Steve Wallace and Team Jimmy John's RWI Racing headed to Michigan this past weekend with a positive outlook, following the arrivals of new crew chief, Tony Liberati and recently-hired general manager, Rick Carpenter. Almost immediately upon ...
Steve Wallace and Team Jimmy John's RWI Racing headed to Michigan this past weekend with a positive outlook, following the arrivals of new crew chief, Tony Liberati and recently-hired general manager, Rick Carpenter. Almost immediately upon unloading at Michigan International Speedway, the team didn't disappoint, as Steve Wallace was tied for ninth-fastest in Friday morning's first practice session for the CARFAX 250. Wallace was the only non-NEXTEL Cup Series driver among the top-ten fastest.
Unfortunately for Steve and the team, mechanical issues would dictate that Friday's first practice be the highlight of their weekend on the track. Despite the fact that the No.66 Dodge was handling well, Wallace and the team ended up 25th in final practice and qualified in the 27th position for the race.
The CARFAX 250 started around 3:30 PM and Steve Wallace managed to hold his own at the start, running as high as 19th during the early going. Unfortunately, as the race progressed towards the first round of pit stops, the No.66 started to lose more and more speed, despite the lack of an ill-handling condition. On lap 17, Wallace radioed to Liberati, "The car's handling fine, but it just won't go down the straightaway. There's something wrong; it's way down on RPM. It almost feels like someone put out a parachute or something..." Liberati and the team's engine specialist ran through a checklist of possible issues, but could not remedy the problem before the end of the race. A lack of caution periods prohibited the team from examining possible causes in full during the event.
Despite the problem, Wallace managed to remain calm during the event and bring his Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches Dodge home with no damage. A post-race examination of the car on Sunday morning found a failure in the car's throttle stop, which essentially left Wallace with less than 75% throttle throughout the entire race, even with, in typical Steve Wallace fashion, the throttle pedal pressed all the way to the floor. The team suspects that the problem existed during the practice sessions and worsened as the weekend went on, thus explaining the car's declining performance throughout the practice sessions, qualifying sessions and race.
STEVE WALLACE, DRIVER, NO.66 JIMMY JOHN'S GOURMET SANDWICHES DODGE CHARGER
"We had a great car in the first practice and after that, it just never really ran. We got into the race and the car was handling great, but we were just getting murdered down the straightaways. We thought that we might have had an engine problem, so we tried everything we could think of; we even switched ignition boxes. Unfortunately, we never really had a long caution period to stop and check things out. It turns out that the nut on the throttle stop had backed off and stuck just barely shy of totally falling off. So, we ran almost the entire race at less than 3/4 throttle. It's totally frustrating and embarrassing, but at least we found out what the problem was. Our new crew chief and general manager are all over it trying to figure out how this problem happened. I feel pretty safe in saying that it's not going to happen again. I hate it for Jimmy John's, HomeLife and all of our other partners. I'm really, really excited about going to Bristol next week, though, and trying to get our second pole in a row there!"