The Nicorette 300, round five of the 2007 NASCAR Busch Series, began just after 3:00 PM Eastern Saturday. Although he was collected in another driver's accident, Steve Wallace made his performance, as well as his continued progression and ...
The Nicorette 300, round five of the 2007 NASCAR Busch Series, began just after 3:00 PM Eastern Saturday. Although he was collected in another driver's accident, Steve Wallace made his performance, as well as his continued progression and improvement, the real story of the day for the No.66 HomeLife Communities team.
Leading into the event, Steve and the team believed their qualifying position was not indicative of their potential in the race. That prophecy proved to be true, as the 19 year-old driver picked up five positions in the first two laps of the race and guided his Dodge close to the top-15.
By lap six, Wallace radioed to his Bryant Frazier-led crew that his car had started to pick up a tight condition and that he was beginning to experiment with the top groove of the racetrack. Going into this event, Wallace was a rookie at Atlanta and had no experience with the track's multiple grooves. Despite this, Wallace continued to hold his own and had guided his Dodge into the top-15 by lap 26.
The HomeLife Communities team made its first stop of the day during the lap 35 competition caution period. Wallace's team excelled in the pits during this event and their four-tire stop saw Wallace gain three positions on pit road, to restart the race from 15th position.
On lap 55, after following Nextel Cup veteran, Robby Gordon for some time, Steve Wallace finally felt like he understood the different grooves of the racetrack, exclaiming to his crew, "I've got it figured out now; here we go!"
The yellow flag flew once again on lap 63, but it would be lap 69 before the leaders were allowed to come down pit road. The No.66 entered the pits in 17th place and through more swift pitwork, the team gained an additional three positions on this stop as well. The subsequent restart saw Wallace in the 14th position. By lap 91, Wallace had moved into 12th place and was knocking on the door of the top-10.
After running in or near the top-15 for most of the day, the team's first bit of misfortune came on lap 108, when Wallace radioed to his crew that #12-Sam Hornish, Jr. had slipped up the racetrack into the No.66, caving in the car's left front fender, the most critical aerodynamic surface of the car. Following the incident, Wallace began reporting that his car had developed a severe tight condition.
The team pitted the No.66 for the final time of the day on lap 126. In this 4-tire, green flag stop, the team found that the incident with Hornish, Jr. not only crinkled the No.66's left front fender, but also caused a large hole in the left front headlight area of the car. Being a green flag stop, the team did not have time to repair the damage, but planned to do so on the next yellow flag stop.
The car's aerodynamic woes continued making it extremely tight and by lap 139, the once-top-10 running No.66 had slipped back to 17th place and into the clutches of #47-Jon Wood. On that lap, Wood, while racing underneath Wallace, lost control of his car and began to spin. In an attempt to save his car from spinning, Wood appeared to "over-correct" his car; the No.47 then made a hard and abrupt turn to the right, barely clipping the rear of Wallace's Dodge. This sent both cars spinning into the inside wall and ended the day for both teams.
Driver, Steve Wallace: "Wow, I don't know what to say. Today was just totally frustrating. We had a good car, the guys did an awesome job in the pits and I really felt like we had a great shot at a top-10 finish. (Sam) Hornish ran into me at one point in the race and did a lot of damage to the left front corner of our car. I was just trying to take car of the car until we could get a caution and fix it. The only problem was that we were the caution. All I know is that I was coming off of turn two, minding my own business and got nailed hard in the left rear quarter panel. There was nothing I could do at that point. After looking at the replay, it looks like Jon Wood just lost it and wrecked all by himself. It looked like he tried to over-correct and had his wheels turned to the right. Unfortunately, when his car caught, we were right there and got nailed. I know he wouldn't try to wreck himself on purpose, but still, it's just really upsetting and frustrating when you're having a good day and someone else totally ruins it for you. With that said though, I'm not going to let this get us down. I'm really proud of the job that my HomeLife Communities team did in the pits today. They were awesome. We had a really good car too. I feel like we're all learning and getting better really quickly and I can't wait for next week. We're going to Bristol, one of my very favorite tracks and a place that I've won before. I know that we can run well there and I'm looking forward hopefully to getting our first top-10 of year next weekend."
Crew Chief, Bryant Frazier: "You'll have these kinds of days in racing, but that certainly doesn't make it any better. I'm really proud of the job that everyone did today; we definitely didn't wreck while running poorly; everyone knew that our HomeLife Communities Dodge was here today. It's getting to be so much fun watching Steve every week now and seeing how much he progresses from race to race. It's incredible how fast he learns, especially when you think that he's only 19 years old. Once we start getting to the back half of the season and he's been to all of the tracks at least once before, Steve is really going to impress a lot of people. It's hard to believe that he's only 19, but he's beginning to drive like much more of a veteran now and that makes it really cool for all of us to watch. As frustrating as the last couple of weeks have been, a lot of people are starting to see that Steve and our team have what it takes to run fast. No one can doubt that. We'll go back and get ready for Bristol. I know it's a track that Steve really loves and one that's special to all of the Wallaces. It'd be really cool to get our first top-10 of the year there and I feel like it's definitely a realistic goal."