BUSCH: Watkins Glen: Steve Wallace race report

THE LOWDOWN Steve Wallace and the HomeLife Communities gang moved from one historic road racing venue to another this weekend, as the Busch Series tackled the famed Watkins Glen ...


Steve Wallace and the HomeLife Communities gang moved from one historic road racing venue to another this weekend, as the Busch Series tackled the famed Watkins Glen International in upstate New York. Although the team had high hopes for the weekend, they would be placed "behind the eight ball" early, following a practice crash early in Friday's first practice session. After difficulties in preparing their secondary chassis prevented the team from participating in the remainder of the first session, the second and final practice session of the day was cancelled by rain. Thus, Steve's first qualifying lap would be only his fourth-ever lap on the ultra-fast 2.45-mile layout. During the Saturday morning qualifying session, Steve's natural talent once again showed, as he put the HomeLife Communities Dodge on pole through the first four qualifying groups, before ending up with a top-25 starting spot.

Upon the start of the race, the HomeLife Communities machine began marching towards the front of the field, climbing into the top 20 by lap seven and into the top ten by the race's 13th lap. Shortly after the team's first pit stop on lap 14, however, the team's first struggles of the day came to light, as two-way communication between Wallace and the team became intermittent; the team made several attempts to repair the problem, but could never restore full communication.

Because of these communication issues, it was unknown to the team at the time that the transmission in the No.66 Dodge was undergoing a serious malfunction. The transmission shift lever would not remain in gear in Wallace's Dodge; the 19 year-old had to manually hold the transmission shift lever in place while attempting to manhandle his 3,400-pound machine around The Glen's twists and turns. This transmission malfunction would first seriously bite the team on lap 34, when the transmission popped out of gear as Wallace navigated the backstretch chicane. Unable to slow the car, Wallace was forced to take his No.66 off course, but fortunately, sustained no damage in the incident.

Just three laps later, on lap 37, Wallace's transmission woes bit him once again, but this time, the HomeLife Communities squad was not as lucky as before. As Steve exited the high-speed esses, his transmission again malfunctioned, forcing him into a spin directly in front of Penske Racing's Kurt Busch. Busch managed to miss the spinning No.66, but Wallace still made contact with the outside retaining barrier, causing significant damage to his car. The team was able to enact repairs to the car, but Wallace would continue the race two laps down to the leaders. The transmission also went on to cause several other issues throughout the day for Wallace.

Steve's wild day finally came to an end just prior to the day's final restart on lap 71. While following Juan Pablo Montoya coming to the green, several cars in front of Montoya "brake-checked," forcing Juan Pablo to lock the binders on his No.42. Unable to slow, Wallace plowed into the rear of Montoya, causing terminal damage to the No.66.


STEVE WALLACE, DRIVER, NO.66 HOMELIFE COMMUNITIES RWI RACING DODGE CHARGER "We definitely had another rough day today. I started our problems the other day with the spin in practice, but we unloaded the backup car and for one reason or another, it wasn't as ready as it needed to be. So, we missed any chance at practice; my fourth lap ever on this track was in qualifying, so we just had to do the best we could. That carried all throughout the weekend, as we were never able to put laps on the backup car to make sure that all of the systems worked correctly. Our new crew chief and general manager start in full on Monday and we're going to make sure that we don't have problems with our backup cars again. I feel like we probably could have gotten at least a top-20 finish today, but it just wasn't meant to be. I'm really excited about going to Michigan next weekend with Jimmy John's as our sponsor. It's a place where I have some experience and where I've won before. Our team lapped the field last year in the ARCA race at Michigan, so hopefully we'll be able to have some success there this weekend."

-credit: rwi

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Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Team Penske