Phoenix: Rusty Wallace race report

STREMME SPEEDS TO FOURTH TOP-TEN FINISH OF 2008 IN PHOENIX Steve Wallace and Team 66 Collect Fourth Top-20 in Last Five Nationwide Series Events AVONDALE, AZ (April 12, 2008)--Despite a night filled with adversity, Team Atreus Homes & ...

Steve Wallace and Team 66 Collect Fourth Top-20 in Last Five Nationwide Series Events

AVONDALE, AZ (April 12, 2008)--Despite a night filled with adversity, Team Atreus Homes & Communities Rusty Wallace Racing again proved itself to be one of the NASCAR Nationwide Series' most consistent and unwavering teams in Friday night's Bashas' Supermarkets 200 at Phoenix International Raceway.

Friday's desert showdown saw the green flag around 7:00 PM local time in Phoenix. David Stremme and his No. 64 team started from the 13th position, while Steve Wallace and Team 66 rolled off from the outside of row 15.

Almost immediately upon the drop of the green flag however, Wallace showed all that he did not plan to stay outside of the top-20 for long. One of the race's biggest movers, Wallace picked up 8 positions to charge into the 22nd position by lap 20. Just after the race's ¼ mark, he had stormed into the top-20 for the first time of the day. As the race went on, Wallace continued marching forward, wheeling his way into the top-15 by lap 77.

Meanwhile, in the Team 64 camp, the ever-smooth Stremme steadily worked his way forward, cracking the top-ten to run in the eighth position by lap 40. A pit road miscue under the lap 64 caution, however, would test Stremme's mettle. Missing lug nuts on the No. 64 would bring him to pit road a second time during the caution, drop kicking the Hoosier to 29th place for the lap 69 restart.

Not to be denied, Stremme immediately began to slice his way through the field upon the restart. By the 77-lap mark, the No. 64 had picked up ten positions to bust his way back into the top-20. Stremme continued to move solidly forward from there, again cracking the top-15 by lap 89.

The day's only major incident for the Atreus team came on lap 105. Wallace, fighting an ill-handling condition, had fallen back towards the No. 5 of teenager, Landon Cassill. As the field exited turn four, Cassill took the opportunity to make contact with the rear of Wallace's Chevrolet, spinning the No. 66 towards the inside retaining wall. Wallace was able to recover from the spin with no damage. In the process, the Atreus wheelman managed to lose only six positions; he restarted from the 22nd spot on lap 110.

From there, the race's longest green flag run (70 laps) ensued. Over the long green-flag run, both teams' tire strategies proved to be their biggest sources of adversity. Both the 66 and 64 teams elected to take "scuffed" tires during the lap 106 caution period, choosing to save their best sets of "sticker" tires for the race's final stint.

This would prove to be the wrong call for both teams, as the older tires, over the excessively-long green flag stint, caused an extreme "tight" condition on both cars. During that stint, both Stremme and Wallace fell into the clutches of the leaders, each falling a lap down by the time the next caution flag fell on 179. Luckily for Stremme, he soon found himself back on the lead lap, after earning the "free pass" for the lap 179 caution period.

Although trapped a lap down, the No. 66 team would not be denied, rising to the occasion for their final stop of the day. During the lap 179 caution, Wallace's team executed a 15.2-second four-tire change--their best stop of the day by over 1.5 seconds--which earned Wallace three positions on pit road. He was able to maintain these positions over the race's final laps, to finish in the 16th position, the first car one lap down.

Meanwhile, Stremme, shod with four new Goodyear Eagles and back on the lead lap, restarted the race from the 14th position after the lap 179 caution. When the green flag flew, the No. 64 stormed forward, taking a place in the top-ten with approximately ten laps remaining in the event. Over the race's final laps, Stremme was able to hold off all challengers to earn his fourth top-ten finish of the 2008 season.

Stremme's effort made him one of only seven drivers to have at least four top-ten finishes over the first eight races of 2008. His finish marked his fourth top-ten in the last six races. Meanwhile, Wallace's valiant fight earned him his fourth top-20 finish in the last five Nationwide Series events. His three positions gained in the last ten percent of the race were the third-most of all drivers and his passing differential of +17 tied him with teammate Stremme for the best mark of the race. Stremme's 39 green flag passes were the 2nd most of the event, while Wallace's 30 passes marked the 6th-highest tally on the night. Following the event, both drivers maintained their holds on top-15 spots in the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship standings.

-credit: rwr

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Drivers Rusty Wallace , Landon Cassill , David Stremme , Steve Wallace