Wallace in NationsRent Ford for 2001
By Dave Rodman
MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Dec. 15, 2000) Mike Wallace on Friday received a two-year vote of confidence from team owner Jimmy Smith and sponsor NationsRent when he signed to drive Ultra Motorsports' No. 7 NationsRent Fords in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series in 2001.
Smith, who will also field a two-truck factory team for Dodge in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, also announced his NASCAR Winston Cup Series team would use Robert Yates engines.
"I'm excited about this opportunity," said Wallace, who finished fourth in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series standings in 2000 while driving for Smith. "I was in a unique situation in that this wasn't my only choice. We had the truck and there were other Winston Cup opportunities out there."
The decision to put Wallace in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series Ford leaves the seat in Smith's No. 1 Mopar Performance Parts Dodge open in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Paul Mecca, Ultra's director of marketing, said Mike Bliss, formerly Ultra's driver in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, was one of the candidates for the truck.
"He's a strong candidate, no question," Mecca said of Bliss, who garnered at least one victory in each of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' first five seasons. "A bunch of other names have been bandied about."
Last season, Wallace drove Ultra's No. 2 Team ASE Ford in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. He collected three victories and a pair of Bud Poles. He has five career wins in that series.
"I think both Jimmy and I bring something to each other," Wallace said. "People have to agree that we had what I consider a championship program in the truck series. But this is what I really wanted to do. This is my shot to make it in Winston Cup racing and I've got to make it work."
The seat in the No. 7 opened when Michael Waltrip announced he was leaving at the end of the 2000 season to join Dale Earnhardt Inc. Waltrip will drive a NAPA-sponsored Chevrolet next season. Last year, while piloting the NationsRent ride, Waltrip finished 27th in the standings with one top-5 finish.
"I'm very pleased to finally be able to make a decision on who is driving the No. 7 NationsRent Ford Taurus," Smith said. "Everyone has seen what Mike Wallace is capable of doing in a race truck and we are real excited to think of what he can do in our race cars."
The 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season begins with the Daytona 500 on Feb. 18 at Daytona International Speedway. The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series kicks off its seventh season with the Daytona 250 during Speedweeks 2001 on Feb. 16.