Mechanical Issues Merely Postpone Top-Three Effort for Team HomeLife Communities Rusty Wallace Racing
HOMESTEAD, FL (November 19, 2007)--When Saturday night's finale for the NASCAR Busch Series was over, Steve Wallace summed up the night rather concisely. "One thing's for sure; everyone knew we were here," the 20 year-old wheelman stated. While his results were less than he desired, Wallace, the Busch Series's youngest full-time driver, showed the racing world yet another glimpse of his speed and potential.
The Ford 200 from Homestead-Miami Speedway started at approximately 4:45 PM ET Saturday afternoon and Steve Wallace's No. 66 Team HomeLife Communities Rusty Wallace Racing Dodge Charger started the event from the outside of row seven. Upon the start of the race, Wallace held his own against the field, all the while battling an extremely loose race car. Although mired around the 15th running position through the first 15 laps, solid pit strategy and strong adjustments to correct the loose condition would soon propel Wallace towards the leaders.
The first pit stop of the day for the No. 66 team came under the day's third caution period, around lap 21. Crew Chief Steve Darne brought Wallace to pit road for four tires and chassis adjustments crafted, in part, by the team's race engineer. Wallace emerged from the pits around the 24th position for the lap 24 restart, but he would not stay there for long. Just several laps later, the leaders came to pit road for their first stops of the day. With only a few green flag laps on their tires, the HomeLife team elected to remain on the racetrack, where they would find themselves around the ninth position for the lap 29 restart.
Now able to see the leaders and armed with a freshly adjusted Dodge Charger, Wallace set his sights squarely upon the top-five. After overtaking Busch Series regulars Bobby East and Michael McDowell immediately upon the restart, Wallace powered by 2007 Daytona 500 Champion Kevin Harvick, just prior to lap 50, to move into the top-five for the first time in the event. After speeding around Harvick, Wallace set sail for Hendrick Motorsports' Casey Mears. Despite slightly older tires, the HomeLife Communities Dodge dismissed of Mears's No. 24 on lap 57 to earn the fourth position. Next on the hit list for the No. 66 was Ganassi's No. 41, driven by A.J. Allmendinger of Team Red Bull. On lap 61, Wallace had knifed past Allmendinger and into third place, his highest running position of the event. Wallace then radioed, jokingly, to Darne, "Why can't our cars always handle like this?"
Despite his having a car potentially capable of winning the race, Steve Wallace and the 66 team would once again be bitten by bad luck just after a restart on lap 91. After restarting from the fourth position, Wallace was navigating turns one and two of the speedway when a large trail of sparks flew from underneath his Dodge. The car then entered a spin and made contact with the outside retaining wall, causing severe damage to the rear of the vehicle. After the team's first attempt to repair the car, Wallace headed back into the race, still on the lead lap. Unfortunately, the team failed to clear the car's fenders from its tires and a cut tire sent Wallace into another spin just several laps later. Following that incident, Wallace elected to take his Dodge behind the wall for repairs. After a repair period of 30-plus laps, the No. 66 returned to competition and faced several more issues with cut tires before the event ended with the team finishing in the 34th position.
Noted Steve Wallace, "One thing's for sure; everyone knew we were here. Our HomeLife Communities Dodge was bad-fast today. We started out the race pretty loose, but our race engineer and crew chief made some good calls on the first pit stop and got us tuned up. After that, it was on; I could go just about anywhere on the racetrack that I wanted. For a while there, I really thought that we might have a shot at winning that thing, but it just didn't happen. I drove down into turn one on the restart and all of the sudden, the car just bottomed out really hard and wouldn't turn. It hit so hard that it felt like something broke. Whatever it was, it's not acceptable and we're going to make sure that it doesn't happen again. With all of the changes and upgrades that we're making for next year, I think you're going to see this No. 66 running up front like this a lot more often in 2008. I can't wait for next year to get started!"