Gaughan Rolls to Top-Ten Finish at Phoenix; Steve Wallace Wheels Backup Car to 12th Place Finish, Closes in on Top-Ten in Standings AVONDALE, AZ (April 19, 2009)--Rusty Wallace Racing's Brendan Gaughan (No. 62 South Point Hotel & Casino...
Gaughan Rolls to Top-Ten Finish at Phoenix; Steve Wallace Wheels Backup Car to 12th Place Finish, Closes in on Top-Ten in Standings
AVONDALE, AZ (April 19, 2009)--Rusty Wallace Racing's Brendan Gaughan (No. 62 South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet Impala SS) jumped squarely back into the 2009 Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year fight Friday evening, with a seventh-place finish in the Bashas' Supermarkets 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. The No. 62 team's finish marked its third top-ten effort of 2009.
For Gaughan and the No. 62 team, the evening seemed to flow relatively smoothly. Following a 14th-place qualifying effort, Gaughan guided his Impala SS into the top-ten by lap 38. He remained between 9th and 13th for the majority of the evening, until the final restart during the "overtime" period on lap 201.
Gaughan restarted from the 11th position for the dash to the checkers, behind teammate Steve Wallace. When several of the leaders stacked up the field on the restart, Gaughan was able to maneuver around several of the slowing cars and gain four positions, to earn a seventh-place finish, matching his best effort of 2009 thus far.
With his seventh-place finish, Gaughan scored Rookie of the Race honors for the evening and jumped one position--to seventh--in the Nationwide Series driver standings, overtaking his Rookie of the Year rival, Penske Racing's Justin Allgaier.
Said Gaughan, "I'll tell you what, to get a top-ten in South Point's last race of the year is really awesome. My guys did a good job tonight; we were just never able to get the car to turn quite as well as we needed, though. I've always said that I love restarts and we were able to get a few spots on that last one."
While Gaughan and the No. 62 team ultimately captured RWR's best finish in Phoenix, the biggest story of the night for RWR surrounded his teammate, Steve Wallace (No. 66 USfidelis Chevrolet Impala SS). After posting a top-ten speed in practice, Wallace appeared to be among the potential contenders for the pole in the afternoon's qualifying session. However, a piece of debris cut down the right-rear tire on the No. 66 team's primary car during their qualifying lap, forcing Wallace into the outside retaining wall and into a backup car for the race.
Wallace started the event from the 41st position, but in what has been his most consistent season to date, the 21-year old proved to be undeterred. During the first quarter of the race, Wallace decimated the back half of the field, rocketing 26 positions to crack the top-15 by lap 50. The third-generation wheelman later cracked the top-ten for the first time during yellow-flag pit stops around lap 107, when his No. 66 team won the battle off pit road over their No. 62 teammates.
As the race entered its final 50 laps, it appeared as if Wallace and his No. 66 team would actually be the ones to lead the RWR charge, as the No. 66 team again got Wallace out of the pits in front of Gaughan under the day's next-to-last round of pit stops on lap 150. Wallace and Gaughan ran nose-to-tail over the race's final 50 laps, with the teammates lining up in 10th and 11th, respectively, for the final green-white-checkered finish.
Upon the final restart, Wallace's No. 66 was slammed from behind by the No. 47 of Michael McDowell. The contact apparently sent Wallace over the curbing on the backstretch, but the young driver was able to maintain control of his Chevrolet. The incident, however, allowed several cars to overtake Wallace, robbing the No. 66 team of what would have been its fourth top-ten finish in the last six events.
However, Wallace's 12th place finish in Phoenix allowed him to gain yet another position, to 11th, in the Nationwide Series driver standings. He now sits a mere three points out of the top-ten and less than 50 points from seventh place, currently occupied by teammate, Gaughan.
Noted Wallace, "Man, what a day. We had a great car this morning in practice, but then we ran over a wrench in qualifying and wrecked the primary car. So we unloaded the backup and the guys at the shop had a great job of making sure that it was almost totally race-ready right off the truck.
"We started the race with a car that hadn't seen the track this weekend and it ran pretty well. We were just a little too tight off of both corners all night long. We were just a tick off of where we needed to be.
"I thought we were going to get a top-ten out of it, but then on the last restart, the 47 car pretty much tried to take me out going down the backstretch for some reason. He hadn't been around us all night until the very end, so I don't know if he was upset for some reason or just driving way over his head.
"Either way, this was my best finish at Phoenix so far; for us to be upset about 12th-place shows just how far our program at Rusty Wallace Racing has come in the last year."