Rusty-to-DEI rumor can’t be dismissed

Published 12:02 am Saturday, October 4, 2008

Rusty Wallace is considering coming out of retirement to drive for Dale Earnhardt, Inc. next season. That tidbit of information came from none other than Kenny Wallace, Rusty’s brother, via an article that appeared on early in the week.

Soon after the rumor began making the rounds, Rusty issued a statement denying the report. Giving the standard, “It’s flattering but untrue. I am very happy with what I am doing,” routine, Rusty basically said that Kenny was full of it. I honestly think there is something to this story. It all makes sense.

Think about it, Kenny floats a rumor about Rusty coming back. Rusty denies the rumor. Racing fans, especially old No. 2 Miller Lite fans, start talking about Rusty coming back. If the public reaction is good and strong, Rusty knows what to expect and can judge how successful a return would be for him, his potential team and his potential sponsors.

Do you think Kenny would put that notion out in the public if Rusty didn’t know about it? That family is savvier than that. This looks like a plan in the works to me.

And Dale Earnhardt, Inc.? Makes all the sense in the world. Paul Menard announced this week that he would be moving to Yates Racing next season. More importantly, his sponsor, his father’s home improvement retail company, would be moving as well. Mark Martin has already announced that he would join Dale Jr. at Hendrick next season, and Martin’s sponsor, U.S. Army, will sponsor Ryan Newman at Stewart-Haas next season. That leaves DEI with four teams, three drivers and one sponsor.

The only known for this team next season is Martin Truex and Bass Pro Shops on the No. 1 car. They better do something big quickly. Here is the way this thing could pan out.

Rusty agrees to drive the No. 8 car next season with sponsorship from any number of companies that he would bring with him. Rusty has had a semi-successful Nationwide operation for a couple of years and has long been thought of as a successful businessman. Rusty’s son, Steven, would move with dad and drive the No. 15 car, with sponsorship from that same pool of companies.

Wallace has had a great relationship with his old sponsor, Miller Brewing Company, for years. So sponsorship could come from one of the brands under the Miller umbrella. How about the No. 8 Coors Light Silver Bullet? Miller merged with Coors last year.

Is DEI in such bad shape that they would offer Rusty an ownership stake in the company? Would DEI gobble up Rusty’s race operation, Rusty Wallace Inc.? If DEI and Rusty can work things out and come to an agreement, it would benefit both parties. I, for one, hope it happens.

Same old story last week at Kansas. Jimmie Johnson wins, Carl Edwards is second and Greg Biffle finishes third. Those three drivers, in that order, are also atop the championship standings.

This week’s race in Talladega is one that every Chase driver has circled on the calendar. All bets are off when it comes to this race. If there is to be a shakeup of the top 12 in the remaining races, this is the week for it to happen. My pick this week, and to get back to his winning ways on restrictor plate tracks, is Dale Jr.