Urge to race could keep Wallace semi-active

Updated: October 9, 2005, 11:44 PM ET
Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Rusty Wallace made his 700th start in NASCAR's top series on Sunday at Kansas Speedway, and hinted that he might not stop at No. 706 at the end of the season.

Wallace has maintained all year that his decision to retire after the season is final. But at a fan forum before the Banquet 400, he appeared to hedge a bit.

"I did say 'full-time,'" he said. "I don't want to box myself out."

The real tests of his resolve, Wallace said, will come after the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 20, and when the 2006 season opens at Daytona in February.

"I'm hoping I'm content after Homestead and get through the Daytona 500," he said. "But if I just can't stand it, then I'm maybe going to pop in for a couple."

As a retirement present, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius presented Wallace with a set of golf clubs at the drivers' meeting before Sunday's race.

"You guys are probably getting sick of seeing me get all this stuff," Wallace told his fellow drivers. "But I'm enjoying it, even if you aren't."

Wallace, who struggled in qualifying and started 33rd, finished 7th -- earning a $5,400 bonus for the improving the most positions in the race -- but still dropped one spot, to fourth, in the Chase for the Nextel Cup championship.

"It was a good run, a real good run," he said.

Showing up father
Rusty Wallace's son Stephen will make his Busch Series debut Oct. 22 at Memphis Motorsports Park, in the No. 64 Dodge usually driven by Jamie McMurray.

Stephen turned 18 in August, but when the two Wallaces tested at the 5/8-mile track last week in preparation for the Sam's Town 250, the youngster came out ahead.

"He ran really, really good," Rusty Wallace said Sunday. "I was driving my guts out, and he was right there with me. When it was all said and done at the end of the day, I blocked off and did a qualifying run, and I run a 23.12 [seconds].

"I put Stephen in the car, and he runs a 22.99. He said, 'I beat you,' and I said, 'I'm glad. That's good. I'd rather have you beat me than any of the rest of these characters.'"

The goal for next year, Rusty Wallace said, is to land Stephen a full-time ride in the Craftsman Truck Series and have him run 12 Busch races.

"I think by the end of the year, he'd have a lot of knowledge," the elder Wallace said. "He'd be up on the wheel and ready to go then."

Vermeil on wheels
Kansas City Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil, who knows a thing or two about unretiring, said he once considered a life behind the wheel.

"I've always followed it," Vermeil said at an appearance Sunday at the speedway. "At one time, I thought I was going to be a driver, not a football coach."

Vermeil, whose team had a bye Sunday, certainly has gearhead genes. His father, Jean Louis Vermeil, was a dirt-track owner and sprint car driver in California and is in the National Sprint Car Museum and Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Iowa.

His brother, Stan, also drove sprint cars, and the two plan to restore their father's cars when they retire and have the time to do it.

Vermeil has retired and unretired twice from coaching in the NFL. When he hangs his headset up for good, he has no plans to follow Joe Gibbs, Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman down the road from the NFL to racing team ownership.

"I think it's time for me, when I quit coaching, to slow down -- really slow down," he said. "When you get into this stuff, there's the constant search for sponsorships and qualified help and you have to put a team together that's as sophisticated as any NFL organization -- and you have to have a lot of money to do it."

He said it
"I don't feel like we had a sweep, because we didn't have all five drivers in the top five." -- Team owner Jack Roush, who had four drivers finish in the top five Sunday.

Spark plugs
Ryan Newman, who held onto second place in the Chase despite his 23rd-place finish, was only involved in the first crash of Sunday's race because he had been sent back to the rear of starting grid for replacing his transmission linkage after qualifying. Newman had qualified 11th Saturday. … The National Stock Car Racing Commission will hear the appeal of Todd Berrier, Kevin Harvick's Nextel Cup crew chief, on Oct. 19. Berrier was hit with a two-race suspension, placed on probation through the end of the year and fined $10,000 for several violations found on Harvick's car last week at Talladega. Berrier, who is allowed to remain with the team pending the outcome of the appeal, was running Harvick's pit on Sunday and will be on the box again next week in Charlotte. … Roush said Craftsman Truck Series driver Todd Kluever will drive a full Busch Series schedule next year and will take over the No. 6 Ford now driven by Mark Martin in 2007. Jamie McMurray, who is under contract to Chip Ganassi Racing through next season, will move into Kurt Busch's No. 97 Roush Ford in 2007, when Busch joins Penske Racing South.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press