EVENT SUMMARY The Meijer 300 presented by Oreo began just after 8:45 PM ET Saturday evening and 19-year old Steve Wallace rolled off the grid from the 9th starting position, ...
The Meijer 300 presented by Oreo began just after 8:45 PM ET Saturday evening and 19-year old Steve Wallace rolled off the grid from the 9th starting position, following a qualifying lap of 30.726 seconds (175.747 MPH). His starting spot marked his third consecutive top-12 starting position.
Upon the start of the event, Wallace did not take long to move towards the front of the field. Using superb restarts, Steve was able to get by former Australian V8 Supercar Champion Marcos Ambrose on lap 11, to move into the fourth position. Wallace's HomeLife Communities machine had a tight condition for much of the race's early going, but nonetheless, he was able to move by Ginn Racing's Regan Smith to assume the third spot by lap 21.
The RWI squad made its first pit stop of the day under green on lap 63 and remained in the top five through its second stop on lap 91. Under the lap 91 stop, the team made larger than usual adjustments to correct the car's tight condition. Despite the extra work on pit road, the No.66 team still managed to pick up a position in the pits and Wallace found himself in the third spot for the lap 96 restart. Following the restart, Wallace was determined to find his way to the front of the field. On lap 97, he made a bold move to knife past Brad Coleman of Joe Gibbs Racing in turn one and take over the second position. Steve and leader Carl Edwards then proceeded to rocket away from the rest of the field. The duo would battle for the lead, with Wallace pulling within three car lengths of Edwards before his tight condition set in once again. Wallace and Edwards would continue distancing themselves from the field, running in positions one and two until the night's sixth caution on lap 152.
Both Wallace and Edwards came to pit road under the caution period; the duo exited the pits in the same positions in which they entered. During the stop, the team made major adjustments to Wallace's Dodge, in hopes of giving him the car he needed to emerge from the 45-lap sprint to the checkers with his first Busch Series victory. Knowing the strength of Edwards's car thus far, Wallace knew that his best chance to pass would be immediately following the restart, while on fresh tires. Upon the restart, Steve saw a chance to strike, as Edwards's car failed to accelerate as quickly as the No.66 did. As Edwards guarded the top of the racetrack, Wallace sliced his way to the bottom, hoping to slip between Edwards and the lapped car of Regan Smith. Unfortunately, Edwards moved down the racetrack in order to block Wallace's advance and the two cars then collided. The subsequent accident would effectively eliminate the field's two fastest cars from competition.
Although the HomeLife Communities team would be diligent in making repairs to the No.66, the damage was too severe for Wallace to remain competitive. Unfortunately, the 19 year-old ended what was possibly his best career Busch Series drive in the 22nd position. In the process however, he managed both to score his second consecutive lead lap finish in the Busch Series and show the rest of the competition that he will likely be a force with which to be reckoned in the second half of the season.
STEVE WALLACE, DRIVER, NO.66 HOMELIFE COMMUNITIES DODGE CHARGER
ON HIS RACE OVERALL: "We had a really great race car tonight; it was probably the best car we've had this season. That was definitely the most consistent our car has been over a fuel run all year. You know, our team has been working really hard on our setups and I think that it's beginning to show. I honestly believe that after our last round of changes, we probably had a car that could have won the race. I really hate what happened with Carl (Edwards); he's a good guy and I would have never wrecked him on purpose. I really feel badly for both of our teams; if not for the wreck, it was going to be one of us that ended up winning the race, but instead, we ended up giving it away to someone else."
MORE ON THE INCIDENT WITH NO.99--CARL EDWARDS: "I probably should have been more patient, but I get paid to try and win races and that's what I wanted to do. I knew our car was going to be a lot better after the stop and we were already able to hang with Carl for about the first fifteen laps of a run before he really pulled away from us. So, I knew that my best shot to get him was going to be right after the restart on new tires. The "aero-push" is pretty bad at Kentucky, so I felt like if I could get in front of him, that I at least had a shot. We took off and Carl didn't get as good of a start as I did, so he was guarding the top of the track. For a couple of seconds, there was room between Carl and the 4 car; I had a heck of a run, so I went for it. Carl saw me coming and moved down to block. I just couldn't get slowed down fast enough and I got into him. I thought I had him cleared for a second, but then he came back down the track and got into my right side. On one hand, I'd like to say that Carl shouldn't have been blocking, but at the same time, I should have been more patient. I'm willing to take responsibility; it was a racing incident. We'll just have to put it behind us, learn all we can from what happened and go on to the next race."
ON THE NEXT RACE, MILWAUKEE: "I really enjoy Milwaukee. It's a very historical place; all of the great drivers have run there. We qualified really well there last year (5th), but had to start from tail-back. Our car was probably the fastest in the field for the first half of the run, but once the tires went away, it was all I could do just to keep from wrecking. We've been working hard lately to make our cars more consistent across an entire run, so hopefully our work will keep paying off this weekend like it did in Kentucky. I'm excited about getting up there and giving our sponsors, like HomeLife Communities, a great run. Hopefully we can seal the deal this time around."