CHARLOTTE, N.C., (Nov. 9, 1999) - Despite having his Square D Chevrolet painted up in Aerosmith colors, there was little rock to driver Kenny Wallace's roll as he finished 18th in Sunday's Checker Auto Parts/Dura Lube 500k at Phoenix...
CHARLOTTE, N.C., (Nov. 9, 1999) - Despite having his Square D Chevrolet painted up in Aerosmith colors, there was little rock to driver Kenny Wallace's roll as he finished 18th in Sunday's Checker Auto Parts/Dura Lube 500k at Phoenix International Raceway.
Wallace had expected big things heading into Phoenix and for good reason. The car Wallace brought with him to the flat one-mile oval was the same car that delivered him to a career-best NASCAR Winston Cup Series finish - second at the July race in Loudon, N.H. And its most recent tour of duty came at Martinsville (Va.), where Wallace drove to a strong fifth-place finish. With the Phoenix layout being a favorite of the Square D pilot, Wallace was geared up for a pole run and his first race win.
But in Friday's qualifying session, Wallace got loose in turns three and four and wound up 12th. As one media member described it, "He wrecked without hitting anything." Nevertheless, Wallace knew that his car was a capable one. When raceday dawned a bit cooler and slightly more overcast, Wallace and Co. figured the weather would be a factor, but nothing that they couldn't overcome.
However, as much as Wallace and crew chief Jimmy Elledge tried to cure their car's handling ills, there seemed to be no remedy. Lapped traffic only added to their headaches, and the team had to settle for 18th. It was a respectable finish, but one that left everyone disappointed.
"I thought we had a better car than that," said a subdued Wallace. "Instead we finished 18th. It just wasn't what we wanted. We're disappointed with it, but yet we're still looking at that year-end goal - first year team staying in the top-25 in points."
The last time Square D Chevrolet driver Kenny Wallace competed at Homestead (Fla.) was in 1996 in a NASCAR Busch Series, Grand National Division race. The track, as Wallace describes it, was like a mini-Indianapolis with long straightaways, tight corners and short chutes. But in 1997 the track was reconfigured. Gone were the short chutes replaced by long, sweeping corners. Even though Wallace ran competitively in that 1996 event, it's of little matter when he returns to Homestead for this Sunday's inaugural Pennzoil 400.
"I really don't know what to expect," said Wallace. "I've put my last race there totally out of my mind because the track's totally different. Thankfully, NASCAR's giving us a whole day of practice on Thursday. I'll get reacquainted with the place then."
Getting a handle on this new entity on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series circuit is something that Square D Racing crew chief Jimmy Elledge must do as well.
"I've been there one time with a Busch car but never with a Cup car," said Elledge. "I'll use my resources, kind of beat the streets and talk to some of my friends to see what they did for a baseline setup when they tested there. We'll look at what we ran at flat tracks like New Hampshire, Martinsville (Va.), Richmond (Va.) and even Pocono (Pa.) - we won't rule that place out. I'll get a general idea and match up what other teams have seen to the kinds of trends we've experienced. Then I'll just take an educated guess."
In addition to preparing primary and backup cars for the Homestead race, Elledge has also had to juggle his team's recent onslaught of special paint schemes. One week after running an Aerosmith paint scheme at Phoenix, Wallace's Square D Chevrolet will be painted up in NASACAR Racers colors to promote a new cartoon series on the Fox Kids network.
"Some good planning by a lot of good people got us where we're at with all these special paint jobs," said Elledge. "It adds another element to prepping your cars. Not only do they have to perform well, but they have to look exactly right. It makes things a little more difficult, but you just treat them like any other deal. We paint these cars pretty much every week anyhow. So, when it comes right down to it, it's just some different colors and some different decals."