?If anybody else can go any faster than that, well they can have it,? Rusty Wallace radioed in to crew chief Robin Pemberton. That radio transmission came immediately after Wallace posted the unofficial fastest practice lap entering this weekend?s inaugural NASCAR Winston Cup race at the new Chicagoland Speedway. It is representative of the level of anticipation that Wallace and his Miller Lite Ford Taurus Team bring into this weekend?s Tropicana 400 at the circuit?s newest facility. Wallace toured the brand new 1.5-mile tri-oval track with an unofficial fast lap of 29.650 seconds (182.125 mph) during his second day of testing at the new $130 million facility back on Tuesday, June 12. ?We?re coming in there with this sexy new hot rod and a full load of steam, I?ll tell you that,? Wallace said of the ?PC-36,? the new Penske Racing South Ford Taurus his team will be debuting at the new Joliet, Ill., race track this weekend. ?This is a super new race track and it?s gonna? give the fans a helluva? show, I can promise you that,? Wallace continued. ?The track is real fast -- lightning fast I?d say -- and it has a ton of grip to it. I think it is going to be a fun track to race on. With the bowed backstretch, it gives it its own unique character, which I think is really special.? Surprisingly, Wallace?s fast lap was not the end result of any major focus on testing qualifying setups. ?If we sound all jazzed up about the qualifying end of the deal, you can?t imagine how pumped we are for the race,? said Wallace. ?In our test there, we ran all day Monday and half a day Tuesday working with nothing but the race setup. That place will be unbelievably fast. We were hitting 199 mph at the end of the straightaway. ?Anyhow, we never even focused on our qualifying package until after lunch on Tuesday,? Wallace continued. ?We got out there once and got up to speed. Then we came back in, taped her up, cooled her down and went back out to run that 29.65. I knew that was about all we could get out of it. Since then, I?ve heard that the second-fastest team there spent almost two full days working on nothing but qualifying setup and they could only run a 29.78. So, I?m confident we?ll be in great shape all the way around.? Wallace enters this weekend?s Chicagoland Speedway race back up to fifth in points, trailing leader Jeff Gordon by 219 points. ?We?ve had a lot of success at the new tracks that have been added through the years and we?re sold on that being the case at Chicago,? said Wallace, whose inaugural race success includes a win at New Hampshire, a third at Las Vegas and a fourth at Indianapolis. ?We?re all jacked up sky high about our chances this weekend.? Tropicana 400 activity opens up Thursday with practice sessions from 9:00 a.m. until 11:25 a.m. and from 2:00 p.m. until 3:25 p.m. Friday?s schedule calls for practice from 11:00 a.m. until 12:55 p.m., preceding the single round of qualifying at 3:05 p.m. Saturday?s itinerary calls for morning practice between 11:30 a.m. and 12:15 p.m., with final ?happy hour? practice set from 1:00 p.m. until 1:45 p.m. Sunday?s Tropicana 400 (400 miles, 267 laps) starts at 1:30 p.m. CDT and features live coverage by NBC-TV and MRN Radio.
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