Following a one-day postponement due to inclement weather, the green flag finally flew over the Winn-Dixie 250 just after 9:00 AM ET Saturday morning. Steve Wallace and his No.66 HomeLife Communities Dodge took the green flag from the 29th...
Following a one-day postponement due to inclement weather, the green flag finally flew over the Winn-Dixie 250 just after 9:00 AM ET Saturday morning. Steve Wallace and his No.66 HomeLife Communities Dodge took the green flag from the 29th position, following a qualifying lap of 49.845 seconds (180.560 MPH).
What started out as a race of great promise would see Wallace face his first adversity of the day even before the race started. Upon firing the engine of his Dodge, Steve found that the car's power steering system was inoperative. Crew Chief Bryant Frazier and Driver Coach Kenny Wallace instructed the young driver that the system would likely begin working as the car built RPM. During the initial pace laps, the car indeed momentarily regained power steering. However, it was short lived and the system again failed just before the start of the race. The 19 year-old would thus face Daytona's legendary high banks without power steering assistance.
Almost immediately upon the start of the event, Steve began to move towards the front of the field. By lap 10, he had cracked the top-25 and was reporting that he was experiencing a tight handling condition on the No.66 Dodge. This condition persisted throughout the race's first run. This run was interrupted by a competition caution on lap 22, which was planned in order to allow teams to check tire wear following the overnight rains. By the time this first yellow flag flew, Wallace had already broken into the top 20.
Under the yellow, the Frazier-led RWI Racing team took the opportunity to service the No.66 Dodge with four tires, fuel and several air pressure adjustments to correct the car's tight handling condition. Following a strong pit stop, Wallace emerged from the pits in the 13th position. He remained in the top-15 until just after the race's halfway mark, when disaster would strike the HomeLife Communities team.
As the field navigated turns three and four on lap 50, a tire suddenly blew on the No.66 Dodge, sending Wallace spinning in front of the entire field. As he spun down the race track, his Dodge was violently slammed in the driver's door by the No.99 of David Reutimann.
Fortunately, Steve emerged from the accident unscathed; the same could not be said for his HomeLife Communities Dodge, however. While the damage to the vehicle did not appear at first glance to be severe, several chassis components were later found to be damaged too severely for the car to continue.
STEVE WALLACE, DRIVER, NO.66 HOMELIFE COMMUNITIES DODGE CHARGER
STEVE, COMMENT ON YOUR RACE OVERALL: "We had a strong car for the first half of the race, it was a little bit tight, but I think that our car was handling a lot better than most. The car had no power steering, so it was harder to drive, but I was managing to get through it just fine. We made our first stop on lap 20 or so and the guys did another great job on pit road; they've been really fast lately. After the stop, we were running up in the top 15 and just riding, trying to stay out of trouble. That one lap, I drove down into turn three and a tire blew all of a sudden. There was nothing I could do, the car spun and I got drilled right in the driver's door by the 99 car. It was a really hard hit; I think that crash just goes to show how safe these cars are. I really hate it for my guys, our sponsors and for the 99 guys. We had a good car, but just had bad luck. We're still confident though; we'll get `em in Chicago."
SPEAKING OF CHICAGO, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS HEADING INTO THE NEXT ROUND?: "I think Chicago should be a good race for us. We won the ARCA race there last year from the pole and our intermediate program overall has traditionally been one of our strong points. Chicago is a really fast track, which I feel suits me well. I'm ready to get it on."