Daytona International Speedway
ENGINE WOES ROB STEVE WALLACE OF VICTORY AT DAYTONA
--5-Hour Energy Team Just a Half Lap Short of Checkered Flag--
For Rusty Wallace Racing's Steve Wallace (No. 66 5-Hour Energy / Infinite Hero Foundation Toyota Camry), when it rains, it pours. After a cut tire robbed him of a top-five effort two weeks ago at Road America, Friday's Subway 250 at Daytona was shaping up to be a career defining moment for the 23-year old wheelman.
After starting from the 19th position, Wallace paired with RWR teammate Michael Annett throughout the 250-mile event, pushing Annett's No. 62 in a two-car draft for the majority of the race. Opting to keep their Toyotas out of Daytona's notorious multi-car crashes, the RWR duo stayed out of the lead pack until the race's penultimate caution period on lap 91 of 100.
Upon the drop of the green flag on lap 94 however, the two, shod with fresh Goodyear Eagles, rocketed through the pack with Wallace literally shoving Annett past the competition. In what was shaping up to be the defining moment of Wallace's young career to date, he pushed Annett past the Joe Gibbs Racing pairing of Kyle Busch and Joey Logano and the RWR duo claimed the lead of the race as the field took the white flag lap 100.
As they exited turn two and headed down the backstretch for the final time, however, the Triad powerplant in Wallace's Toyota gave way, expiring at the worst possible moment for the No. 66 team. With his engine in its final death throes, Wallace still appeared to be headed to at least a top-ten finish as he came off the final corner.
At the last moment, however, the No. 2 of Elliott Sadler dove beneath the out of bounds marker on the frontstretch in an attempt to make a last minute pass on Wallace. Sadler's move set off a violent chain reaction accident that saw the No. 66 slide across the finish line and make hard contact with the retaining wall.
Despite his accident, Wallace was credited with an 11th place finish, good enough for him to maintain eighth place in the Nationwide Series standings.
Said Wallace, "Man, I don't think I've ever been so disappointed in my entire life. I really thought we had that race won; our No. 66 team was in the perfect position to make it happen. I came off turn two on the last lap and the engine just started to seize up; it was almost surreal. I still can't believe it.
"We had a little bit of a faster car than the 62 team tonight, so we did the pushing for most of the race. It's hard to keep the engine cool doing that, but we really didn't have a choice. We were just so much faster with us pushing the 62, rather than vice versa.
"We hit pit road on that last caution to put on tires and right then, I knew it was time to go. I had the 62 guys in one ear wanting us to hang back and my spotter, Lorin Ranier in the other, telling me to push like crazy. That's what I did. We weren't going to have time to wait, so I just pushed the 62 car as hard as I could the last six laps.
"In the end, it was the right thing to do and it put us in the perfect position to win the race. A lot of what I thought about the last couple of laps was how the last two corners and the run to the flag were going to happen. As much as I love Michael Annett, these opportunities are just way too hard to come by to give one up.
"If we could have made it another half-lap, either our 5-Hour Energy car was going to win the race, or we were both going to end up in a big ball of flames trying. Unfortunately, we just didn't get the chance to give it a try.
"The finish was definitely disappointing, but when you're involved with the Infinite Hero Foundation like our teams were this weekend, you see the tremendous courage those guys have shown and what they've experienced. It really puts things in perspective. I'm proud to have been able to drive the 5-Hour Energy Infinite Hero Foundation car this weekend.
"This is two weekends in a row that we had a chance to win the race, but had circumstances get in the way. If we keep knocking on the door though, one of these days we're finally going to knock it down. That day's coming sooner rather than later."
by: rusty wallace racing