Steve Wallace Posts Top-15 Finish in Darlington, Closes Points Gap; Teammate Brendan Gaughan Strong, but Punctured Tire Proves Too Much to Overcome DARLINGTON, SC (May 9, 2009)--Rusty Wallace Racing's Steve Wallace (No. 66 USfidelis Chevrolet...
Steve Wallace Posts Top-15 Finish in Darlington, Closes Points Gap; Teammate Brendan Gaughan Strong, but Punctured Tire Proves Too Much to Overcome
DARLINGTON, SC (May 9, 2009)--Rusty Wallace Racing's Steve Wallace (No. 66 USfidelis Chevrolet Impala SS) continued his consistent 2009 season Friday night, in the Diamond Hill Plywood 200 at Darlington Raceway. After starting 14th, the young wheelman survived the wild accident-marred affair to bring home a lead lap, 14th-place finish.
Wallace's effort in Darlington marked his seventh top-15 finish in the first ten races of 2009 and his sixth top-15 in the last seven events. For Wallace, his start to 2009 signifies a marked improvement over his start to the 2008 season, in which he scored two top-15 finishes over the first ten races.
With his finish in Darlington, Wallace maintained his place among the top-ten in the Nationwide Series standings for the second consecutive week. While he still holds the tenth position, Wallace's Darlington effort allowed him to make the tight 2009 points race even tighter. He now sits a mere one point behind Penske's Justin Allgaier for ninth-place, only seven points from eighth-place Scott Lagasse, Jr. and less than 100 points from sixth-place Jason Keller.
Said Wallace, "Tonight's race was an uphill battle for us from the start. I was behind Jeff Burton and Brian Vickers right at the beginning of the race and they really checked up hard in front of me. I had to dive to the inside of Vickers going into turn one to keep from running into the back of him. I ended up tearing up the right front fender on our car and we fought a tight condition for the rest of the race.
"We definitely had a pretty good race in terms of points, but we weren't quite fast enough to run with the leaders tonight. We're right there knocking on the door every week now, but we need just a little bit more to run up in the top-five and really contend for wins every week. Our guys are going to go back to the shop, regroup in the off-week and see if we can find what we need for two weeks from now in Charlotte."
Meanwhile, it was truly a "roller coaster" of a race for Wallace's teammate, Brendan Gaughan (No. 62 5-Hour Energy Extra Strength Chevrolet Impala SS). After having high hopes heading into Friday's event, a practice crash forced Gaughan to a backup car for the race, thus relegating him to start the event from the rear of the field.
In typical Gaughan fashion, it did not take the No. 62 long to move forward. The Las Vegas native sliced his way 15 positions forward, from 41st to 26th, by the ten-lap mark and another three spots ahead, to 23rd, by lap 20.
Soon thereafter, bad luck would strike the No. 62 team. Gaughan reported around lap 30 that the handling on his Chevrolet had suddenly gone away and that a tire problem was likely the culprit. His diagnosis proved to be correct; following yellow-flag pit stops around lap 45, the right rear tire on the No. 62 was found to have been punctured and leaking pressure. Unfortunately for the No. 62 team, the yellow flag flew too late, as Gaughan's wounded car was lapped by the leaders just prior to the start of the lap 43 caution period.
For the remainder of the event, Gaughan's Bryan Berry-led team would continue to improve the handling on the No. 62, with Gaughan ultimately running lap times as fast as the top-five cars over the final one-third of the race. While the No. 62 squad was never able to regain their lost lap, the efforts of Gaughan and his team proved to pay off, as they were able to gain 11 positions following the tire problem and salvage a 19th-place finish.
Gaughan's ability to salvage a top-20 run allowed him virtually to maintain his position in the driver standings. While he fell one position to 12th overall, Gaughan still sits a mere 26 points behind his teammate and a spot in the top-ten.
Noted Gaughan, "Lately, it seems that if didn't have bad luck, we'd have no luck at all. Between our engine problem at Talladega and a couple of freak tire and wheel issues, our finishes in the last few races haven't been what this team deserves. We've had really fast race cars for most of the year, but just have had problems sealing the deal lately. Once we get through this bad luck, I know that this team has the people and equipment to run up front in the top-ten like we've done for most of the year."