STEVE WALLACE FIGHTS TO TOP-TEN FINISH IN MUSIC CITY --Teammate Gaughan a Strong Contender Before Pit Road Miscue and Penalty-- LEBANON, TN (June 6, 2010)--Following an uncharacteristically poor 34th-place qualifying effort Saturday afternoon,...
STEVE WALLACE FIGHTS TO TOP-TEN FINISH IN MUSIC CITY
--Teammate Gaughan a Strong Contender Before Pit Road Miscue and Penalty--
LEBANON, TN (June 6, 2010)--Following an uncharacteristically poor 34th-place qualifying effort Saturday afternoon, Rusty Wallace Racing's Steve Wallace (No. 66 5-Hour Energy Toyota Camry) finally showed his true character Saturday evening, charging to an eighth-place finish in the Federated Auto Parts 300 at Nashville Superspeedway.
After posting the third-fastest effort in Friday's practice sessions, hopes were high in the 5-Hour Energy Racing camp for a pole-contending effort in Saturday afternoon's qualifying session. What transpired however, was an extreme loose condition--caused by blistering hot afternoon track temperatures--that eventually forced Wallace and his team to start the race from the 34th-position.
At the drop of the green flag however, the young wheelman took no prisoners in a valiant early-race charge that earned him more than 20 positions in the race's opening ten laps. From there, Wallace fought his way into the top ten by lap 75 and into the top-five by lap 90, where he remained for much of the race. He would eventually spend nearly 95% of the race's 225 laps among the top-15.
Over the final 25 laps of the event, Wallace valiantly fought off advances from Richard Childress Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing entries, on his way to an eighth-place finish, his fifth top-ten of 2010.
Wallace's effort marked his third top-ten finish in the last four races at Nashville Superspeedway and catapulted him three spots forward to a ninth place ranking in the 2010 Nationwide Series driver standings. He currently sits a mere 25 points behind Jason Leffler for seventh-place.
Said Wallace, "We had a pretty good 5-Hour Energy Camry for most of the night; luckily, we were able to get out of our hole from qualifying pretty quickly. At the beginning of the race, our car was just too loose and by the end, once the track cooled down, it was too tight; we were just a little bit behind on our adjustments at the end of the race.
"Our pit crew was bulletproof again tonight and they really helped us keep good track position throughout the race. All in all, it was a good night, but just not as good as we want. We're going to keep working hard to make our cars faster and hopefully get a shot at winning one of these things before the year is over."
A pleasant surprise for the Rusty Wallace Racing effort this evening came in the strong performance of Brendan Gaughan (No. 62 South Point Hotel & Casino Toyota Camry).
After the No. 62 team posted only the 29th-fastest speed in Friday's final practice, the RWR squad knew there was some work to be done before qualifying. As a result, both RWR crew chiefs and team engineers met early Saturday morning to collaborate on a revised setup for Gaughan's No. 62.
The results of that meeting spawned much improvement, with a 14th-place qualifying run for the No. 62 and even better, one of the race's strongest cars.
Following his 14th-place start, Gaughan held his own through the first one-third of the event, remaining strongly among the top-15. After the first round of pit stops however, the No. 62 began coming to life, with Gaughan cracking the top-ten by lap 90.
Following some heads-up pit strategy by crew chief Brad Parrott, Gaughan burst into the top-five by lap 120. Proving that it was not by pit strategy alone, Gaughan stayed among the leaders for nearly the entire remainder of the race, eventually climbing as high as second position.
What had been a good day for the No. 62 team took a turn for the worse however, during the day's final pit stop sequence on lap 199. Just prior to the lap 199 caution, Gaughan began to suspect that the left rear tire on his Toyota was going flat. Upon the caution period, Parrott subsequently called for a four-tire change on the No. 62 car, in order to alleviate the questionable left rear tire.
When the No. 62 car came into view on pit road however, Parrott determined that the tire was indeed not flat. With less than 25 laps remaining and a car potentially capable of challenging for a win, Parrott quickly called an audible for right-side tires only, in an effort to maintain track position for the sprint to the finish.
Among the commotion on pit road however, a miscommunication occurred when Gaughan exited his pit stall, resulting in his colliding with another car on pit road. Adding insult to injury, Gaughan was also cited by NASCAR for speeding while exiting the pits. After returning to pit road for repairs to his right front fender, Gaughan restarted the event from the end of the lead lap, around the 26th position.
Over the final 23 laps, a determined Gaughan charged his way through the field, picking up 13 positions on his way to a 13th-place finish. The effort marked his second top-15 of 2010 at Nashville and vaulted him three positions in the Nationwide Series driver standings, to 11th overall.
Noted Gaughan, "Our weekend didn't start out as well as we wanted, but with a team effort, we had a really strong South Point Toyota tonight. It was a lot of fun to drive and I really thought that we were in line for a top-five. It's just so frustrating that we didn't get the finish that our team deserved tonight.
"When we hit pit road the last time, Brad (Parrott) made the call that would put us in the best position to win the race. Unfortunately, with all of the commotion, the guys weren't able to clear me out of the pit stall like they normally do and I just didn't see the 24 car there. When we hit, it hurt my right front fender bad enough that we had to pit again to repair it. With less than 25 laps to go, that pretty much ended our shot at a great finish.
"On that note, I know that television picked up some of our team's audio from right after we had the collision on pit road. I really want to apologize to Brad, our team, our partners and our fans for my outburst; it was definitely not the right way to respond to the situation.
"Although I'm a veteran driver, sometimes in the heat of the moment, frustration can still get the best of you. That's what happened to me; we had a really good car all night and I just couldn't believe that we weren't going to get the finish our team deserved. I let frustration get the best of me and for that, I'm sorry.
"After tonight's race, I'm really excited about heading to Kentucky next weekend. We came really close to winning the race there last year and for the second time this year, we have AB Circle Pro aboard as our sponsor. The way our car ran tonight really gives our team a lot of confidence heading into next weekend's race."
-source: rusty wallace racing