I've been a Rusty fan pretty much ever since I first started following racing. Every time he'd win a race, I'd have one of the best feelings that I've had in my life.
He started on the Cup circuit in 1980, and he finished second in his very first race! He finally got his first win in 1986 at Bristol, and ever since then, you could not keep the guy out of victory lane. He won the championship in 1989, beating Dale Earnhardt by 12 points after finishing second to Bill Elliott the previous year by only about 24 points.
When the 2002 season ended, he had failed to win a race for the first time since 1985, and that saddened me, because he did have victory in hand several times in 2002, but had to settle for second after fading late in the going.
2003 brought another winless season for Wallace, as his best finish was 3rd at the California Speedway in the spring. He finished outside of the Top 10 in points, which was VERY uncharacteristic for a driver like him. I kept saying, "He's gonna get back to Victory Lane sooner or later. I've seen how well he's been running to almost get wins."
And he finally did it in April 2004 at Martinsville! It was his 55th and final career victory before retiring after the end of the 2005 season to concentrate on upcoming son Steven's career, and to be an addition to the broadcast booth for ESPN's coverage of the NASCAR races.