The Pepsi 300 rolled off Saturday afternoon at around 3:45 PM Eastern time, under partly cloudy skies and bone-chilling temperatures. Steve Wallace and the No.66 team rolled off the starting grid from the 22nd position, following a qualifying lap...
The Pepsi 300 rolled off Saturday afternoon at around 3:45 PM Eastern time, under partly cloudy skies and bone-chilling temperatures. Steve Wallace and the No.66 team rolled off the starting grid from the 22nd position, following a qualifying lap of 29.330 seconds (163.614 MPH).
Upon the start of the race, Steve commented that his race car was "almost perfect" and it showed, as the 19 year-old rocketed from the 22nd position into the top-15 by lap 45 and into the top-10 before lap 90. By lap 100, Wallace and the RWI team had already climbed all the way to sixth position.
During the team's first pit stop of the day, it installed "sticker" (new, unscuffed) tires on the No.66 Dodge. Upon restarting the race, Wallace described the car's handling during the first part of the run as being very loose, to the point of being "evil" and the team began to question whether a mechanical malfunction had occurred in the car's suspension. As the run progressed however, the car's handling improved somewhat and Wallace drove valiantly to make up the spots lost during the early part of the run.
Unfortunately, the manic nature of the car's handling continued for the remainder of the day and the young wheelman exhibited amazing car control in not only taming his ride, but also in keeping it in the top-15 for most of the race. Around the race's midpoint, Wallace noted that the No.66 Dodge had lost significant power and that he suspected exhaust fumes were making their way into the car's cockpit. This lead the team to believe, correctly, that an issue had developed with the car's exhaust system. This problem, while not terminal, severely hampered the car's performance for the rest of the day and saw the No.66 go one lap down to the leader just prior to the day's final caution on lap 181.
In a moment of good luck, the HomeLife Communities team was the first team one lap down at the time of the lap 181 caution and per NASCAR rules, was eligible to rejoin the lead lap.
Steve Wallace, Driver, No.66 HomeLife Communities RWI Racing Dodge Charger: "We had really high hopes for today, but it just wasn't meant to be. We're not really sure what was going on with the handling of the car, but it went totally crazy after the first stop. It almost makes us think that a part, like a shock or something, broke on the race car. Our car was incredible for about the first 1 / 3 of the race and then it just all of a sudden went away after that and we could never get it back. It was just really, really loose, especially in the first part of the run. We're going to take the car back to the shop and really examine it to see if there was an issue. About halfway through the race, the car got really down on power and I started to get some fumes inside the car. It made us think that something was going on with the exhaust and it turns out that we were right. A part in the exhaust system had backed off and it just really killed the power. All in all, I can't say that I'm really happy about the way that today turned out, but it was a decent points day and we got a lead-lap top-15 finish out of it. We'll build on that and get ready to go get `em again next weekend in Texas."