Talk about the ultimate blast from the past! On November 20, 2005, former NASCAR driver Rusty Wallace ran his final race as a full-time NASCAR Cup Series driver, putting a pin in a 25-year career at NASCAR's highest level. Driving the No. 2 Dodge race car for Penske-Jasper Racing, Wallace finished 13th in the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Though, his post-race interview is considerably more memorable than that day's on-track performance.
As you can see in the below clip, Wallace exuded pure class and professionalism, even while the moment was clearly an emotional one for the then 48-year-old Arnold, Missouri native.
"I didn't have any controversy. My fans treated me like a million dollars," Wallace said in the interview. "It was fabulous. I got a lot of cool awards all year long. And, I feel like I went out with style and class, and that's what I wanted to do."
When asked if he felt like he had taught the sport of NASCAR anything, Wallace gave an answer that could only be given from a tried-and-true NASCAR vet.
"I'm real proud of where the sport's came, and I don't want anybody to screw it up," Rusty said. "We work real, real hard to build a fanbase and make this a real popular sport, and so I just want all those drivers, the young and old, to make sure they know that this is a privilege driving these cars. And respect these fans, and respect these sponsors, and respect everybody. That's what I've tried to do."
Rusty had officially announced his retirement at the beginning of the 2005 Nextel Cup Series season, a decision which, according to Wallace, was influenced by the tragic death of Dale Earnhardt Sr. at the 2001 Daytona 500.
"After Earnhardt lost his life three or four years ago, it kind of got to me," Wallace had announced during a news conference at the Daytona International Speedway complex.
Even though he was 48 when he retired, which certainly isn't spring chicken status when it comes to stock car racing, many argue that Wallace's retirement came too soon. That he had plenty more racing left in him. His last win had come in 2004 at Martinsville Speedway, after all.
Judging from his 2005 interview, you might not think that Rusty would harbor a ton of regret about his retirement decision. But, a couple years back during an interview with Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the Dale Jr. Download podcast, Wallace admitted that it took him a long time to come to terms with calling it quits.
Looking Back on Rusty's Impressive Career
Now in his mid-60s, Russell William "Rusty" Wallace Jr. no doubt looks back on his long career with immense pride. Deservedly so, especially when you consider that racing was basically a family business for the Wallaces. You had patriarch Russell Wallace Sr., an accomplished auto racer in his own right, who passed away in Charlotte on October 30, 2011 at the age of 77. Rusty's brothers, Kenny Wallace and Mike Wallace, also raced the NASCAR circuit. Rusty and his wife Patti Wallace had three children together -- Stephen, Greg, and Katie -- and Steve Wallace raced full-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and made his Cup Series debut during the 2011 Daytona 500. As the fourth member of the Wallace family to compete in the Daytona 500 and in NASCAR, Steve helped cement the Wallace name alongside such fourth-generational legacies as the Bodines, the Pettys, the Earnhardts, and the Allisons.
As far as own Rusty Wallace's career trajectory goes, he dominated the short track racing circuit in the '70s, before moving on to the United States Auto Club. After about a year of success racing USAC stock cars, Wallace ran his first race in NASCAR at Atlanta in 1980. In 1983, he won the American Speed Association championship, beating out the likes of Mark Martin, Alan Kulwicki, and Dick Trickle.
From his days with Blue Max Racing in the mid '80s to the twilight of his NASCAR career, Wallace racked up countless accolades. A quick scroll through his Wikipedia page will show just how accomplished Rusty was over the years. He won the NASCAR Rookie of the Year title in '84, and just five years later he was the NASCAR Winston Cup champion. In 1991, Wallace won the IROC championship, and all told, Wallace has 55 Cup race wins, earning him an 11th-place spot on the all-time Cup Series wins list.
Wallace is also an inductee in countless hall of fames, including the the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame, and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.
Following his full-time racing days, Rusty enjoyed a solid career in media, including as an ESPN broadcaster and as the co-host of NASCAR Angels with Shannon Wiseman. He also had a cameo appearance in the classic racing film Days of Thunder. For all his accomplishments as a race car driver, media personality, and a car dealership owner, Rusty Wallace has an estimated net worth of $40 million. A well-deserved chunk of change, to be sure!
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