DAYTONA, Fla., (July 1, 2000) - Kenny Wallace, driver of the Square D/Cooper Lighting Chevrolet, battled a tight race car to a 19th place finish in Saturday night's running of the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway. "We were pushing a...
DAYTONA, Fla., (July 1, 2000) - Kenny Wallace, driver of the Square D/Cooper Lighting Chevrolet, battled a tight race car to a 19th place finish in Saturday night's running of the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
"We were pushing a ton," said Wallace. "It was like driving on ice. If we would've had the handling, we were strong enough to run up front tonight. Fortunately, we were extremely strong on the restarts, and that's what kept us in the top-20. During tonight's race, we needed to stay on the bottom groove because that's where the speed was, but the Square D/Cooper Lighting Chevrolet wanted to run up top. We did everything we could to free up the race car, but all in all, it was a positive day for our race team."
With the 19th place finish in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series event, Wallace earned 106 points and stands 31st in the Winston Cup point standings with 1,354 total points. It was Wallace's second consecutive top-20, his third in the last five starts.
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Kenny Wallace doesn't know pressure. If you were to look up the word "pressure" in the dictionary, there would be a picture of the Square D/Cooper Lighting driver with a puzzled look on his face. Some NASCAR Winston Cup Series pilots feel the strain of continuing their success at certain tracks, but Wallace actually looks forward to returning to the site of his career-best 2nd place finish - Sunday's New England 300 at the New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, N.H.
"Absolutely no pressure what-so-ever," said Wallace. "Loudon is a good race track for the Square D/ Cooper Lighting Chevrolet. We almost got my first Winston Cup win there in last year's Jiffy Lube 300. If anything, I want to go there more because of how close we were to winning our first Winston Cup race. I just feel comfortable at Loudon because my skills match the needs of the track."
Wallace has earned three top-10's in the last four Loudon Winston Cup races. As a driver in the NASCAR Busch Grand National Series, he also earned a pole and a big win in the Budweiser 300 Busch race in 1991. So with all of the accomplishments at the track known as the "Magic Mile," it's the one that got away that is still on the Square D/Cooper Lighting driver's mind.
"All I remember from last year is almost winning the whole thing," continued Wallace. "I still believe I could've won that race if it hadn't been for a run-in with Mike Skinner. I would've had a smoother straightaway to catch Jeff Burton, and I believe I would have caught him. We had a strong race car, and to this day, I still run that race through my head."
While the Square D Racing Team had a good race car setup that day for the 1.058-mile oval, it was a gamble in pit strategy that almost brought Wallace his first checkered flag and earned then rookie crew chief, Jimmy Elledge, the Hasbro Interactive Pit Strategy Award.
After a caution on lap 195, the Square D/Cooper Lighting Chevy was running 15th. Eight laps later, the caution flag came out again, and while the leaders stayed on the track, the No. 55 race car pitted to top off its fuel tank. The team was hoping the race would stay green until the end, and with a full tank, Wallace wouldn't have to stop again for gas. Wallace exited pit road in the 17th position, the last car on the lead lap. With 15 laps to go, the decision paid off, as the rest of the field had to fuel up under green, allowing Wallace to move up to the second spot.
"I actually lost the race by 10 car lengths (to Jeff Burton) because we didn't have enough gas to run full throttle," said Wallace. "I had to back off and run half-throttle for about 10 laps. Even though we couldn't run the Chevy as hard as we wanted to, the strategy worked because we were going to finish outside the top-15. Instead, we wound up second."
"It was a hero call that could've been a zero call," added Elledge. "Track position always ends up being the key element in a race. I've seen many Winston Cup races won not by the fastest race car, but by who held the track position in the end. It was a risk, but I said 'Heck, why not. Let's try it.'"
Last year's race is one of Wallace's fondest Winston Cup memories, but he says it's just one of the reasons he enjoys racing at New Hampshire International Speedway. The Square D/Cooper Lighting pilot claims that, win or lose, it's the people who make the entire weekend in Loudon enjoyable.
"I really love the atmosphere around New Hampshire," said Wallace. "Bob and Gary Behre are the type of people that open up their arms to you. They make you feel good about coming to the race track. They throw a big old lobster feast just for the competitors. When you go to Loudon, you feel like you are just going to race in your backyard."
<pre> Kenny Wallace's New Hampshire Performance Profile --- Year Event Start Finish Status/Laps Earnings 1999 Jiffy Lube 300 6 2 Running/300 $95,400 Dura Lube/Kmart 300 39 34 Running/289 $33,850 1998 Jiffy Lube 300 17 10 Running/300 $62,625 Farm Aid on CMT 300 4 6 Running/300 $52,900 1997 Jiffy Lube 300 36 19 Running/299 $31,900 Farm Aid on CMT 300 34 27 Running/298 $34,750 1996 Jiffy Lube 300 15 19 Running/299 $17,525 1993 Slick 50 300 25 21 Running/297 $13,150