- Rusty Wallace, NASCAR
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How can Jimmie Johnson win seven times at Lowe's Motor Speedway?
It's pretty simple. He has a really great setup. The track has been repaved and the new tire Goodyear brought in is really hard and his luck could change.
That said, his setup is very good for that track. There was a crash, but he stayed out of it. He had a fast car, and you have to hand it to the team.
People always used to ask me, "Rusty, why are you so good at Bristol, with nine victories?" And I used to tell them it's because I knew what I needed at that track. I think that's the same with Johnson at Charlotte.
Mark Martin got caught up in a crash, and after the race said he would come back to race there in 2007. I hope Mark doesn't do that. He's a good guy and he has his own agenda, but I know when you get out of something for a long time and you come back for one event, generally you look pretty bad.
You've got to be in the game to be successful. I think to come back one time or even a few times, that's going to be tough. I wish he wouldn't do that.
I love Mark Martin and I'm one of his biggest fans, but he needs to make his mind up.
Back on the track, though, Johnson wasn't the only thing fast at the All-Star Challenge. Tempers were quick, too.
Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth got mixed up on the track, and they're pointing fingers at each other.
What happened is Stewart drove up underneath Kenseth, he drove down into Turn 3 and the car got loose.
The rear end kicked out on the car a little bit, and the next thing that happens when the rear kicks out is the front end comes over. And Kenseth was packed so tight into Stewart that Stewart lost all his downforce and the nose went up.
In my eyes, it was a total racing accident and no one is at fault. I don't think that situation would have happened in the Coca-Cola 600, but in a race like this where it's only money on the line -- no points -- you try to get every spot you can as quickly as you can.
If everybody would have just said "Hey, it's a just a normal racing accident" and quit throwing barbs at each other, it would be no big deal.
But it made Tony mad when he heard the interview on TV with Kenseth. Kenseth got mad when he heard the interview with Tony, and really, it seems as though Tony is just telling Kenseth to shut up about the whole thing.
But it's what might have led to that accident -- hard tires and new pavement -- that has some bearing on this Sunday's race.
The track is in perfect condition: very, very smooth. It's practically perfect.
But after you come off Turn 2, the track gets really flat there, and with the new pavement, it will be tricky. So you have to know the characteristics of that racetrack.
We've been racing in Concord it seems like forever, but when a track falls off that fast coming out of a corner like that, you have to have grip -- whether it's downforce, tires, whatever. But when you have a tire as hard as the ones being used there now, and you mechanically or aerodynamically can't get enough grip, you're in trouble.
And that's the problem right now. The drivers will have to be doubly careful because you can't get up under somebody coming out of Turn 2 without getting loose, and the drivers will have to realize that. The All-Star race is over, this one's for the points, so I expect the drivers will be more careful.
They know the cards they're dealt now; they know what they have to do to finish the race.
New surfaces have always been really hard on tires, and that's why these hard Goodyears were brought in. But the fuel cells are smaller, too, in hopes the tires wouldn't take such a beating and blow out. Well, it looks as though the tires are going to run forever but the smaller fuel cells will bring them into the pits more often anyway. It will put pit stops at a premium.
That will make a long race seem even longer. But it's not a real grueling race now because it's run at night. Back when it was run during the day, it was draining because it was so hot. Running at night lessens the fatigue.
But that extra hundred miles is tough. I think I had that race won three or four times if it was a 500-miler -- only to lose an engine or get taken out in that last hundred miles. Everything in NASCAR is predicated on running 500 miles, so asking that engine to make it an extra hundred miles is asking a lot.
It seems as though the Silly Season is already running at full bore. Is Toyota's entry into the fray next year driving this? If not, what is?
Toyota is really trying to find a great team, a high-quality team. The Toyota folks want to add quality, young, winning drivers. Right now, they are trying to do all they can and get the best quality they can. They're throwing big money around, and everybody's freaking out. That's what's driving this.
Former Cup champion Rusty Wallace will provide coverage for ESPN and ABC during this year's IndyCar Series and selected Nextel Cup races. You can check out all things Rusty at his constantly updated and upgraded Web site at rustywallace.com
10dBob Pockrass and John Oreovicz