A Little Luck and Pit Strategy Pays Off, Wallace and the AutoZone Team Finish Ninth at Gateway (Madison, Ill.) July 29, 2006 -- Heading home this weekend, Kenny Wallace remained positively optimistic about conquering a track that hasn't been so...
A Little Luck and Pit Strategy Pays Off, Wallace and the AutoZone Team Finish Ninth at Gateway
(Madison, Ill.) July 29, 2006 -- Heading home this weekend, Kenny Wallace remained positively optimistic about conquering a track that hasn't been so good to him in the past. With a little luck and a good call from his Crew Chief, Todd Gordon, Wallace and the AutoZone team would finish under the lights at Gateway in ninth position and maintain their tenth place standing in the points.
Hot and humid conditions would plague the St. Louis area until a thunderstorm rolled in just prior to the start of the Busch Silver Celebration 250. The storm would delay the start of the race but serve as a blessing as the temperature and humidity dropped and the green flag flew under a pleasant night's sky.
Starting the 200-lap race from the tenth position, Wallace and the No. 22 AutoZone team felt confident in their ability to race to the front. Just four laps in, Wallace would radio in, "the front tires are chattering, I need to turn better in turns three and four." The AutoZone Ford would slowly begin to drop back in the field, dropping as low as the 17th position on lap 18. Relief from the tight handling condition would come on lap 39. As the caution flag flew; Wallace brought the No. 22 AutoZone Ford down pit road for four new tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment. Wallace would restart in the 16th position.
The handling on the No. 22 AutoZone Ford Fusion would continue to present a problem as the green flag laps wore on. "I am sliding all over the track, the cars all over the place. It feels like the front end is lifting," explained Wallace running in the 26th position on lap 63.
As the mood shifted from optimism to distress, lady luck would shine down on the AutoZone team. The No. 22 AutoZone Ford would remain out on the track as the leaders began to cycle through green flag pit stops on lap 103. With three laps remaining until the team's scheduled stop, the caution flag would wave for an accident in turn three. Wallace and six other cars would remain on the lead lap, placing the cars that pitted earlier one lap down.
With a renewed faith, the AutoZone Ford would return to pit road for much needed adjustments on lap 112. The AutoZone crew would make quick work of changing four tires, adding fuel, making an air pressure adjustment and placing a rubber in the right rear.
When Wallace returned to the track, the adjustments proved to be just what the No. 22 AutoZone Ford Fusion needed. After five laps of green flag racing, Wallace would report in, "the handling is a lot better." On lap 186, the AutoZone Ford Fusion broke into the top-five, running as high as the third position.
The AutoZone team would make one more pit stop, just shy of the conclusion of the race, on lap 188. Crew Chief, Todd Gordon made the call for fuel only and Wallace would return to the green flag racing in the sixth position. The pit strategy would pay off as Wallace would remain in the top-10 for the remainder of the race. The No. 22 AutoZone Ford crossed the finish line in the ninth position and was able to maintain their tenth place standing in the points standings.
"I can't believe how this night ended up. I'm extremely happy with this ninth place finish. Tonight proves that you should never give up, my team never does and look where we ended up," commented Wallace at the end of the race.