Kenny Wallace's Return to Martinsville Speedway Results in a 13th Place Finish for the AutoZone Team (Martinsville, Va.) July 22, 2006 -- As the NASCAR Busch Series returned to Martinsville Speedway for the first time in over a decade, Kenny ...
Kenny Wallace's Return to Martinsville Speedway Results in a 13th Place Finish for the AutoZone Team
(Martinsville, Va.) July 22, 2006 -- As the NASCAR Busch Series returned to Martinsville Speedway for the first time in over a decade, Kenny Wallace and the AutoZone team held high expectations. Wallace, a two-time winner at Martinsville, was the last driver to win a NASCAR Busch Series race at the historic half-mile track back in 1994. With driver experience and the team's determination, the AutoZone team would finish the Goody's 250 in the 13th position.
The return to Martinsville began with an open practice session on Thursday followed by two practice sessions on Friday. Confident in the No. 22 AutoZone Ford Fusion's handling abilities, Wallace would run only a few laps in final practice and post a time of 20.102 seconds, 15th quick.
Starting from the 23rd position for Saturday afternoon's Goody's 250, Wallace let his experience at Martinsville guide him through the field.
"Track position is so important here at Martinsville. That and staying away from any on-track incidents. This is the first time a lot of these drivers have raced at this track and if you're not patient and kind to the people around you it can get ugly fast. You have an opportunity to wreck anybody out there at any given time," explained Wallace.
Those words would ring true as the 250-lap race would display a record number 19 caution flags throughout the day.
Wallace would strategically maneuver his way through the field and gain six positions within 15 laps. On lap 32 Wallace reported in to the AutoZone crew, "I'm loose in the middle." Crew Chief, Todd Gordon replied, "The car should start tightening up as you turn more laps."
When the third caution flag flew on Lap 50, Todd Gordon made the call to bring the No. 22 AutoZone Ford Fusion down pit road for the only pit stop of the day. The AutoZone crew quickly went to work changing four tires, topping off the fuel and making a track bar adjustment to help tighten the car up.
Back out on the track and restarting in the 30th position, Wallace began his fight to the front and radioed in on Lap 78, "the car is getting better as I go."
As the leaders began to cycle down pit road on Lap 80, the decision was made to keep Wallace and the No. 22 AutoZone Ford Fusion out on the track to gain valuable track position. That decision would prove to pay off as Wallace restarted in the third position.
The No. 22 AutoZone Ford Fusion would run up in the top-five for the next 80 laps until Lap 163 when the handling began to shift. Wallace reported, "When I get on the gas, the car pushes."
Despite the handling condition, Wallace maintained track position and would never fall below the 13th position.
"We'll take this 13th place finish. We ran 196 laps today without a pit stop.That's an impressive feat for this or any team here. I really worked hard to adjust to the car's handling condition as the laps progressed. We stayed out of trouble and quietly crossed the start/finish line in 13th today," Wallace explained.