Sep 13, 2014; Joliet, IL, USA; ESPN analyst Rusty Wallace during practice for the MYAFIBSTORY.COM 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Rusty Wallace made the call to retire from NASCAR in 2005, and it’s a decision he’s seemed to regret, at least at times. Wallace, a NASCAR Hall of Famer, has made the decision to climb back into a racing vehicle but not a NASCAR racer, not even a stock car, for that matter. Instead, Wallace will compete in the Off-Road Truck Racing category at the X Games in Austin, Texas in June.
“I honestly miss driving a car a little bit,” Wallace told The Associated Press, according to a post on the official X Games website. “ESPN brought up this possibility and I thought, ‘Why not? Let’s go knock the cobwebs off and try this.’ I know that I stopped driving too early. I think I could have gone another three years.
“But at that point, I was really getting burned out on all the travel. I was irritable. I got the opportunity to work for ESPN and I said to myself, ‘If I don’t do this, someone else will.’ So that’s the path I took. I still struggle with not racing, not a whole lot, but a little, and this was a good opportunity to go have some fun.”
Since retiring from competition at the end of the 2005 NASCAR season, Wallace has spent most of his time in the ESPN broadcasting booth, calling races in both NASCAR and the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Wallace, the 1989 NASCAR Cup Series champion, has 55-career wins in 706 races at NASCAR’s top level. He raced sparingly in Cup between 1980 and 1982 before going full-time in 1984. He then raced full-time in the series every season through his retirement at the end of 2005.
Wallace, at least somewhat, scratched the recurring racing itch in 2014, climbing into his final Sprint Cup Series ride, the No. 2 Team Penske Ford now driven by 2012 series champion Brad Keselowski, during a test at Daytona International Speedway in 2014. Wallace says that he has told team owner Roger Penske that he’s available for additional testing whenever needed.
While Wallace has a great deal of experience in NASCAR, he has none in off-road trucks. The truck he’ll race in Austin will be sponsored by Jimmy John’s and leased from Robby Gordon, as all the trucks in the competition will be leased by Gordon, another former NASCAR driver. Gordon owns and operates the Robby Gordon Stadium Super Trucks Series.
“I’ve been following Robby’s series, watched the races when they run with IndyCar, and it just looks like something I’ll enjoy,” Wallace said. “Every time I see that 2 car running around, I say `Man, I wish I could do that again.’ But I’m smart enough to know I’ve got other things, so this chance at X Games and working with Robby is an opportunity to just go have a little fun.”
The trucks will be identically-prepared 600-horsepower trucks that have the ability to reach speeds in excess of 100 mph. Wallace will be among 16 drivers in the race, including Wallace and Gordon. The dirt and asphalt course will contain seven turns and several ramps.