The hottest new rumor, brought to the masses by his own brother Kenny, is that Rusty Wallace -- inspired by the success of fellow sports elders Mark Martin and Brett Favre in their recent comebacks -- may be back in the Cup series next season, probably with DEI.
Rusty apparently believes he can outrun at least half the drivers currently racing, and he’s probably right. He’s a legend who still likely has a lot in the tank.
The problem isn’t that Rusty wants to come back, but where it might happen. DEI is the rumored landing spot for Rusty, and frankly that’s not the best place in the garage right now.
Looking ahead to 2009, here’s the situation at DEI.
--Martin Truex is the top dog there, and he’s had a hit-or-miss season so far with a lot of mechanical concerns. After 2009, he may be leaving, as his recently signed deal is only for a year.
--Paul Menard just announced this week that he is leaving for Yates next year, and taking his dad’s sponsorship money with him.
-- That leaves Aric Almirola and Regan Smith, who don’t have sponsors yet for next year.
-- On top of that, uncertainty abounds as there have long been rumors of an investor being sought or Teresa Earnhardt wanting to completely sell the team.
To sum it up … not exactly a winning location in its current setup.
Martin’s doing well at DEI in the #8 car this year, but there’s no guarantee Rusty will do the same next year, even if he brings a sponsor and some money to help build good cars. What I always liked about Rusty is he went out on top. If he makes this move, he risks the Michael Jordan scenario … where a proven champion kept coming back and finished his career playing terribly for a terrible team.
In other Cup veteran news, according to a report in the Winston-Salem Journal, Kyle Petty has been forced out of the family team and won‘t race anymore for Petty Enterprises, effective immediately. At least that’s the word from his wife, Patti Petty, who said, “They haven’t wanted Kyle in the car the last three years. They want a young driver.” She went on to say, “They told him at Watkins Glen -- right when he was standing there in his driver’s suit -- that they didn’t want him in the car”
That’s damn harsh, especially when “they” were a family-run operation until this year, when a private equity firm took over majority ownership.
In a way it’s sad, because Kyle has been around his family’s team since he was a child and it’s a huge part of NASCAR history, but the reality is this move has been a long time coming, and Kyle should have made the choice himself a couple years ago. As I wrote not too long ago, Petty’s been showing signs for a while that his heart’s not fully in racing anymore and he’s ready to hang up the helmet.
But according to the newspaper report, Petty has a sponsor, Wells Fargo, that is willing to with him to another team for a part-time schedule in 2009.
Call me crazy, but what ever happened to just retiring?
I thought Bill Elliott and Terry Labonte were done years ago, but they’re still on the track every other weekend. Martin is the most indecisive, going back and forth so many times I can’t remember. Allegedly, 2009 is his “final” full season. Time will tell on that one, as I bet he keeps going if 2009 is successful for him.
I understand that all these guys know is racing, and that’s all they want to do. But especially in Petty’s case, he really needs to look at the big picture. First of all, he’s pretty terrible out there most weeks, and I don’t see how it’s even remotely enjoyable to run that badly.
Kyle’s got a lot going for him in his life and has brought so much to the sport off the track -- particularly his dedication to charity and the Victory Junction Gang Camp that was started in honor of his late son Adam. I fail to understand why Kyle would rather ride around in 41st place for half the season, when he could be out in the world helping people and brightening their lives. I’m sure it’s much more rewarding.
Petty has never lived up to his father’s reputation (who could?), but he had a solid career and won some races. He’s earned the respect of his peers over that time, but if he keeps getting in their way on Sundays, he might start to lose some of it.
In Rusty’s case, I question DEI as the destination, but I can understand him wanting to come back. He’s a great driver who can contend for wins even after a few years out of the car.
But Petty continuing is basically pointless. Maybe he just wants to prove to those who wanted him out of the 45 car that he can still get the job done.
But at some point in everyone’s career, they just need to call it quits. That time has come for Petty.