaJoie: 3,191
-- Through Memphis 250,