Michigan Wally Dallenbach Preview

Dallenbach eager for return trip to Michigan Wally Dallenbach made the most of his two starts at Michigan Speedway in 1998, and his efforts landed the 36-year-old New Jersey native a full-time ride in the No. 25 Budweiser Chevrolet...

Dallenbach eager for return trip to Michigan

Wally Dallenbach made the most of his two starts at Michigan Speedway in 1998, and his efforts landed the 36-year-old New Jersey native a full-time ride in the No. 25 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Dallenbach qualified eighth and finished 10th in last June's 400-miler at Michigan, filling in while regular driver Ricky Craven recuperated from post-concussion syndrome. Last August, Dallenbach left the country with a few friends to relax on a hunting trip in Bolivia. When he returned, Dallenbach discovered he had been selected as the driver of the Budweiser Chevrolet for the rest of the season. Dallenbach didn't know anything about the deal until he saw it on television. "We hunted for two and a half days and had a fantastic time," Dallenbach said. "Especially with everything that was going on, it was nice to be out of touch. It really cleared my head. "I came back on a Tuesday night, got in the country at 11 o'clock and arrived at a friend's house in Houston at 11:30. We turned on the TV, and just as we switched to ESPN we saw the news running across the bottom of the screen that I was in the Budweiser car for the rest of the season. Prior to that, I had no idea. "My wife Robin negotiated the deal. She was the one talking to John Hendrick when this all came down. There was no way to get in touch with me, so Robin set up the deal. I think she did an excellent job." Dallenbach responded by doing an excellent job of his own in last year's August race at Michigan. He qualified seventh and finished eighth in that event, and he's looking for an even better finish in Sunday's Kmart 400 NASCAR Winston Cup race at the two-mile track in the Irish Hills. "Based on our runs there last year, I'm pretty excited about going back," Dallenbach said. "We had good race cars there in both races last year, and we're taking a car back that's run in the top 10 in every race so far this season. "We raced it at Atlanta, Texas and Las Vegas and ran in the top 10 in each of those races. Michigan is a fast track just like those three, and I really feel more comfortable on the fast tracks. We're headed to some tracks I really like, and if we're going to win, it's time for us to do it. We've just got to capitalize on the opportunities given to us." Dallenbach has had plenty of opportunities on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit, but he says he's really found a home at Hendrick Motorsports. He began the '98 campaign in the No. 46 Chevy owned by Felix Sabates. Sabates and Dallenbach parted company after the ninth race of the season, and Dallenbach became a highly sought after free agent in the NASCAR garage. Since making his NASCAR Winston Cup debut in 1991 with car owner Junie Donlavey, Dallenbach has driven for Jack Roush, spent part of a season with Petty Enterprises, ran only two races in '95 and drove a full season with Bud Moore in '96 before joining Sabates in '97. He finished a career-best 22nd in the 1993 NASCAR Winston Cup standings and he's currently 17th after 13 starts in 1999. Dallenbach trails 10th-place Hendrick Motorsports teammate Terry Labonte by 259 points and says there's plenty of time left to crack the top 10. "We finished 20th last week at Dover and gained three spots in the standings," Dallenbach said. "If you look at the guy who finished 10th last season, he averaged about a 15th-place finish. If we can just put together a streak of consistent top-10 finishes, we're not out of it. We're not going to contend for the championship, but we can crack the top 10. The guys ahead of us will have to have a little bit of bad luck like they did at Dover, but anything can happen. "You're only one race from a hero to a zero, anyway. If we can finish decent and put together a few top-five finishes along the way, we'll be back in it. Michigan is a place where we could score one of those top-five finishes. Horsepower means a lot there, but it's not all horsepower. It's notoriously a tight track and you've got to get the car free where it'll roll through the corners. "You've got to get good fuel mileage, too. At least once a year, fuel mileage plays a part in who wins at Michigan. We had it all there last year -- fuel mileage, horsepower and a good handling car. I think our pit stops will be better this year, so with a little luck, we should be in pretty good shape. Everybody is working hard, and it's business as usual with the Budweiser team. Everybody on the team wants to win, and these tracks coming up will provide a golden opportunity for us to do just that."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Wally Dallenbach Sr. , Terry Labonte , Ricky Craven , Jack Roush , Felix Sabates
Teams Hendrick Motorsports