MECHANICAL WOES END PROMISING START FOR STEVE WALLACE IN PHOENIX--5-Hour Energy Pilot Notches Top-Ten Start, Faces Adversity in Valley of the Sun--
AVONDALE, AZ (February 26, 2011)--Hopes were high in the Rusty Wallace Racing garages Saturday morning, following Steve Wallace's (No. 66 5-Hour Energy Toyota Camry) top-ten effort in qualifying for the Bashas' Supermarkets 200 at Phoenix International Raceway.
Wallace, known as one of the series' strongest short track pilots, put in a lap of 27.301 seconds (131.863 MPH) in the morning qualifying session, good enough to put him on row four of the starting grid.
Upon the start of the race, however, the 23 year-old knew that he could potentially be in for a long day. "After five laps or so, I could tell that there was something going on with the car; it was doing a lot of really strange things that I never felt in practice," Wallace noted, "We made quite a few changes in the first half of the race and the car never really responded."
Despite the evil handling on his No. 66 car, the young driver persevered, spending almost the entire first half of Saturday's event among the top-15. With his handling issues getting progressively worse, Wallace hit pit road under green flag conditions on lap 103, with a suspected flat tire.
When four new Goodyear Eagles failed to rectify the situation, the 5-Hour Energy team examined the car's front suspension thoroughly. What they found was a issue in the right front suspension that sent the No. 66 Toyota to the garage.
When Wallace finally returned to the track, he went on to set lap times among the top-five. His efforts were ultimately in vain, however, as the repairs to his car had ultimately cost the No. 66 team ten laps to the leaders.
Stated RWR General Manager, Larry Carter, "We had a pretty unique situation today with our No. 66 car. Right now, it appears to be a mistake in the preparation of the race car by a member or members of that team. We're going to get the car back to the shop and really dissect it to be sure. We take pride in having some of the nicest, most well-prepared cars in the garage, so mistakes are not acceptable and we're going to be sure that this doesn't happen again. Steve Wallace, our sponsors, our team and our fans all deserve better than what happened today."
-source: rusty wallace racing