Early Race Incident Spoils Top Finish for Wallace and the AutoZone Team (Sparta, KY) June 17, 2006 -- The No. 22 AutoZone Ford Fusion finished 20th in Saturday night's Meijer 300 presented by Oreo. Driver Kenny Wallace made a valiant effort...
Early Race Incident Spoils Top Finish for Wallace and the AutoZone Team
(Sparta, KY) June 17, 2006 -- The No. 22 AutoZone Ford Fusion finished 20th in Saturday night's Meijer 300 presented by Oreo. Driver Kenny Wallace made a valiant effort to maintain pace with the leaders as the St. Louis native hoped for a top-10 finish in front of a record breaking crowd. More than 69,000 fans watched Wallace maintain a top-15 position early on however an early race incident prevented his trek to the front.
"The AutoZone Ford was good in practice and after a few minor adjustments I was confident that we could bring home a top-10 finish. Historically this track hasn't been good to me so we came in here determined to redeem ourselves," explained Wallace.
The No. 22 AutoZone Ford would end up 11th in final practice with a time of 30.470 sec., 177.223 mph and in spite of going out fourth in qualifying; Wallace placed the No. 22 in the 14th position for Saturday night's race under the lights.
As the sun set and the 43 cars took to the track Saturday evening, an early race caution on lap 1 would set the precedent for the fourth running of the Meijer 300 at Kentucky Speedway. Wallace, anxious to break into the top-10 early on, restarted 14th on lap 11 and tapped the No. 06 car driven by Todd Kleuver. The on-track
incident would prove to be detrimental in the handling of the No. 22 AutoZone Ford for the remainder of the evening.
When the caution flag flew again on lap 23, Wallace brought the damaged AutoZone Ford down pit road for repairs and adjustments. The AutoZone crew quickly went to work with four fresh tires, fuel, air pressure adjustments and a survey of the damage to the front of the No. 22 Ford Fusion. As the field quickly approached the start/finish line, Wallace headed back out on track and then back down pit road for repairs. With BearBond in hand, the crew went to work on the front of the car where Wallace sustained damage to the hood of the AutoZone Ford.
"I don't know what happened there, I think the No. 06 backed down on the restart. I'm sorry guys, I didn't realize the extent of the damage," explained Wallace.
With the repairs in place, Wallace fought handling conditions for the remaining 175 laps.
"The damage to the front played a major part in the handling of the car, even when the guys taped the hood down, air was still getting through causing Kenny to battle with the handling all night. Aerodynamics play a significant role in track position at Kentucky and unfortunately we were at a disadvantage," explained Crew Chief, Todd Gordon.
Despite the circumstances at hand, Wallace never gave up and fought to maintain position. "I'm driving hard, I promise you. I'm not going to give up till we see that checkered flag," radioed in Wallace.
Because of the team's tireless efforts and Wallace's determination, the AutoZone team crossed the finish line in the 20th position, maintaining Wallace's 10th place position in the driver's standings.