By Thomas Chemris - Motorsport.com Kenny Wallace walked away from Winston Cup in late June of this year. Beginning the season in the sponsor less ...
By Thomas Chemris - Motorsport.com
Kenny Wallace walked away from Winston Cup in late June of this year.
Beginning the season in the sponsor less # 27 for Eel River racing, Wallace and the team struggled not only to find a sponsor, but also just to make the field.
The team looked as if it would close its doors in May, when a last minute sponsorship agreement was reached with a Virginia Spice company, and Dukes Mayonnaise adorned the car at the Coco Cola 600.
The team continued to struggle, failing to qualify for the next three events.
"The bottom line is the Crew Chief, Barry Dodson after we failed to qualify for Pocono told the car owner that he thought some of the problem was me", explains Wallace.
"I asked him if he felt that way, why did you hire me? Anyway, I could see the way things were going, and they were not going to get any better. So I just thought, let me get out of here, and you guys go on".
Wallace left the car, and signed on full time with innovative Motorsports in the Busch series.
Kenny's return to Cup came about when DEI driver Steve Park, while running a part time ride in the BGN was involved in a freak accident during a caution lap at Darlington Raceway in September.
Wallace, an available veteran jumped in Park's Winston Cup number one Pennzoil car for the Southern 500, and remained on a week-to-week basis.
As it became clear that Park would not be able to return to the car due to the effects of the head trauma, Wallace committed to DEI through the end of 2001.
Since taking over the seat in the #1 Pennzoil Chevrolet, Wallace notched the team's sole Bud Pole Award of the season, posting the fastest qualifying time at Rockingham. Scoring two top-10s with DEI, his best finish with the team occurred in Rockingham when he finished second during the Pop Secret 400 at North Carolina Speedway to complete a stellar weekend that had him winning the Busch race as well. In the 10 races since Darlington, Wallace has also been able to keep the Pennzoil team 11th in owner points with thoraces remaining in 2001 season.
Ty Norris, DEI Executive Vice President, announced in Atlanta, that due to the uncertain length of time it will take for Park to fully recover, DEI has place Wallace under contract for 2001, as a contingency plan to allow Park to fully recover.
"This is by no way saying that Steve Park isn't going to be back in Daytona. This is mostly a contingency in case he cannot return. Steve is very adamant that he is going to get his vision back and all of the other aliments and will be completely healthy before he would consider getting back into a racecar. " Notes Norris
Wallace, due to his recent accomplishments has been a sought after commodity in the Winston Cup garage, turned down solid contracts for the contingency plan.
"Here's so nobody reads through the lines. I was going to sign a 2-year contract with a team. My wife and me made a collective decision to sign a 1-year contract knowing what we know with this team. I feel that at any given time I can win in this car so I made the choice to sign a 1-year deal with DEI rather than sign a 2-year deal with another Winston Cup team. I need this opportunity to win. I don't need the security to say I've got a 2-year deal with another team. I need the opportunity to win so that's why I did what I did." States DEI's recent hire.
Wallace will continue to run the #48 Gould's Pump car for Innovative Motorsports in the Busch Grand National series.
He is vocal that he does not see himself as a replacement for Steve Park.
""This has been an opportunity of a lifetime," said Wallace. "While it's a difficult situation for everyone involved, I'm very fortunate to be associated with a team of this caliber. This is still Steve Park's car. The team was built around him and I'm just here to keep things going in the right direction until he returns."
Park, who continues to suffer from double vision, has been down this road before, as he was sidelined in 1998 after a practice crash in Atlanta.
Darrell Waltrip took over the ride for almost half the season before Park's return in August of that year.
Wallace, who remains winless in Winston cup through 241 starts, believes this is his best opportunity to find that elusive victory lane.