SORENSON HELPS RUSTY WALLACE RACING MAKE CHARLOTTE "EXPERIMENT" A SUCCESS --Team Finds "Just What We Needed to Know"; Steve Wallace "Chomping at the Bit" for Memphis-- MOORESVILLE, NC (October 14, 2007)--What started as a night of uncertainty...
SORENSON HELPS RUSTY WALLACE RACING MAKE CHARLOTTE "EXPERIMENT" A SUCCESS
--Team Finds "Just What We Needed to Know"; Steve Wallace "Chomping at the Bit" for Memphis--
MOORESVILLE, NC (October 14, 2007)--What started as a night of uncertainty for Rusty Wallace Racing on Friday evening ended with the team gaining valuable direction as it steams towards the end of 2007 and the start of its bid for the 2008 Nationwide Series crown. Just the week before, the team announced that its regular driver, Steve Wallace, had agreed to let friend and fellow driver, Reed Sorenson, wheel the No.66 Dodge in a one-race "experiment," designed to help the team evaluate its current intermediate track package.
After struggling during the first two practice sessions, the team quickly determined that its woes during the second half of the 2007 season were not solely attributable to the young Wallace, as Sorenson quickly identified exactly the same ill-handling characteristics which had plagued Wallace and the team. Despite these characteristics, Sorenson, just like Wallace has done for much of the year, was able to make the most of his talent during qualifying and put the HomeLife Communities Dodge inside the top-15 for the start of the 300-mile contest.
Almost immediately upon the start of the race, the team realized that its perseverance would be put to the test, as Sorenson radioed to crew chief Steve Darne that his Dodge was bottoming out very badly. By lap nine, the No.66 was still bottoming out, leaving Sorenson no choice but to run only the track's upper groove. The team's first pit stop of the day occurred under the lap 28 caution and saw Sorenson's car fitted with four tires and fuel. The second stop for the No.66 took place just the next lap and saw the HomeLife Communities team raise the No.66 on all four corners, in an effort to stop it from bottoming out. The two stops relegated Sorenson to the 34th spot for the lap 71 restart.
Despite the changes, Sorenson continued to fight an ill-handling car and by lap 59, had stated that the car's handling was even getting worse. The young Georgian continued to persevere, however and had returned to the top-25 just before the race's midway point. A caution for former RWR driver Jamie McMurray on lap 108 would reward Sorenson's perseverance, as it allowed him to make his way back onto the lead lap, after being lapped earlier in the event. The team made large adjustments to the No.66 under this caution period, but they were not enough to make Sorenson's tight condition disappear.
Over the race's accident-plagued third quarter, however, Sorenson managed to dodge the many accidents and the team took every available opportunity to adjust on the No.66. By lap 140, the team's perseverance had allowed them to break into the top-15 and Sorenson seemed poised to make a run at the leaders. Around lap 150, he took over the 12th position and praised the team, stating, "This car is an absolute animal on restarts!" Despite this, the car's tight condition would ultimately appear once again and forced Sorenson to settle in around 15 position with 25 laps to go.
Although the team seemed poised to salvage a top-15 run, its perseverance would unfortunately not be enough to see the No.66 Dodge to the finish line. With just 17 laps remaining in the event, the rear axle of the No.66 Dodge would fly from the car as Sorenson entered turn three, forcing him into the outside retaining wall and out of contention for the evening.
Noted team owner, Rusty Wallace, "Although the 25th place finish wasn't what we were looking for, this weekend's "experiment" was definitely a success. Reed was able to give us a ton of good feedback on our cars and it really mirrored everything that Steve (Wallace) has been saying all year long. Reed told us just what we needed to know and it certainly proved to us, just like we suspected, that the problems we've experienced lately are not directly related to Steve at all. A team just doesn't go from winning poles and running up front like we did in the first half of the season to having problems like we've experienced in the second half, unless there are some other issues going on. We've been very strong on the intermediate tracks over the last two to three seasons, but as some of the rules have changed, it seems like we might have lost some of the overall balance on our cars. That was the real reason for having Reed in the car this weekend; it let us evaluate our cars' balance and Reed gave us feedback almost identical to Steve's."
Wallace continued, "We expected this to happen and our competition group, led by our General Manager, had already started evaluating ways to help our cars overall. As we finish 2007, our organization has made significant investments in new personnel. We will continue to align ourselves with people and organizations that are capable of taking our team where we want to go. We're going to get back on top and today was a key step in that progression. I really want to thank Reed and Chip Ganassi for all of their help. You can bet that Steve Wallace is chomping at the bit and ready to go for Memphis, though. He and a team led by our car chief are going to be testing this week to prepare for next weekend. I'm very proud of the way Steve has handled himself throughout all of this; he's more determined than ever."