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Archive for Thursday, September 29, 2005

Divided they stand

Neither Chase nor their lackluster records at Talladega will change the frosty relationship between Wallace, Newman

September 29, 2005

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Funny, isn't it, how nobody seems worried about teammates Rusty Wallace and Ryan Newman "ganging up" on anybody in the Chase for the Nextel Cup.

With five Roush Racing-owned Fords in the Chase, there has been much discussion about the potential impact that "team orders" might have.

But Wallace and Newman are teammates, too. Both drive for Penske Racing South, and both are solidly in contention for this year's championship.

Going into Sunday's UAW-Ford 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, Wallace is in second, just seven points behind leader Jimmie Johnson, and Newman is just five points behind Wallace.

The reason nobody's talking about Wallace and Newman combining their efforts in some way, of course, is that they've been openly feuding since a bumping incident between their two Dodges nearly a year ago at Martinsville Speedway.

"It's pretty much the same," Wallace said of his relationship with Newman. "We talk occasionally now. It is what it is. I'm tired of beating myself up over it. So I'm just doing my deal. I'm driving as hard as I can.

"I don't have anything against (Newman's) team except they just don't do things the same way I do it. I'm afraid it's going to be that way, because when I retire, then he can move on to the new partner. Maybe those two can get along. But right now I think it's a lost cause for me."

With this being Wallace's last full-time season in Nextel Cup, he's not spending a lot of time worrying about mending fences. He's trying to go out with a second career championship on his resume.

Newman, who'll have 2004 champion Kurt Busch as a teammate no later than 2007 and perhaps as soon as next year, got the Chase off to a grand start this year with a victory at New Hampshire. He added a fifth-place finish at Dover and goes into the weekend at Talladega trailing the points leader by the same number of points that he has on his car - 12.

Wallace finished sixth at New Hampshire and third at Dover, continuing his remarkable streak of consistency this year. Although Wallace has yet to win a race, he's finished outside the top 15 only twice in the 19 races since the season's first visit to Talladega.

"In 1993, I won 10 races but winning all those races didn't win me a championship," Wallace said. "Dale Earnhardt still beat me by 60 points or something (80, actually). So I've done all that where I've won all the races and that still hasn't earned me the title.

"This championship race is always built on consistency. You've got to finish the race and get as much points as you can to get it done. Now, would it sound better to be real consistent and have a win? Yeah it would, and that's what I'm trying to do. I'd love to have a win just to make it sound better. Do you have to do that? No, you don't have to do that.

"I'd like to win the last one. I'd like to go out a winner and a champion, too. It would be a great thing."

Wallace has never won at Talladega or at Daytona, the two tracks where carburetor restrictor plates are used. Neither has Newman, and between them Newman's fourth-place finish in the fall race in 2003 is the best career Talladega finish.

Newman made the Chase last year, but after getting wrecked at New Hampshire and winning at Dover, he finished 16th at Talladega and 33rd at Kansas, and he fell out of title contention. He's looking for a different pattern this year.

"There's no one thing that's happened to our team," said Newman, who like last year made it into the Chase by being in 10th place after the 26th race at Richmond. "We had some personnel changes back five or six weeks ago. We took the same racecar to Loudon as we did the previous race. So, there's no one thing other than a lot of effort and just pure performance to make the car go faster and us look better.

"There's nothing that stands out in my mind that says, 'Man, this is why we're running good.' It's not like we've found some trick right-front spring or something. There's nothing that stands out.

"We just try to keep the car going faster and faster each run. Yeah, it has been sort of a turnaround. But I don't think that you can consider one or two races at the right time of the season a turnaround. But, we've got a good start on a series of 10 races, and hopefully we can do that for all of them."

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