By Tommy Keeler Jr. - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- Rusty Wallace has done it all on the track. He's raced in 706 races in over 25 years, including 55 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins. He's been the Winston Cup Series champion and raced against some of the best drivers to ever get inside a race car. However, watching his son, Steve, is every bit as thrilling and exciting for him.
"It's a real nail-biter watching Steven run," Wallace said at the Apple Blossom Festival celebrity press conference on Friday.
Wallace said his son has taken a lot of heat over the years, with people thinking he has it made because his father is Rusty Wallace.
"People think he gets everything given to him, which is far from the truth," Wallace said. "I love watching him run. I'm his dad, man. He takes a lot of grenades in the bunker, but I know the truth. I know how hard he works."
Steve Wallace was driving in the Nationwide Series for the 5-energy car last year, but the sponsor pulled out for the 2012 season. Seeing his son without a car was tough for Rusty, and so he bought a car off of Jack Rousch, and leased the engine from Steve Yates.
Steve Wallace and his friend and crew chief Blake Bainbridge then did something that made Rusty Wallace very proud.
"Him and his buddy Blake Bainbridge put that car together, because when we bought it it was just a bare body -- no suspension," Rusty Wallace said. "We had to build the whole car -- the seats, the belts, the wiring, paint it, decal it, mount the motor, set the chassis. Those two did that all by their self. And they worked diligently for a month- and-a-half."
Steve Wallace then raced the car for the first time last weekend in Richmond. He finished 11th in the race, and made his father very proud.
"I wanted him to run so well and he did," Rusty Wallace said. "He should've finished about fifth and we were running so good. Gosh darn we were running so good and then there was a stint there at the end where it went green flag to the end. Kevin Harvick and a host of others pitted very early -- got in and got those tires, and those sticky tires are flying around the track. We kept staying out, staying out thinking a caution might come out. We lost a lot of valuable time.
"I was actually up in the spotter's area with my radio on, and I wanted to hit that button and say, 'Get in there right now.' But that's not my job."
Wallace's job these days is as an announcer/analyst for ABC and ESPN. He's been off for several weeks, but said he's anxious to get back to it next week in Darlington, S.C.
He said he really enjoys his job with the network.
"Being an analyst, I feel like I'm really up on the sport," Wallace said. "I feel like I know pretty well all the in's and out's of what's going on with the cars and how the drivers feel. I feel like I educate a lot of the fans about the in's and out's of the sport."
The 55-year-old Wallace said he still loves the sport, but he thinks the schedule needs to be shortened. There are currently 36 Cup races, plus extra races like the Bud Shootout at Daytona. Fla., and the All-Star race at Charlotte, N.C.
"All that keeps running through my mind is supply and demand," Wallace said. "We used to have 28 races, then we went to 32 and we were packing the stands. Now with social media and all this stuff going on, it's really screwed up the races. It's really taking the people out of the grandstands."
Wallace said he would like to see the schedule cut back to 32 races again.
Another thing Wallace said he thinks hurts the sport is too many drivers changing sponsors and cars.
"You remember the days when you looked out and you saw Rusty driving the blue deuce, the blue car," Wallace said. "And you saw [Dale] Earnhardt driving the black 3. You saw Bill Elliott driving the red No. 11 Budweiser car. Now you take a look at Carl Edwards and he's running the Aflac car. The next week he's driving the Scott's [Miracle-Gro] car then the next week he's driving something different. Then the next week he's driving something different.
"These fans are losing us. They're getting confused and screwed up."
Wallace is the Firefighter's Marshal for this year's Apple Blossom Festival and said he wasn't sure what to expect when he agreed to do it. He said it's been a great experience, and one of the highlights was being knighted during one of the events. Wallace also plans to attend today's Wells Fargo Sports Breakfast.
"I never thought in a million years I'd be knighted," Wallace said. "This afternoon I was knighted. They had Tony Dorsett's daughter up there with this long sword and touched me on the shoulders.
"And it was pretty incredible."