Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Wallace Talks Math, Broadcasting and More

Daytona International Speedway hosted more than 100 local middle school students last Friday. And some of them might just grow up to be future faces in the NASCAR garage.

The kids were on hand to participate in the "Bank of America Students at the Speedway" program which was part of the NASCAR Day celebration. And none other than NASCAR champ and ESPN broadcaster Rusty Wallace was on hand to lead the students in a racing-themed math game and talk to them about the importance of certain subjects.

"My message to these kids was to let them know that science, technology, engineering and math is very very important to NASCAR," Wallace said. "If you don’t understand math in the new NASCAR, you’re probably not going to be successful."

The sport's current focus on mathematics and engineering is a stark contrast to the way things were when Wallace was wheeling a car in the 1980s and 90s.

"Nowadays, you know the simulations that we do, all the calculations, everything is about numbers and when I was driving, it was more seat of the pants," Wallace explained. "I would drive the car, I would tell them what it’s doing and how to fix it."

Simple as that.

But all things change with time. And NASCAR is no different.  In fact, the cars themselves are in a constant state of evolution.  And Wallace took some time to discuss the latest thing to hit the NASCAR garage - the Nationwide COT. He also answered a few of our questions about topics ranging from his broadcast duties on ESPN to the NASCAR Hall of Fame and his championship picks for 2010:

What do you think the NASCAR Hall of Fame means and will mean to the sport

"This Hall of Fame is monumental. It’s gorgeous. It’s huge. It’s something that really matches how big and beautiful our sport is. And it covers every aspect of the sport from the beginning of NASCAR to where it is currently. When you walk in the brand new Hall of Fame you see everything about the whole entire sport in front of you. In fact, people tell me it’s one of the most beauitful buildings they’ve ever seen in their life that the Hall of Fame is in. It’s first class."

Is it tough to balance your broadcast duties with owning a NASCAR team? And how do you stay "fair and balanced" in the booth when reporting on your own race team and your son Steven's performance on the track?

"It’s really easy to stay fair and balanced. I know going in that my main duty is to talk about what’s going on at the race track and to call what I see. If something’s going wrong, I gotta talk about what I see. If Steven (his son and Nationwide driver Steven Wallace) or any of my team guys is up there really running great, hey they get mentioned. But generally I’m not the one up there tooting my own kid’s horn saying, 'Hey look at my son,' or 'Look at my other car.' That’s usually Andy Petree or else Marty Reid or else Alan Bestwick or else Brad Daugherty - all the people that I work with. Now I chime in, and I talk, but I understand how I have to be balanced. I gotta be, I have to call what I see. I don’t have to hide anything and I don’t hide anything, but I also have to be conscious that people are waiting to see if I patronize any of my guys in a special way. And everybody I’ve talked to says, 'No, you do a good job, you’re fair, you’re balanced.' The day somebody says I’m not, then I’ll listen to ‘em and if I gotta re-adjust I will. But right now I haven’t had any complaints about that. And it is tough sometimes watching your own son out there drive and if he does really good you’re wanting the guys to say something good and if he does something wrong you gotta say 'Well, he made a mistake,' and you gotta call him out and that’s just the way it is. But I feel comfortable about that."

What do you think of the new Nationwide COT? Any predictions on how the new car will handle at Daytona in July?

"We did a test in Daytona last week, the very first offical test for the new Nationwide car. All in all, they ran pretty fast around the race track. The drivers will all tell you they were all slippin’ and slidin’ They were looser than they thought they would be, but by the time the second day started, they got the cars handling a lot better. The first day was tough. It was a two-day test. The second day everything got much, much better and I think now that the test sessions are over, they’re gonna go back and be much better prepared for the July race in Daytona and I think the car will handle better. I don’t think it will handle as good as the old car, but I don’t think it’s meant to. It’s gonna slip and slide a little bit, but I think it’s gonna make for a good race. One of the things we really did notice though, they really fly up in the draft. If you get behind another car, your car will just accelerate up to the back of that other car much quicker than the old car because these cars are much bigger. They make a bigger hole through the air. They call it making the air dirtier. It moves the air all over the place and it makes the cars draft better."

Who's your pick to win the Cup championship this year? Any sleepers fans should have their eyes on?

"I really think that one of the guys that’s got a great shot to win his very first championship ever, and is probably gonna be my pick to win it, has gotta be Denny Hamlin. The guy's been real strong. He’s won races this year. He's probably as strong if not stronger than most. But believe it or not, if I’ve got to pick a sleeper, I’m gonna pick two guys. It’s gonna be either Kurt Busch - he’s been fast in that Miller Lite car. He won the all-star race in Charlotte just this past weekend and he looked really good. And also Jeff Gordon. He’s been knocking out the top fives. He looks good. Lot of people are saying 'What about Jimmie Johnson?' " Well Johnson’s just been slow getting going, so we gotta kinda watch more from him. When these cars took the rear wing off the back and put the rear spoiler on, it seemed like Jimmie’s been struggling with that a little bit so we'll see what’s gonna happen there."

Photo info: Rusty Wallace interacts with middle school students during the "Bank of America Students at the Speedway Program" last Friday at Daytona International Speedway.

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