Sometimes, it seems like winning teams are just cruising along.
That’s the way it was last month for Penske Racing South, the third-place finishers in the 1994 Winston Cup series, with driver Rusty Wallace and most of the team taking a sevenday cruise of the Caribbean.
Wallace, whose late-season slump knocked him out of the point chase and allowed Mark Martin to edge him out for the runner-up spot, said the relaxation and togetherness of the cruise can only help his team get ready for 1995.
“Honestly, the thing that made me so happy on that cruise was that I looked at all my team members and they were smiling and they were all happy and they were all having a good time.”
One of the happiest was new crew chief Robin Pemberton. He is replacing Buddy Parrott, who left for Diamond Ridge Racing after helping Wallace win 18 races the past two seasons.
That puts a lot of pressure on Pemberton, a veteran of many years of Winston Cup racing.
“The cruise was great,” he said. “I had to opportunity to spend seven days with our people without having to work. We could discuss work without having it get in the way of learning different personalities and just getting to know everybody.”
It’s pretty easy to see why Rusty Wallace’s bid for a second Winston Cup championship took a nosedive in the final six events of the 1994 season.
While Dale Earnhardt had an average finish of 9.16 per race, Wallace, who finished no better than 17th in the final four races, had an average finish of 21.0 in the last six events.
Earnhardt outscored Wallace in the last six races by 260 points.
Mark Martin, who vaulted past Wallace into second place on the last weekend of the season, outscored Wallace by 183 points in that period.
In 31 Winston Cup races in 1994, Ford Thunderbirds led 7,384 of the 10,106 laps raced. That’s 73 percent.
Chevrolet Luminas were next with 2,639 laps led, or 26 percent.
The Pontiac Grand Prix, the only other competitor on the stock car circuit, led just 83 laps all season, or 1 percent.
The longest victory drought among regulars on the Winston Cup circuit who have won at least once belongs to Dave Marcis, who hasn’t won since Feb. 21, 1982, at Richmond.
Greg Sacks’ only victory came on July 4, 1985, at Daytona, while Lake Speed’s first and only win came on March 27, 1988, at Darlington.
Brett Bodine, who will drive this season for Junior Johnson, has failed to find Victory Circle since his only win April 22, 1990, at North Wilkesboro, N.C., while Derrike Cope’s last victory came at Dover on June 3, 1990. Ken Schrader, who has four career victories and finished fourth in the 1994 season points, has not won since June 2, 1991, at Dover.
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