Dallenbach Ready To Retire

Stress has been a nearly constant companion for Wally Dallenbach since he became CART's first and only chief steward nearly two decades ago.

Not that there haven't been a lot of good times, but Dallenbach is looking forward to relaxing when he retires.

"Back when I drove, there was only one man in my office and I had the steering wheel in front of me," said Dallenbach, who drove Champ Cars for 15 years before retiring from that job in 1979.

As a steward, he had many visitors, some unhappy to be there. If a penalty was to be handed out, Dallenbach was the man to do it.

Leaving the race car hardly eased his burden.

"Now, the responsibility for all these guys comes with a lot of stress because you worry about everything," he said.

"You have to make quick decisions because you are dealing with lives and careers. Twenty years of that burns a hole deep inside."

But the 62-year-old Dallenbach isn't going too far away. In fact, he'll stay on next season as a part-time consultant to help his successor get into the swing of things.

CART is interviewing candidates and no deadline for hiring has been set. Dallenbach says the new chief steward will face a very different situation than he did in 1980.

Championship Auto Racing Teams Inc., was formed in 1979 by a group of dissident car owners unhappy with the way the U.S. Auto Club was running the open-wheel sport. It was a struggling series when Dallenbach stepped in as chief steward a year later.

"When I came into this thing, it was a series born out of frustration with USAC, and everybody was in the trenches, bailing water," he said. "It was all for one and one for all. That was a lot easier than it is 20 years later."

"This guy has to walk in at a different level, between television and the competition, and everything that is involved with it. It is going to be a tough deal."

During his tenure, the generally mild-mannered and soft-spoken Dallenbach has had some heated run-ins with drivers.

Among others he has penalized or put on probation in the last few seasons are longtime series star Michael Andretti, 1999 champion Juan Montoya and CART bad boy Paul Tracy.

It was Dallenbach's decision to bar Tracy from driving in the season-opening race in Homestead, Fla., after he bumped Andretti during the race in Australia last fall.

At first, Tracy had trouble accepting the sanction. Later, he saw the reasoning.

"Sometimes I don't agree with his decisions, but I think the end result is that we've both come to an understanding," Tracy said after finishing the 1999 season without any further penalties and third in the standings. "I think that I've learned something, and it has made me a better driver."

"Of course, I think that Wally owes me After all, if it wasn't for me, he'd probably have gotten bored and quit his job a long time ago."

Dallenbach won't ever forget Tracy, but the memories won't be bad.

"Paul was, I guess, one of the tougher kids on the block, and it just took him a little longer to wake up," Dallenbach said. "I am especially proud of the way he has handled himself this year."

Even when they were nose-to-nose in dispute, Dallenbach said he never carried a grudge against any driver.

"I have two sons who are racers, and I try to treat these drivers the same way I'd want my sons to be treated," he said.

When he started the job, Dallenbach made himself two promises: He would be honest and fair with everyone.

"I think I've lived up to those promises," he said.

©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed