BRISTOL, Tenn. There was a driver of the Blue Deuce who made a NASCAR Hall of Fame career out of winning races at Bristol Motor Speedway driving the No. 2 for Penske Racing.
He was outspoken, never afraid to say what he really thought. He was often called a 'hard charger and ruffled the feathers of fellow competitors and the sanctioning body from time to time.
We're not talking about Brad Keselowski, but we very well could be one day in the future.
Before Keselowski, and Kurt Busch before him, Rusty Wallace was the driver who distinguished himself in Penske Racing's No. 2 car as he wheeled the high banks of Bristol.
Wallace, who will be among five new inductees to the Hall of Fame in 2013, won nine races in what is now the Sprint Cup Series at Bristol, including seven while racing for owner Roger Penske.
Keselowski enters Saturday night's Irwin Night Race with two consecutive victories at Bristol and will drive a No. 2 Dodge this weekend adorned with a paint scheme used by Wallace in the 2000 when he earned his 50th career win.
The paint scheme unveiling on Thursday night is the first of several activities planned to mark Wallace's induction to the Hall of Fame.
Rusty had a tremendous ability to excel on short tracks and demonstrated that unique talent many times, especially at Bristol, said Penske. The 2000 season was really a special year for us there. Im honored that we could help recognize Rustys crowning achievement.
Since he retired as a driver following the 2005 season, Wallace has become a TV analyst with ESPN, but today he remains most linked by NASCAR fans to the No. 2 Penske car still sponsored by Miller Lite.
And it was the victories at places like Bristol which brought Wallace the most joy.
Every single time we came here, we built new cars. People would shake their heads and say, 'Why are you doing that? It's a short track and you get your cars beat up.' But we knew it was an opportunity to help us win, said Wallace, a short-ace before moving to NASCAR.
Anyone who grows up in the Midwest has a big appreciation for short tracks and if you can win on the biggest short track in NASCAR, it's real special.
Keselowski, who has an opportunity to claim the top seed in the Chase with another Bristol win this weekend, appreciates the significance of his ride.
Rusty made this car an icon of the sport, Keselowski said. I've tried really hard really hard to live up to what he's done. His record makes the accomplishments I have now not sound that great.
I've got a long ways to go to keep up where he's at but it's an amazing feeling to drive a car with that stature and makes me want to push harder to be a winner.
Keselowski has two two straight wins at Bristol but a third on Saturday night would give him a season sweep of the Bristol races, something Wallace did only once (2000) even with nine victories at the track.
The No. 2 is special to Rusty and Penske Racing but special to me as well because we have an opportunity to recreate that feel of sweeping a season at Bristol, Keselowski said.
It's an opportunity that I don't take lightly or for granted. I want to be that guy to repeat what Rusty has done.
Keselowski, 28, certainly is on pace.
He's led 347 laps at Bristol more than on any other track he's raced on. In five Cup starts, he has two wins. It was nearly six seasons before Wallace earned his second Cup win at Bristol. Keselowski also owns a Nationwide win at the track.
Roger told me once he wanted a driver that he had to pull back, not push forward, Keselowski said. Bristol is a track that if you have a driver you have to pull back, then he usually drives pretty darn good.