Dallenbach ready to contend By Shawn A. Akers BROOKLYN, Mich. (Aug. 15, 1998) The days of Wally Dallenbach "just showing up at the track" are over. Dallenbach is now ready to do some serious racing. The 35-year-old veteran,...
Dallenbach ready to contend By Shawn A. Akers
BROOKLYN, Mich. (Aug. 15, 1998) The days of Wally Dallenbach "just showing up at the track" are over. Dallenbach is now ready to do some serious racing.
The 35-year-old veteran, who has struggled to find his niche in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series since going full-time in 1992, now finds himself in an ideal situation to showcase his talents -- with a premier organization like Hendrick Motorsports, driving the high-profile No. 50 Budweiser Chevrolet.
And Dallenbach, who was hired this week to finish out the remainder of the season in the car, knows it's time for him to do just that.
"Obviously, it's exciting for me," said Dallenbach, who replaced Ricky Craven in the Budweiser Chevrolet after Craven and the team parted ways earlier this week. "I know the circumstances are difficult, but this is a great opportunity for me and I'm going to try and make the best of it.
"I was working, even as this came down, I was working on next year. I was talking to teams and sponsors for next year because I felt that unless I could get into a situation I felt I could be real competitive in, I didn't want to just go to the race tracks just to be there. At this point in the year, you look at what's out there and what's available and it's really hard to just start all over in the middle of the season with some teams."
In 1996 with Bud Moore, Dallenbach had only two top-10 finishes in 30 races. In 1997 with Team SABCO, he managed just one top-10 while running a limited schedule (22 races). Earlier this season, Dallenbach missed qualifying for several races, including the Daytona 500, and managed a best 19th at Texas before he was released from his duties in the No. 46 First Union Chevrolet.
With Craven out for several months due to Post-Concussion Syndrome, Dallenbach substituted for Craven in the No. 50 Budweiser Chevrolet for three races, and produced favorable results. He finished 10th in the Miller Lite 400 at Michigan in June, followed by a seventh-place run in the Pocono 500 at Pocono, Pa., and then a 27th-place finish at Sears Point.
With that type of success, Hendrick Motorsports officials kept Dallenbach in mind, and decided to put him behind the wheel for the remainder of the season when the Craven decision was made.
"Wally had two top-10s in three starts with us last time ... I'm very happy with the decision that Hendrick made," said Tony Furr, crew chief for the No. 50 Budweiser Chevrolet. "Wally wasn't the only one available. I feel like he was probably one of the top candidates for the car anyway.
"I worked with John Andretti for a year-and-a-half, and I compare Wally and Andretti a lot, especially with the feed back they give me. That helped me a lot."
Prior to taking the reins of the No. 50 Chevrolet, Dallenbach was hired to drive the No. 13 FIRSTPLUS Financial Ford, with a first-year team owned by Bill Elliott and Dan Marino, for two races. That team has struggled throughout the season, and Dallenbach managed to finish just 25thin the Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono and 40th at the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis.
Dallenbach passed up couple of different rides at Watkins Glen, a road course in which he has excelled in the past, to attend a meeting with Budweiser officials about driving the 50 car.
Dallenbach hasn't been hired to drive the car for next season, but he hopes that the next 12 races will provide him with an opportunity to impress team officials enough to give him a chance at a full-time ride in 1998.
"I'm here through the rest of the season," Dallenbach said. "I think if we can show them something, I'll be in the Bud Chevy next year, but we haven't talked about it. If we just go out and do our job and not worry about anything else and get some good finishes, we'll be alright.
"I'm also talking with some other teams about next year as I was before this weekend. There's still some opportunities, but this is the best one. Hendrick is definitely the cream of the crop. I'd love to stay here, but a couple of the other teams I'm talking to are potentially good teams as well. Whatever is meant to be is meant to be."
Source: NASCAR Online