Rusty Wallace -- born Russell William Wallace -- began racing at smaller tracks near his Missouri home in the late 1970s. After winning a couple of local championships, he captured the United States Auto Club (USAC) Rookie of the Year award in 1979 and the American Speed Association (ASA) championship four years later.
In his very first NASCAR race at the Atlanta 500 in 1980, Rusty drove his Chevrolet to a second-place finish, taking the checkered flag just 10 seconds behind winner Dale Earnhardt -- an amazing feat for a rookie driver.
After just a handful of starts in '81 and '82, and none in '83, Rusty began racing on the NASCAR circuit full time in 1984. He scored his first win in the Valleydale 500 at Bristol in 1986 and added a second that year at the Goody's 500 in Martinsville. He scored two more wins during the '87 season, then went on a tear: six victories in 1988, when he came in second behind Bill Elliott in the championship race, and six more in '89, when he came in second to no one.
After his championship season, Rusty added two wins each in 1990 and '91, and one more in 1992.
But in many ways, Rusty's best years were yet to come. He managed a career-high 10 wins in 1993, when he was runner-up to Earnhardt for the championship. His eight victories the following year left him third in the championship race. Rusty scored 15 more wins from 1995 to 2002, and though he never won another championship, he was in the top ten in points every year.
Rusty won his final race in 2004 at Martinsville Speedway. Later that year he announced that 2005 would be his last full season, and his last year on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup circuit. Though many drivers of his status race part-time before fading away completely, Rusty wasn't planning on fading away just yet.
During the 2006 race season, Rusty covered Indy Racing League (IRL) open wheel racing as a television announcer for The Walt Disney Company networks, where his assignments included coverage of the prestigious Indianapolis 500.
Besides his broadcasting gig, Rusty also runs Rusty Wallace, Inc., which campaigns a NASCAR Busch series car co-driven by his son, Steve Wallace. With any luck, Steve will advance to the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup series, where he'll have a chance to try and match his father's 55 career wins. Talk about big shoes to fill...