Rusty Wallace may be best remembered by NASCAR fans for his 1989 championship, but his impact on racing goes much deeper. Personable and outgoing, Wallace grew to be wildly popular with fans for his outspoken nature. Able to balance the professionalism of the business side with the charm of dealing with fans, he not only found success and a title on the track, but has continued to play a role in the sport. After retiring from racing in 2005, he launched into a career in the broadcast booth with ESPN as well as taking on a team owner role in the Nationwide Series. Here are five reasons he is a NASCAR Hall of Famer.
Wallace has continued to take on a role in NASCAR. After retiring from Cup racing in 2005, he launched a Nationwide Series team with his son, Steve Wallace. The team at one point fielded two full-time Nationwide entries. In addition, he has continued to work in the sport as a broadcaster for ESPN.
Wallace certainly had his share of run-ins with competitors from time to time, but he was a fan favorite throughout much of his career. Perhaps that was because, in part, of his long string of successes. He won the 1983 American Speed Association championship, the 1979 United States Auto Club Rookie of the Year and more than 200 feature races. He also won the 1991 International Race of Champions title.
Wallace proved to be versatile in the Cup series, finding success on a slate of tracks. He earned 36 pole positions, ninth in the modern era, and made 697 consecutive starts, which ranks second all time. He raced in the Nationwide, Truck and International Race of Champions series and closed his career with $49.7 million in Cup purses.
Wallace hoisted a Cup trophy for the first time in 1986 — and then just kept on winning. He earned 55 career victories in NASCAR's elite ranks, which still ranks ninth all time. Wallace earned six wins on road courses, victories in the all-star race and the Budweiser Shootout, and went to Victory Lane 16 consecutive seasons in his career.
He's a titleholder
Wallace proved he knew how to win early in his career, as this 1987 photo at Charlotte shows. But in 1989, he put it all together. Driving a Pontiac for owner Raymond Beadle, he earned six victories. Wallace posted 20 top-10 finishes, 13 of them top fives, as well as an average finish of 10.3 to snare his lone Cup title.