Russell William Wallace Jr, better known as "Rusty", was born on the 14th August 1956 in Fenton, a small town in the county of St. Louis, Missouri. He is the eldest of three sons born to race car driver, Russ Wallace. Sr. and Judy. Rusty and his brothers, Kenny and Mike, were brought up and surrounded by race cars and all that goes with it.
Rusty Wallace at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2007. (Courtesy of Wiki Commons)
The boys crewed for their father, turning wrenches, welding frames and rebuilding transmissions long into the night, prepping for the weekend races in Granite City, Ill.; Valley Park, Mo.; and Rolla, Mo. With this background it was hardly any wonder that all three boys would make their career in Motor sports.
On Aug. 14, 1972, Rusty became old enough to drive, but not old enough to race because the minimum age to race at Lake Hill Speedway was 18, unless a driver obtained a court order. His mother took Rusty to the courtroom of Judge Robert G.J. Hoester in the juvenile court of St. Louis County, signed a release and was granted the order for him to be able to race.
In 1973 Rusty made his debut race when he climbed into his 1966 Chevelle with the No. 66 affixed in masking tape on the doors and won his first heat race at Lake Hill. Rusty didn't finish the feature race. He ran out of gas. "I got so excited about winning my first race, I just forgot to put gas in the car for the big race," he recalled. "I think I lasted about 10 laps." He became a budding star after winning over 200 races between 1974 and 1978 around the Mid West and he joined the United States Auto Club (USAC) stock car division in 1979, won five races and took the USAC "Rookie of the Year" award in the same year.
Rusty ran his first race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 1980 at Atlanta, coming second from a seventh position start and in 1983 he won the American Speed Association (ASA) AC Delco Challenge Series championship competing against other up and coming NASCAR drivers such as Mark Martin, Alan Kulwicki and Dick Trickle. His official debut came in 1984 when he took place in all thirty races, achieving two top five and four top ten positions and finished fourteenth in points and took the NASCAR "Rookie of the Year" award.
On the 6th of April 1986 Rusty won his first NASCAR event at the Bristol Motor Speedway in the Valleydale 500 and his second win that year came at Martinsville on the 21st September. In 1987 Rusty was sponsored by Kodiak and he had victories at Watkins Glen and Riverside alongside his first pole series at Michigan in June at Michigan International Speedway. Rustyís career was really taking off now when in 1988 he had six victories including four of the five final events of the season. These included Michigan, Charlotte, North Wilkesboro, Rockingham, the final race ever at Riverside and the season finale at Atlanta. He finished runner up behind Bill Elliott in the final NASCAR Winston Cup standings by just twenty four points.
After being so close to the championship Rusty raced in all of the twenty nine races scheduled for the 1989 Winston Cup Series, gaining six victories with thirteen top five and twenty top ten positions Ė enough to win him the championship that year, beating his friend but track rival Dale Earnhardt by just twelve points.
The 1990ís saw Rusty a top performer on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit when he won thirty three races but probably the most eventful year was 1993 when he suffered two major accidents at Daytona and Talladega when his car took off and flipped several times. Also 1993 were saddened with the death of his good friend, Alan Kulwicki, killed in an air crash whilst flying into Bristol Speedway. Rusty won the race at Bristol and as a mark of respect for Alan did the "Polish victory lap" (driving the wrong way around the circuit) and every race he won that year he repeated the lap.
From 1986 until 2002 Rusty won at least one race every year, an incredible streak, the best of all active drivers. His last Nextel Cup victory came in 2004 as Rusty Wallace won the Advance Auto Parts 500 at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia. On August 30, 2004, at the age of 47, Rusty announced that the 2005 NASCAR Nextel Cup season would be his last as a full-time driver though he would run in some races on a part-time basis.
To date he has 55 NASCAR racing wins, taking him to 8th place on NASCAR's all-time wins list. His awards are: - USAC Stock car Rookie of the Year in 1979, ASA champion in 1983, NASCAR Rookie of the Year in 1984, Winston Cup champion in 1989, the Winston champion in 1989, IROC champion in 1991 and named as one of NASCARís 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. After twenty five years of racing Rusty didnít walk away from the sport after he retired. Rusty owns and operates Rusty Wallace Inc. and he is part owner of the Penske Racing South team, alongside Roger Penske, with Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman as drivers in the Nextel Cup series.
Rusty is spending time with his son, Steven, helping him in his chosen career, race car racing, and Steven will make his debut in the NASCAR Sprint Series at the Daytona. 2011 Rusty has become the first on-air hire by ESPN and ABC Sports after being named lead auto racing analyst for their Nextel Cup coverage starting in 2007.
He also owns five car dealerships in Tennessee. Rusty is passionate about flying and holds a jet-rated licence, he owns several aeroplanes including a Learjet 31A and a Bell 427 helicopter, and he also enjoys drag racing and golf. Rusty is married to his wife Patti; they have three kids (Greg, Katie, Steve) and live in a ranch outside Charlotte, North Carolina.
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