Strong Talladega Run Builds Confidence for Steve Wallace and Team 66; Teammate Brendan Gaughan and No. 62 Fast, but Hit by Engine Overheating TALLADEGA, AL (April 25, 2009)--While his ultimate finish in this afternoon's Aaron's 312 may not...
Strong Talladega Run Builds Confidence for Steve Wallace and Team 66; Teammate Brendan Gaughan and No. 62 Fast, but Hit by Engine Overheating
TALLADEGA, AL (April 25, 2009)--While his ultimate finish in this afternoon's Aaron's 312 may not show it, Rusty Wallace Racing's Steve Wallace (No. 66 Chevrolet Impala SS) earned the right to leave Talladega Superspeedway post-race with his head held high.
Although a tire failure with less than ten laps remaining ultimately ended Wallace's day, that event was not indicative of the performance turned in by the young driver Saturday afternoon.
After starting the event from the 35th position, Wallace proved to be one of the race's biggest movers, charging 28 positions and into the top-ten--in seventh-place--within the first eight laps of the race. He remained among the leaders for much of the race's early going, at one point even engaging in a three-lap battle for the lead with Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Although Wallace spent over 80 percent of his laps on Saturday among the top-15 cars, his statistics were even more impressive for the majority of the day. For nearly a thirty-lap period just after the mid-point of the race, Wallace failed to fall out of the top-five, running nose-to-tail with a host of Cup Series regulars.
While he seemed poised for his best career restrictor plate finish, it proved not to be in the cards for Wallace at Talladega. On lap 109, just eight laps from the finish, the right front tire on Wallace's car failed, slamming the No. 66 hard into the outside retaining wall in turn two. The resulting damage proved terminal to the car and ended what had been a stellar run for Wallace.
Noted Steve Wallace, "It was just typical Talladega; you never know what's going to happen. Our car wasn't as fast by itself as it needed to be today, but it drafted pretty well and was fast enough in traffic to keep us up front for most of the day.
"After we got in the top-ten, I was just trying to bide my time and take care of the car. It didn't seem like the high side would work for a lot of people for most of the day, so I just kept my car glued to the yellow line and it seemed to work out pretty well for us.
"I don't know, I guess it just wasn't meant to be today, but at least everyone knew that our No. 66 team was here. Knowing that we can run up front with a lot of these Cup guys just gives our team even more confidence heading into Richmond next weekend, where we potentially could have won last year."
Meanwhile, the question of "what could have been" was also a common one in the garage of Wallace's teammate, Brendan Gaughan (No. 62 Chevrolet Impala SS). Gaughan rolled off his 5-Hour Energy Extra Strength Chevrolet from the 18th starting position on Saturday, but like Wallace, he did not stay there for long.
By lap three, Gaughan had rocketed forward 13 positions and into the top-five, where he would battle for the lead early in the event. While Gaughan seemed to have the speed to be a contender, trouble struck the No. 62 camp early in the going. On lap 13, Gaughan reported that his car's water temperature had become excessive, but he would continue to monitor the situation. Around the 20-lap mark, he purposefully moved out of the draft and to the rear of the field, in an effort to force more cool air into the radiator of his No. 62.
While the tactic worked temporarily, not even several pit stops could cure the overheating problem. The issue ultimately proved to be terminal to Gaughan's race, when the engine in his No. 62 expired on lap 73.
Said Gaughan, "Rusty Wallace gives us everything we need to run up front and compete. Unfortunately, we just couldn't get it done today for some reason. There's no doubt that our 5-Hour Energy Extra Strength Chevrolet was one fast hot rod today, but it needed to be fast for all 117 laps.
"We're not quite sure exactly what caused our problems today; we did everything we could on pit road to cool down the engine. We'll take this car back, dissect it and find out exactly what caused this problem. We'll address that cause and make sure it can't happen again. We have too good of a race team to let one bad race keep us down, so we'll rebound and go get them next week in Richmond."