Thomas Chemris - Motorsport.colm Loudon NH It what has become NASCARs version of "Who's On First" Mike Wallace has returned to the Nations Rent number seven car, and is confirmed that he will finish the season as the driver. Wallace, who...
Thomas Chemris - Motorsport.colm
It what has become NASCARs version of "Who's On First" Mike Wallace has returned to the Nations Rent number seven car, and is confirmed that he will finish the season as the driver.
Wallace, who drove for team owner Jim Smith in the Craftsman Truck series moved up to the Cup team when current DEI driver Michael Waltrip vacated the seat after the 2000 season.
Wallace was welcomed to the ride with great expectations.
"Everyone has seen what Mike Wallace has done behind the wheel, and we are really excited with what we think he can do with our race car", stated team owner Jim Smith prior to the start of the 2001 season.
However the glowing admiration was short lived.
Wallace ran well in the season opener at Daytona finishing 6th, but for the next twelve races he only cracked the top twenty twice.
Problems for Wallace intensified as the team failed to qualify for the Kmart 400 in June at Michigan International Speedway.
On the eve of the series next event at Pocono, Wallace was informed that the team would run the races at Pocono and Sears Point without him.
This "evaluation period " placed Ted Musgrave behind the wheel at PIR, and Robby Gordon driving at Sears Point.
"I came up to Pocono expecting to attempt to qualify in a backup car, and I get here, there is nothing. How would you feel if your boss told you to take two weeks off?", noted Wallace.
The game of musical drivers continued after Sears Point. Wallace returned to the car at Daytona to deliver a top ten performance.
Speculation that Wallace returned to the car only because Robby Gordon was committed that weekend to Richard Childress Racing at Watkins Glen continued to make the situation difficult.
Wallace was again pulled from the seat as the series headed to Chicago, and he voiced that he had been released.
This may have indeed been the case if not for the unfortunate incident to RCR driver Mike Skinner, who has been sidelined after fracturing his ankle in a crash at the Tropicana 400.
Gordon, trying to get back into Winston Cup was offered the ride.
"The seven was a definite option for me", stated Gordon who instead accepted a ride as a replacement driver for Mike Skinner.
Wallace shows no animosity towards Gordon, "The whole thing is I am second fiddle, Robby Gordon was going to drive this car, that was the whole deal for the rest of the season. That is what made it all turn around on Tuesday on this past week is Robby ended up just blowing them off and saying "screw it, I'm going to go drive the 31 car". Smith used to sponsor Robby's off road stuff, it was pretty cool because Robby got to show him what he thought of him".
Wallace returned to the car in New Hampshire, notably disgusted with the entire situation.
"How would you like to be in my spot"? Right now the deal amounts to that I am in this car for the rest of the year no matter what happens, good, bad, indifferent. I had the owner when he said that go on RPM and make it public on television."
"It is not a good deal, it hasn't been a good deal, but I am going to try to make the best of it because I am a race-car driver, and that is what I want to do"
When asked why he chooses to remain with the team, Wallace responded. "There are no other Winston Cup opportunities out there right now. I did have a Busch Grand National opportunity, I could have went and finished the year out, which would have been a very good deal, but Cup is where I would like to be able to run some races competitively. I have been able to win races anywhere else I've been. The whole situation has been frustrating, it has been heartbreaking, but we will make the best of it now."
In many ways Ultra is at the center of Silly Season in all three major NASCAR Divisions.
Busch Grand National driver Jeff Green will leave PPC racing next year to drive for Richard Childress. Scott Riggs, who replaced Wallace In the Ultra Motorsports ASA truck, will replace Green.
Wallace has a two-year contract with Ultra, would he consider returning to the truck series?
"This relationship has taken a pretty hard beating here, so I think I will just deal with finishing our commitment here, then we will worry about it".
"I could sit and beat up on this situation for days and days, or even a whole month, because that is how long the whole took to transpose. Right now, at this point I am a professional race car driver who has to put all this stuff out of my mind" "I am on a mission to prove myself to other car owners that I can get the job done because right now, I probably want to drive for someone else"
Wallace qualified 22nd for the New England 300, and finished.