CHARLOTTE, N.C., (Aug. 22, 2000) - Michigan Speedway, a wide two-mile track that normally promotes an uneventful battle of horsepower and fuel economy, generated an exciting race full of drama for last Sunday's Pepsi 400. With 12 racing teams ...
CHARLOTTE, N.C., (Aug. 22, 2000) - Michigan Speedway, a wide two-mile track that normally promotes an uneventful battle of horsepower and fuel economy, generated an exciting race full of drama for last Sunday's Pepsi 400. With 12 racing teams suffering DNFs, Kenny Wallace, driver of the Square D/Cooper Lighting Chevrolet, endured the 400-mile battle to take 30th place in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series event.
"It's rare to see that many teams having trouble at this track," said Wallace. "Normally three to four teams fall out of this race, but Sunday right front tires were blowing up like kernels in a popcorn bag. With all those pit stops, our tire bill is going to be expensive. I didn't know if I was at Michigan or Darlington (S.C.). Drivers must have been real pumped up because this is a lot of drama for a Michigan race."
* * *
As the Square D Racing Team prepares for Sunday's goracing.com 500 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, Kenny Wallace, driver of the Square D/Cooper Lighting Chevrolet, knows his team will put extra emphasis on qualifying for the NASCAR Winston Cup Series event.
Wallace, a strong performer at the .533-mile oval, is currently riding a streak of three consecutive qualifying efforts of sixth or higher, and has posted seven top-10 starting times in the last nine races. He won the pole for the Goody's 500 in 1997, and narrowly missed another front row starting spot this season as he secured the outside pole for this year's Food City 500. While Wallace knows that a pole won't win Saturday's race, a strong starting spot is a step in the right direction.
"At most races, you want to qualify in the top-25 so you're locked into a starting spot," said Wallace. "At Bristol, that's not good enough. You have to raise your standards to a top-21 qualifying time so that you can pit on the frontstretch. That way, you get dropped off first by the pace car and you get to your pit stalls before the guys on the backstretch.
"Teams who pit on the frontstretch have an advantage, but it's not a decisive one," added Wallace. "A frontstretch pit stall is just something teams can capitalize on during the race, but it's not like teams on the backstretch can't compete up front. It just doesn't help to be there. It's more important to focus your efforts on remaining on the lead lap during the race."
Even though Wallace has had a lot of success on small tracks, he doesn't want to be labeled as a short track driver. Strong performances last season at Talladega (Ala.) and this year at Sonoma (Calif.) and Watkins Glen (N.Y.) support his argument. What he does want is to label the Square D Racing Team as a crew that communicates well together, especially at small tracks where teamwork is so important.
"You don't have to rely on the race car as much when you compete on the short tracks," said Wallace. "What I like about the bullrings is that horsepower and aerodynamics aren't as necessary to be successful. They're important, but chassis setup becomes a significant variable. Jimmy and I have more room to work with the race car while we're at the track, and that's when team communication is key.
"We need to continue to keep that qualifying performance at a high level," continued Wallace. "We've been so close to three poles this year. We were close seconds at Bristol and Martinsville, and we weren't far off the Dover pole. I would really like a pole this year just to reward the guys for their hard work on the race car. For some reason, poles boost team morale."