Russell William Wallace, better known as Rusty, was born on August 14, 1956 to Russ and Judy Wallace. Rusty is married to his wife Patti, and they have three children of their own- Greg, Katie, and Stephen.
The Career Of Rusty Wallace
Rusty grew up watching his father, Russ, become a championship racer in the Missouri area, and the rest of the Midwest region. His father’s success further inspired Rusty to ambitiously pursue a professional racing career of his own.
In 1973, at age sixteen, Rusty’s stock car career began at the Lakehill Speedway in Missouri. He would go on to claim the 1973 Central Racing Association Rookie of the Year award.
By winning over 200 feature stock car events over the next five years, Rusty’s career advanced in 1979 when he joined the USAC (United States Auto Club) Stock Car division. Rusty was the series rookie of the year in 1979.
His distinguishable success in USAC and ASA (American Speed Association) in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s incited interest from NASCAR team owners. In fact, Roger Penske permitted the young Rusty Wallace to drive his #16 Chevrolet at Atlanta Motor Speedway, where he would stagger the NASCAR world with a second place finish. Rusty would drive a second race for Penske at Charlotte Motor Speedway where he finished a respectable fourteenth position.
Despite his impressive results, the early 1980’s era was a time when NASCAR owners were more engrossed with drivers of more experience and higher credentials instead of youth and potential. Rusty would compete in a handful of NASCAR races from 1980 to 1983 before finally hitting the circuit full-time in 1984 for car owner Cliff Stewart. Rusty would win the NASCAR Rookie of the Year that same season.
After two winless seasons with Cliff Stewart, Rusty moved on to Blue Max Racing, owned by Raymond Beadle, in 1986. On April 6th of 1986, Rusty would win his first NASCAR event at the Bristol Motor Speedway in his 72nd career start. Though at the time, Rusty was on top of the world and rightfully so, his status as one of NASCAR’s prominent drivers was a short drive into the future. Rusty won his second career race later that fall at Martinsville Speedway.
In 1987, Rusty remained with Blue Max Racing, but his once familiar blue and silver paint scheme sponsored by Alugard was replaced with the white and green colors with new sponsor Kodiak.
In 1988, Rusty tallied six victories and finished runner-up to rival Bill Elliott in the final NASCAR Winston Cup standings by only a mere twenty-four points.
Rusty carried his impetus from 1988 right into 1989. He hit the ground running as he won three of the first six races. He would score three more wins in 1989 and capture his first Championship at NASCAR’s premier height of competition by edging out his on-track archenemy Dale Earnhardt by a marginal twelve points.
Rusty’s most notorious moment of his career occurred in the 1989 Winston All-Star race. Rusty was battling hard with three-time champion Darrell Waltrip when contact was inflicted, which inevitably ended Waltrip’s day. Needless to say, Waltrip, nor the thousands of fans in attendance, were chagrined by Rusty’s aggressiveness. For the next several years, Rusty was introduced to the crowd amidst a roar of boos.
In 1991, Rusty left his home at Blue Max Racing, and amalgamated with Roger Penske and Don Miller and became the driver of the #2 Miller Genuine Draft Pontiac. After winning 10 races in the 1993 Winston Cup season, and finishing second to Dale Earnhardt in the championship race, Penske Racing would switch from the General Motors Pontiac brand, and field Ford Thunderbirds.
The change in car manufacturer failed to impose a negative impact on Rusty and his team as they were able to post eight more wins in 1994, and finish third the final Winston Cup standings behind Dale Earnhardt and Mark Martin.
In 1997, Rusty and the Penske Racing South group would abandon the recognizable black and gold Miller Genuine Draft colors and move on with the blue and white Miller Lite colors.
In 2004, at Martinsville, after 105 consecutive races without a win, which dated back to May of 2001, Rusty would interrupt the agonizing winless streak with a poignant victory as he held off fellow Cup champion Bobby Labonte. The win was perhaps the most celebrated win of his career, with the omission to his first in 1986.
In the mid-season of 2004, Rusty announced that the 2005 Nextel Cup campaign would be his final season in NASCAR Nextel Cup. Though Rusty was unable to post a win in his final season, he did qualify for the NASCAR Nextel Cup Chase For the Championship and finish the season in eighth position in the standings.
Now that Rusty’s driving days have concluded, he continues to remain an assiduous man. Not only does he own a Busch Series operation, and help guide his youngest son Stephen in his pursuit of NASCAR prominence, but he is a commentator or ABC/ESPN, as well as an analyst for the Indy Racing League. He also owns several car dealerships in the Southeast. He frequently pilots his Lear jet as well as his helicopter.
Throughout Rusty’s memorable career, his brash driving style, and competitive nature produced exciting rivalries with drivers such as Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt, Bill Elliott, Jeff Gordon, and even his own teammate Ryan Newman.
Unfortunately, a couple of dark clouds hang over Rusty’s career. He was never able to win the Daytona 500, NASCAR’s most exalted race. Though he was close on several occasions, many will remember Rusty as the best driver never to win the Great American Race.
Also, Rusty has earned the reputation as a driver who doesn’t work well with teammates. He often feuded with Jeremy Mayfield while they were teammates from 1998 to 2001, and recently he and Ryan Newman were unable to coexist.
Despite it all, Rusty Wallace is a NASCAR champion, and truly one of the greatest this sport has ever seen.
1989 NASCAR Winston Cup Champion
1984 NASCAR Rookie of the Year
1989 Winner of the Winston All-Star event
1998 Winner of the Budweiser Shootout in Daytona
55 Career Victories (8th all-time, 6th in the NASCAR Modern Era)
202 Top five finishes
349 Top ten finishes
Winner of the NMPA Driver of the Year in 1988 and 1993
36 Career Pole Positions
706 Career starts
697 consecutive starts
Rusty Wallace won at least on race from 1986 to 2001
1991 IROC Champion