CHARLOTTE, N.C., (Nov. 14, 2000) - Kenny Wallace, driver of the Square D/Cooper Lighting Chevrolet, is an optimist. And the 37-year-old driver used every ounce of his positivity to turn a 42nd starting position into 24th place finish in Sunday's...
CHARLOTTE, N.C., (Nov. 14, 2000) - Kenny Wallace, driver of the Square D/Cooper Lighting Chevrolet, is an optimist. And the 37-year-old driver used every ounce of his positivity to turn a 42nd starting position into 24th place finish in Sunday's Pennzoil 400 NASCAR Winston Cup Series event at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
After 17 laps around the 1.5-mile oval, Wallace reported to crew chief Jimmy Elledge that his machine was loose in the center of the turns. Thanks to two timely cautions, the Square D Racing Team was able to tighten up the No. 55 race car, allowing Wallace to pick his way past 18 drivers before the end of the 267-lap affair.
"The Square D/Cooper Lighting Chevrolet was pushing off the middle of the turns early in the race," said Wallace. "Fortunately, Jimmy and the boys used our caution laps wisely today. They did a great job tightening up the Chevy during our pit stops, and returned me to green flag racing with a competitive race car."
With just one race remaining on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series schedule, only the newly crowned 2000 champion, Bobby Labonte, knows where he will finish in the Winston Cup point standings. The rest of the Winston Cup drivers will have to wait until after Sunday's NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway since none of the top-40 drivers have secured their final spots for the 2000 season.
This weekend, teams will be fighting for final positions on a 1.54-mile quad-oval battleground, and several interesting scenarios will keep race fans tuned in even though the championship has been decided. Take for instance Kenny Wallace, driver of the Square D/Cooper Lighting Chevrolet. The St. Louis native is currently 27th in driver points, but in Winston Cup racing, it's owner points that matter, and the 29th placed Square D Racing Team has a big incentive to finish in the top-30.
"Toward the end of the season, I brought to Andy Petree Racing's (APR) attention that it was very important for the Square D/Cooper Lighting Chevrolet to finish in the top 30 of the point standings," said Wallace, whose APR team is just 28 points ahead of the Wood Brothers' No. 21 squad, which is in 31st place. "The top-30 in points are considered the bench mark for next season's guaranteed money plan. A team 31st or higher will lose out on approximately $300,000 from next year's races. So you can see how important this race is to many teams."
With all that money on the line, teams will be racing as hard as they can until the checkered flag falls at Atlanta Motor Speedway. That's why Wallace believes that each team will employ its own personal strategy that will make Sunday's 325-lap affair competitive until the end.
"One of the exciting things about this final weekend is the big battle we're having back here in the point standings," said Wallace. "Everyone will have their own ideas on how to approach this race. Since our priority over these last couple of weeks has been to stay in the top-30, we'll probably use a conservative game plan for Sunday. In Phoenix, we found a setup during happy hour that I liked, but we only got to try it out for two laps before practice time expired. We weren't sure whether to use the chassis we had worked on all afternoon or go with the new one. Our team owner, Andy Petree, suggested to us that we run the setup that we had used most of the day just to be safe. We finished 19th in Phoenix and while I wanted to win the race, it was probably the smart thing to do.
"I've always said, 'I don't care if I win a race in a Volkswagen, I just want to win a Winston Cup race,'" added Wallace. "That's been one of our goals all season long, and this team has one more shot in the NAPA 500. On the other hand, we can't gamble in Atlanta. For the team's sake, we need to take the sure thing and let the chips fall where they may. We don't want to do something stupid that might take us out of the top-30 and hurt this team somewhere down the road."