Loudon Square D Racing Race Recap

Pit Strategy Earns Wallace Career Best Finish at New Hampshire LOUDON, N.H., (July 11, 1999) - To pit or not to pit? That was the question facing Square D Racing Team crew chief Jimmy Elledge with less than 100 laps remaining in ...

Pit Strategy Earns Wallace Career Best Finish at New Hampshire

LOUDON, N.H., (July 11, 1999) - To pit or not to pit? That was the question facing Square D Racing Team crew chief Jimmy Elledge with less than 100 laps remaining in today's Jiffy Lube 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway. Elledge answered the question correctly, giving driver Kenny Wallace his best career NASCAR Winston Cup Series finish - second. Riding in 15th place after taking four tires and fuel during a caution period on lap 195, Wallace was set to make one more pit stop before the end of the 300-lap race. He would need fuel to make it to the finish line, and he was not alone, as the rest of the leaders needed fuel too. But a wrench was thrown into every team's equation when Bobby Labonte slammed the turn four wall on lap 203. It was a lengthy caution period to clean up the debris from Labonte's mangled Pontiac. The question that faced teams was - do we pit now and hope we can make it to the finish; or do we wait for another caution flag closer to the end of the race so that when we pit, we're sure we can make it to the end? The latter seemed to be the decision to make - which many teams did. It made sense, as there had been an uncharacteristically high six caution flags for a total of 43 laps. More caution flags seemed inevitable, so the majority of the leaders stayed out. Enter Elledge. If the rest of the race stayed green, Elledge calculated that by pitting on lap 208 prior to the restart on lap 209, Wallace could go the distance without having to pit again. The only downside was that the team would have to give up track position. With the possibility of 91 laps of green flag racing ahead, the 28-year-old Elledge made the call to pit for fuel only. Wallace dived onto pit road and stopped in his pit stall long enough for gas man Barry Price to top-off Wallace's 22-gallon fuel cell. The stop left Wallace in 17th place - the last car on the lead lap. "Jimmy made a calculated call," said Wallace. "We were sitting there in 15th and we decided to give up track position. We were going for it. Jimmy told me to come in and pit. I didn't want to come in, but I had to. This is the big-time. Our car was awesome and we worked our way to 13th all by ourselves. But then everyone's fuel mileage starting playing into our hands." That it did. While running down Dale Earnhardt for 13th, the leaders began pitting for fuel. One by one they began entering pit road. The first to pit was Jeff Gordon on lap 285, then Wally Dallenbach, Ricky Craven, Ward Burton, Terry Labonte, Dale Jarrett, etc. With three laps to go, Wallace was in second behind race leader Jeff Burton. As lap 300 approached, Burton's crew worried more and more over the amount of fuel left in their tank. But coming off turn four for the final lap, Burton was able to go the distance - beating Wallace to the line by 1.347 seconds. "Jimmy was really pumping me up when I was trying to catch Earnhardt," said Wallace. "I asked Jimmy with about 15 to go when the leaders were going to start pitting. He said that some might try to make it, but he couldn't see how they were going to go that far. "We had a top-10 car and we capitalized on a very, very gutsy call by a brand new crew chief. You don't want to be 17th with 100 to go with the possibility that you gave up a top-10. But that's what we did and it worked. I listened to Jimmy, I stayed calm and everybody gave each other room out there." "It was a hero call today but it could've been a zero call," said Elledge. "It was hard to do, real hard to do. The car was good. It was better than it appeared all day long. We were a little tight during the first run, but then the car got better. We made some minor adjustments all day on it, but Loudon's a strange race track. Track position always ends up being the key. I've seen this race a lot of times won not by the fastest car, but by who had track position at the end. So, I said, 'Heck, why not. Let's try it.'" The gamble earned Elledge the Hasbro Interactive Pit Strategy Award, but more importantly, moved Wallace up two positions in the championship point standings to 21st. Wallace now trails 20th place Wally Dallenbach by just five points, 19th place Michael Waltrip by 15 points and 18th place Kenny Irwin by 55 points. Wallace and Company get to enjoy their second place effort for two weeks, as the Winston Cup Series takes a weekend off before heading to Pocono (Pa.) Raceway for the July 25 Pennsylvania 500.

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Wally Dallenbach , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Michael Waltrip , Kenny Wallace , Ricky Craven