While RWI Racing team owner Rusty Wallace made his ABC / ESPN NEXTEL Cup Series broadcasting debut at the nearby Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Steve Wallace and Team HomeLife Communities RWI Racing were in action this weekend in the Kroger 200 at...
While RWI Racing team owner Rusty Wallace made his ABC / ESPN NEXTEL Cup Series broadcasting debut at the nearby Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Steve Wallace and Team HomeLife Communities RWI Racing were in action this weekend in the Kroger 200 at O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis. The team started the event from the 25th starting position, following a best lap of 22.991 seconds (107.416 MPH).
Upon the start of the race, Wallace immediately began showing the strength of his No.66 Dodge, moving into the top 20 by lap five. On lap fourteen, Wallace radioed to his crew that he was fighting a moderate loose condition on his Dodge. Despite this, his lap times were equivalent to the lower half of the top ten.
On the fifteenth lap, while running in heavy traffic, Steve was involved in the race's first caution. His No.66 made contact with the No.24 of Landon Cassill, sending Cassill spinning into the outside retaining wall. Following the incident, Wallace radioed to crew chief Steve Darne, "Man, I sure didn't mean to do that; he just checked up really hard in front of me and I didn't have anywhere to go."
Following the lap 18 restart, the No.66 moved into the bottom half of the top-15 and Wallace began to experience a tight condition on his Dodge Charger. Despite the condition, his lap times remained equivalent to those of the lower half of the top-ten drivers.
Steve Wallace' day would hit a slight roadblock following the day's fourth caution period, which flew on lap 97. Under that caution period, Wallace brought his Dodge to pit road from fifteenth place for four tires, fuel and adjustments. While entering turn three coming to the green for the lap 101 restart, the team suddenly received word from race officials that they had issued the No.66 a penalty for supposedly passing on pit road. Quick thinking by spotter Kenny Wallace saved the team's day from disaster. The penalty consisted of restarting from the tail end of the longest line. Failure to do so would result in being black-flagged under green flag conditions, which would have put the team several laps down. Due to the extremely late issuance of the penalty, confusion ensued, as Steve had nearly no time to move to the rear of the field. "Stop, stop...move over and let them all go now," exclaimed Kenny. Steve immediately moved aside and by the time the green flag flew for the restart, he was barely able to heed the penalty issued to him.
Following the close call, Steve restarted the race from the 27th position on lap 101. By lap 150, he had scratched and clawed his way back into the top-20, running in the 19th position. On lap 157, Evernham's No.9 car made hard contact with the outside wall in turn three. In an effort to avoid the incident, Wallace made made slight contact with the outside wall as well. After some debate, the team decided to bring the car to pit road to evaluate any damage. Luckily, they made the right call, as the right front fender of the No.66 was indeed in contact with the tire.
The pit stop put Wallace back to the 22nd position for the lap 163 restart. Over the final 47 laps, Steve remained determined to make it back towards the front of the field. By lap 193, he had made it back to the 18th position and hard racing had ensued between he and Fitz Racing's Josh Wise for several laps, with Steve making it underneath Wise, but being unable to complete the pass. On that lap, Wallace was able to get underneath Wise exiting turn four and the two cars made contact, resulting in Wise spinning, but making no contact with the wall or other cars.
The race restarted on lap 195 with a five lap dash to the checkers. During those five laps, Steve raced feverishly with Roush's David Ragan for the seventeenth position. The side by side racing allowed Wise to come within two car lengths of the pair as they took the checkered flag. As Wallace and Ragan took the checkered flag and continued down the frontstretch, Wise plowed his Family Dollar Fitz Racing machine into the rear of Wallace's Dodge in a blatant and unsportsmanlike act of post-race retaliation. The contact sent Wallace spinning down the frontstretch and into turn one, where he made hard contact with several cars that had already finished the race and slowed. The incident resulted in heavy damage to RWI's Dodge, as well as to several other cars.
STEVE WALLACE, DRIVER NO.66 HOMELIFE COMMUNITIES DODGE CHARGER
ON YOUR RACE OVERALL: "I'm really proud of the effort that our HomeLife Communities team put forth today. We didn't have a great car in practice, but we worked hard on it and managed to make it pretty good in the race. Our team definitely faced several setbacks today, but we never got down and we were able to come out of Indy with a top-20 finish and a good points day. I'm definitely sorry about the incident with the 24 car; we were all racing hard on new tires and it looked like he was kind of struggling up on the top side. He just checked up and there wasn't anything I could do about it. I hate it for everyone."
ON THE POST-RACE INCIDENT WITH THE 22 CAR: "We were racing hard with like ten laps to go and he was a lot slower than me, but I just couldn't get by him; he was doing a good job of guarding the top side of the race track. I had gotten underneath him a couple of times but just couldn't make it stick. Then, I got underneath him that one time and we made contact. It was totally unintentional as far as I'm concerned; it was just hard short-track racing with ten laps to go. If not for what he did to us after the race, I would have been really sorry that it happened and talked to him about it. As far as what happened after the race, it was totally intentional, stupid and dangerous on his part; I'm just really thankful that he didn't manage to hurt anyone and I'll be really surprised if NASCAR doesn't look at it. I don't think that kid has a ride in NASCAR right now and that's definitely not the way to get one. He didn't gain any positions by doing that; in fact, he might have lost one. The only thing he did was cost our team and several others a lot of money and gave the fabricators a lot more work. If it's unintentional and just a racing incident, that's one thing, but intentionally wrecking someone after the race has ended is another."