CHARLOTTE, N.C., (March 7, 2000) - With a light drizzle forcing 24 consecutive caution laps in the CarsDirect.com 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, crew chief Jimmy Elledge instructed Kenny Wallace into the pits to top off the fuel tank. The ...
CHARLOTTE, N.C., (March 7, 2000) - With a light drizzle forcing 24 consecutive caution laps in the CarsDirect.com 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, crew chief Jimmy Elledge instructed Kenny Wallace into the pits to top off the fuel tank. The 5.02-second pit stop on lap 40 dropped the Square D/Cooper Lighting Chevrolet from 35th to 40th. What seemed like an untimely decision actually gave the No. 55 team a chance to move into the top-10, if Wallace's opponents pitted for fuel before the next caution.
"With weather like this, you're racing to lap 134," said Elledge in regard to running until the halfway mark of the scheduled 267-lap event. "We were just trying to catch a timely caution because we weren't running well at the time. We elected to pit because we didn't have a lot of track position to lose."
The decision worked initially, as the race remained caution free and teams decided to pit under green, bouncing Wallace up to fourth-place. Once in the top-five, the Square D/Cooper Lighting Chevy needed a yellow flag to refuel and remain with the race leaders. Unfortunately, the caution never came, and Wallace was forced to pit for fuel on lap 98, allowing the rest of the field to catch up.
"We were just hoping to get lucky," said Wallace. "If the caution would've fallen at the right time, it would've been a great call. It just didn't go our way. I stand behind Jimmy, I thought it was a good, gutsy call that unfortunately didn't work out."
The rain eventually came and shortened the race to a 148-lap sprint around the 1.5-mile oval. Wallace pulled into the garage in 39th place and collected 46 points. He now stands 31st in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series standings with 213 total points.
Kim Wallace, wife of NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver Kenny Wallace, says that if she wants to find Kenny in a crowded space, she just listens for his boisterous, energetic laugh. That laugh is Wallace's trademark, and it describes his honest, open personality on the Winston Cup circuit.
Staying true to his character has landed Wallace one of the most unique sponsorship roles in Winston Cup racing. The No. 55 race car sponsors, Square D and Cooper Lighting, use Wallace's outgoing personality to entertain prospective business clients, as well as showcase their logos. The union is a perfect match, and Wallace is one of the few drivers scheduled to make hospitality appearances every Sunday morning before a race.
"Square D and Cooper Lighting are not your typical Winston Cup sponsors," said Wallace. "I'm not like Superman wearing a big logo on my chest. I am more of a salesman for the two companies. I help entertain their clients and they support our race program at Andy Petree Racing. It's a relationship I hope to continue for a long time.
"If you have good support from your sponsors, it gives you piece of mind as a driver," added Wallace. "We're very lucky to have a rock solid foundation with Square D and Cooper Lighting. We love their involvement and enthusiasm in Winston Cup racing. The employees that we meet at the company factories are completely behind us. That is a great feeling to know that they're paying attention and rooting for us on the track."
But don't misunderstand Wallace, after his 30-minute appearance, his focus is on racing. Once he is on the track for this Sunday's Cracker Barrel Old Country Store 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, that famous smile will be replaced by a competitive snarl.
"A lot of times he's goofy and crazy, but he's still a 'true Wallace' and a 'true Wallace' is very competitive," said Elledge. "People need to understand that he isn't cracking jokes when he's in a race car, he's very serious and intense. Nobody hates losing more than Kenny."