Rusty Wallace was all smiles on Wednesday as he got behind the wheel of his Steve Leavitt built Ford Fusion at the famous Milwaukee Mile oval. Wallace is coming out of retirement to compete in the Howie Lettow Memorial 150 ASA Midwest Tour event on June 12 at 7pm.
Wallace, who was recently elected to the 2013 NASCAR Hall of Fame class, decided to do this race for one reason. “I would never, ever come out of retirement unless it was for Howie,” Wallace said as he talked about the famous short track crew chief that passed away after a battle with cancer in August, 2010. “He was a fantastic crew chief for Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin, Alan Kulwicki and others. He was a great friend of mine.”
Another factor in the decision was where the event was going to take place. “I would never do this unless it was at this track,” Wallace said about the Milwaukee Mile. “I have won here five times. It has been a wonderful track for me. Miller Brewing Company is from here, one of my main sponsors when I raced in Cup. I would do it here or at Iowa Speedway, the track I designed, but I don’t think I would do this anywhere else.”
When the Howie Lettow Memorial 150 was announced, it was Stephen Wallace who encouraged his father to get back behind the wheel. “There is really no reason for me to do this, but I like the place and my son was on me big time to do this,” Wallace recalled. “I said OK, let’s build a good car, get our act together, let’s go there and try to win this race. If we were going to take that approach, I would go for it. That is what we did.”
Wallace will drive his famous #66 sponsored by Jimmy Johns subs and Guiffre Brothers Cranes. “This racetrack knows me very well with the #66,” Wallace said. “All it knows is 66 with me driving it.”
He was all business on Wednesday during the daylong test session. Stephen Wallace took the car our early to shake it down and help find a good setup for his dad. It wasn’t soon after that Rusty put on his driving suit and was taking laps himself. During the press conference he talked about some of the changes he noticed in the track like the rumble strips in the turns, but overall it still felt like the Milwaukee Mile he remembers.
He also talked about the support he is getting from his colleagues at ESPN to others in the racing community. “Many thought that I was silly in coming back. When I told them that I am coming back to my roots, they liked it,” Wallace said.
Those roots include his career in ASA Racing. Wallace is the 1983 ASA Champion and won an ASA event at the Milwaukee Mile in 1985.
Wallace is also intrigued with the ASA Midwest Tour. “I’m real interested in the ASA Midwest Tour, especially with the way their cars look now,” Wallace explained. “ASA has gone through many different looks. I really like the way the cars look now, along with the engines in them and the whole deal. Racing has given me a little pep in my steps.”
Wallace will be competing with the best that the ASA Midwest Tour has to offer along with current NASCAR stars Matt Kenseth, Aric Almirola, David Ragan, and David Stremme. There will also be second generation stars like Ross Kenseth, Chase Elliott and John Hunter Nemechek.
Wallace is looking forward to competing against this star-studded field mixed with NASCAR and ASA Midwest Tour stars. He also realizes what he could expect with an event like this on June 12. “I’m going to run hard and I am going to have guys that I never heard of or haven’t raced with that I know are really good and want to win real bad,” Wallace said. “We have to keep our eye on them because they are going to be aggressive. I know Matt Kenseth’s style along with the other NASCAR drivers. Those guys know about give and take, the others I don’t know but I will be aware of that.”
The one thing constantly heard throughout the day from Hall of Famer, he is coming to win and not take second.
“Everyone at ASA Racing is looking forward to having Rusty Wallace compete again in one of our sanctioned events,” Dennis Huth, ASA President said. “Rusty has become a great ambassador for auto racing and we are excited that he has chosen to compete in this ASA Midwest Tour event that honors one of the more successful crew chiefs in ASA Racing history.”
Tickets are available now at asarace.com. Qualifying is scheduled for 1pm with preliminary races at 4pm. The feature events will start at 7pm. The ASA Midwest Truck Tour and Big 8 Series will also be competing on June 12 in support of the Howie Lettow Memorial 150.
ASA Racing PR