Rusty Wallace keeping busy.....
When Rusty Wallace, never the retiring sort, stepped away from Nextel Cup racing after 25 seasons in NASCAR's top series, he was shocked at what he found.
"I never dreamed I'd be this busy after retirement," he said.
Here's what Wallace -- one of the sport's biggest stars, winner of 55 Cup races and the 1989 series championship -- has been up to:
Most publicly, he has been on television. He is working for ESPN and ABC, and two weeks ago he was ABC's lead commentator for the Indianapolis 500.
He owns a Busch Series team, the No. 64 Dodges driven by his son Steve and by Jamie McMurray.
He owns five car dealerships in Tennessee.
He owns a touring fleet of show cars.
And Wallace is finishing up work on a race track he has designed in Iowa, a track of which he is new-father proud.
The television booth was a natural landing spot for Wallace, 49, who never met a microphone he didn't like during his driving career. He will be ESPN's lead analyst in 2007 when NASCAR returns to the network. This season, he's learning the craft by working on Indy Racing League events on ABC. And he has become a fan.
"I had no idea those drivers were that talented; I'd never heard of a lot of them, to be truthful," said Wallace. "And they're brutally fast."
Wallace seems a little uncomfortable with his new-found appreciation of IRL.
"I've been a stock-car driver all my life," he said. "That's my core business and that's what I know. I don't want anybody to think I'm disrespecting NASCAR in any way. I'm just calling it as I see it, and that's how I see it.
"But I've really gained an appreciation for these IRL guys. I never thought of myself calling Indy Car racing. They asked me, `What about going into the booth?' I said, `You've got to be kidding me!' "
Wallace was obviously a natural for the broadcast booth. He can get carried away and make rookie mistakes, as he did toward the end of the Indianapolis 500 when he exclaimed, "This is one of the most exciting Daytona 500s -- oops, I'm sorry -- one of the most exciting Indy 500s ever!"
Wallace says his television career is taking up about 60 percent of his time. But his real passion might lie back in the Midwest, where the sparkling Iowa Speedway is rising from the dust off Interstate 80 about 20 miles from Des Moines in Newton.
The speedway will be a state-of-the-art facility ready to host races in September. Wallace says the $92 million track is the first oval track in the country designed by a driver.
"Somebody was building that track and asked if a driver could design it," said Wallace, who travels to Iowa once a week to check the track's progress. "He was told, `This isn't like golf, where players design courses all the time.' But then somebody said to call Rusty. And I've designed every aspect of it."
The seven-eighths-mile racing surface will be surrounded entirely by SAFER barriers, which reduce the impact of crashes. (NASCAR's oval tracks have them in the corners.) Cameras will be built into the asphalt, their lenses poking up a quarter-inch onto the track. (Wallace says they won't affect the cars.) The track is built in a bowl, so that spectators sitting in the lowest portion of the grandstands will be able to see the entire track over every building and obstacle.
"I'm making sure all the contours, everything, is right," Wallace said. "I have to because it's got my name all over the place."
That will include a road leading to the track: Rusty Wallace Boulevard.
BOW DOWN TO THE BLACK AND GOLD!!!!!