Every now and then I get a chance to do something pretty cool, and this episode has immediately shot to the top of the pile. In this episode I was given the opportunity to interview NASCAR great Rusty Wallace, who most of us know for his racing skills and his numerous wins, but it turns out he is also a muscle car fanatic as well. In addition, he was the designer of the race track of the Iowa Speedway, a NASCAR facility just 50 miles down to the road from me!
During our discussion we talked about how he got his start in racing, gained success, and I specifically asked the template he’d follow by getting into the sport today. I asked him many questions about his career that I wanted to know about, including which tracks were/are his favorite, and whether he feels he retired to early. His answer to the retirement question truly surprised me as he shared regretting leaving the sport when he did and felt he had a few more years left in him to run, but the chance to be a broadcaster was available to him then and he didn’t feel it would come again if he passed on it. Who knew – even the greats struggle with big decisions!
From the racing side of the equation, his advice for a young driver to get started in racing is the NASCAR Stock car class, moving on the the K&N Series, and then climbing up the the NASCAR Camping World (Truck) and Nationwide Series. (Just FYI – the annual budget for a competitive K&N car is $600K-$1M, roughly $6M for Nationwide, and about $25M for Sprint Cup.) With all of that said….the business model for racing is just like that of building custom cars – it’s upside down!
Rusty shared that he had to first make a name for himself by traveling to as many tracks as he could – on his own dime – and winning – still on his own dime – before sponsors would truly sign on with him. He specifically mentioned that salesmanship – specifically selling to sponsors – is something you must be able to do. Racing isn’t just driving a car and having a ball (darnit), and is big business.
Rusty was in town to promote the Nationwide race occurring at the Iowa Speedway, the 7/8 mile oval track he personally laid out the 3-tiered banking progressions and turns for. It was built roughly 10 years ago, and was most recently acquired by NASCAR (a fairly rare and unheard of thing). It’s also known as “The Fastest Short Track on the Planet!”
To conclude the interview we discussed a couple of fun cars he owns. His 1978 Corvette was highlighted heavily on the 2013 Hot Rod Power Tour and was built by RK Motors. The Chevy engine under the hood was built by the famed Yates Engine shop….a place traditionally known for building Ford stuff only!
Rusty’s latest build is a 1966 El Camino and it was featured on Fox Sports 2 and built by West Coast Customs. This car is almost completely new from the ground up with a Roadster Shop chassis, custom interior, and Baer brakes all around. The engine is a fuel injected 383 crate motor by Edelbrock with 480 horsepower that Rusty says runs “smooth as silk”. You can see pictures of it on Twitter
Thanks for the great interview Rusty!
Chevelle Update: Close but No Cigar
For those of you that were following our Facebook progress of bringing the Chevelle home….you now know that we got close to getting the car running, but not quite close enough. Jeff Allison and I were able to complete all of the mechanical items that we didn’t get done prior to SEMA (brake safety wire, fuel plumbing, clutch bleed, etc.), but we hit more snags along the way that really set us back.
My old buddy Aaron Tjaden drove all the way from Iowa to help me bring the Chevelle home (I’ve had his trailer since last August, by the way), but it was all for not. By the time we had all of the wiring in the car to try to fire it up, we hit some confusing problems that we weren’t able to solve in time for our departure. We did a quick interview just before leaving….and we all sounded pathetically sad and exhausted. 🙂
The new deadline is my birthday, June 24. Fingers are crossed!
This interview sponsored by our pals at National Parts Depot – your premier source for muscle car restoration parts!