BUSCH: Phoenix II: Steve Wallace preview

THE LOWDOWN * THE STORY: Steve Wallace and Team HomeLife Communities Rusty Wallace Racing head west to the Valley of the Sun this weekend, looking to cast some sunlight on their 2007...


* THE STORY: Steve Wallace and Team HomeLife Communities Rusty Wallace Racing head west to the Valley of the Sun this weekend, looking to cast some sunlight on their 2007 Busch Series season in what is considered a key market for primary sponsor, HomeLife Communities. Although the team's upcoming expansion has Steve and the guys enthusiastic about next year, the team views the final 2007 events as critical for gaining the momentum necessary to propel them into a run for the 2008 championship.

* THE MACHINES: Wallace's weapon of choice for Saturday's showdown is RWI-018. The "18 car" has three starts thus far in 2007, including the spring event at Bristol, in which Steve outgunned over 20 NEXTEL Cup Series drivers to win his first career Busch Series pole position. It also started the fall Bristol event, in which Wallace started 5th and ran among the leaders for most of the day until being taken out of contention by a competitor late in the event.

* THE MAN AT PHOENIX: Steve Wallace has two career starts at Phoenix International Raceway. His best finish to date came in last year's running of this weekend's race. In that event, Steve started 36th and ran a veteran-like race, picking up 20 spots to finish 16th in Rusty Wallace Racing's No.61 Checker Auto Parts Dodge. Ironically, the then-19 year-old young gun battled teammate Jamie McMurray down to the wire for 15th place, just barely missing the spot. The race marked only the second time in the team's history in which it campaigned two entries.


* JIMMY JOHN'S SANDWICH DELIVERY JUST GOT EVEN FASTER: Officials of Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches and Rusty Wallace Racing announced today an agreement which will see Jimmy John's serve as the primary sponsor of the team's No.66 NASCAR Nationwide Series entry, driven by Steve Wallace, in ten 2008 Nationwide Series events. Additionally, Jimmy John's will serve as an associate sponsor on the No.66 for the full 2008 season, as well as on the team's No.64 entry, for ten races in 2008. The first race for Steve Wallace and Team Jimmy John's Rusty Wallace Racing will be the March 15th event at Bristol Motor Speedway, in which Wallace will seek to defend his 2007 pole win. Jimmy John's will then be on the 66 car for the next two events, at Nashville and Texas. From there, Jimmy John's returns for the June event at Kentucky and all four races in the month of July: Daytona, Chicagoland, Gateway and Indianapolis. The team's final two races in 2008 with Jimmy John's as its primary sponsor occur at Michigan in August and in September at Kansas.

* HOPING FOR A "HOMELIFE"-FIELD ADVANTAGE: Steve Wallace and the team head to Phoenix looking for a sort of a hometown boost from primary sponsor HomeLife Communities. The national home builder known for building affordable dream homes is currently building 12 new home developments around the Phoenix area, located in Maricopa and Pinal Counties. Two of HomeLife's Maricopa County developments, Riata at Hurley Ranch and Avianta at Laveen Meadows, are located within ten miles of Phoenix International Raceway.

* IN THE LOOP: According to NASCAR loop data statistics, Steve Wallace ranked among the top-15 in the following categories in last year's running of the fall event at Phoenix: Closers (Positions Improved in Final Ten Percent of Race, 3rd), Green Flag Passes (6th), Laps Driver Improved Position (8th), Fastest Drivers in Turn One (12th), Fastest Drivers on Frontstretch (15th), Fastest Drivers on Restarts (15th).


* YOU WERE FAST IN LAST YEAR'S RUNNING OF THIS EVENT; WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS AND EXPECTATIONS HEADING INTO THIS WEEKEND'S RACE? "It's always fun to get to a place like Phoenix; it's fast, but it's really flat and reminds me a lot of racing on short tracks. Just like any short track, maintaining momentum and having good forward bite up off the corners are going to be a couple of keys to the outcome on Saturday. We have the same car this weekend that we raced at both Bristol races, so we know that it can get the job done. Both of our cars ran well in this race last year, so we'll have some good notes to fall back on. We just about got a top-15 here last year and there's no reason that we can't make it happen this weekend."

* ALTHOUGH THE CHAMPIONSHIP HAS BEEN DECIDED, HOW IMPORTANT ARE THE FINAL TWO RACES? "The last two races of this year are very important; although we're really excited about next year, we're not throwing them away by any means. Good runs at Phoenix and Miami will really help us build momentum and morale going into Daytona. It's also important for all of our sponsors that we have good runs and do our best to help them build their brands."

-credit: rwi

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Drivers Rusty Wallace , Jamie McMurray , Steve Wallace