For the first time since the 2005 season finale at Homestead-Miami, former Sprint Cup champion Rusty Wallace drove the familiar No. 2 Miller Lite Team Penske Ford during today’s Preseason Thunder testing at Daytona International Speedway.
Fittingly, he didn’t take the Deuce around for a single, slow cruise. Wallace, now working as a NASCAR television analyst, got in several runs this afternoon in the car that now belongs to fellow former Cup champ Brad Keselowski.
Per Jeff Wackerlin of MRN Radio, Wallace topped out with a lap at 192.102 mph in qualifying setup on his final run of the day – good enough for fourth on the overall chart at the time. Not too shabby.
“I really wanted to get back in the car and get a good feel for this Gen-6 car here at Daytona,” a smiling Wallace told Fox Sports. “Not only did they let me run a couple of times, they ran me for most of the day. The car is fantastic – it was real smooth and nice, and the crew was kind. I hope I helped them a little bit, you know, with a lot of feedback.”
Standing next to Wallace was Keselowski, who had noted earlier during Fox’s telecast that Wallace raced against his father and that he himself had worn a “Rusty shirt” in his fourth-grade school picture.
Like Wallace, Keselowski was tickled over the event.
“It means a lot to me,” he said. “Rusty is probably the reason why Miller Lite and Penske stayed together and got to the point to where I’d have this opportunity. I’d like to think I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for guys like Rusty and, specifically, what he did for the No. 2 team.
“This is our way of showing the honor and respect back, and it’s so important. We’ve got a lot of people that make this program possible, and Rusty is certainly one of them. He was such a large part of it, but we want to show respect back to them. We were able to do that with Rusty. It was my pleasure.”
Wallace won the 1989 Cup championship in the No. 27 car for Blue Max Racing, but it’s his No. 2 Miller-backed ride that may be his most well-known. He brought the Miller sponsorship to Team Penske in 1991, and Wallace wound up earning 39 victories for Penske while bearing the beer giant’s colors.
As for whether Wallace might like to do more testing in the future, he told Fox that restrictor plate tracks would be “no problem” but that he’d “need some more reps to get that courage back up” for other tracks.
“Trying to hold this Blue Deuce wide open at, say, Charlotte or Vegas – that might be above my pay grade at the moment,” he said.