CHARLOTTE, NC (December 13, 2004)--Following is a post-race recap from Saturday night's Snowball Derby and quotes from Steve Wallace and father Rusty, in response to the younger Wallace's victory. RACE RECAP: Steve Wallace, the 17 year-old...
CHARLOTTE, NC (December 13, 2004)--Following is a post-race recap from Saturday night's Snowball Derby and quotes from Steve Wallace and father Rusty, in response to the younger Wallace's victory.
Steve Wallace, the 17 year-old UARA Rookie of the Year and youngest son of NASCAR legend, Rusty Wallace, scored a monumental victory last night in the 37th annual running of Pensacola, Florida's Snowball Derby, one of short track racing's oldest and most prestigious events. The victory came in the younger Wallace's second-ever start at Pensacola. In claiming the checkers, Wallace became the youngest champion in the race's history. Despite his legendary NASCAR success, Rusty Wallace went winless in the prestigious event, despite nine starts, two runner up finishes and a pole position at Pensacola. Saturday night's victory was car owner Richie Wauters's first Snowball Derby victory in 15 attempts.
Steve Wallace started the event from the inside of row two and by lap five, had taken command of the race. 2004 ASA Champion, Kevin Cywinski, stayed with Wallace, however, and wrestled away the lead approximately 25 laps into the 300-lap event. The two would prove to be the class of the field and continued to dual for the majority of the race.
Wallace likely had the car to beat on Saturday night, but a round of pit stops on lap 263 would prove to be the ultimate deciding factor. Both Wallace and Cywinski would make yellow flag pit stops, however a lug nut problem on Cywinski's car would relegate him to 11th position for the restart. Wallace had a better pit stop and was several cars ahead, the first car with new tires. Approximately five cars elected to take their chances with 30 lap older tires on a terribly abrasive surface. Following the subsequent restart, Cywinski would make contact with the car of local racer, David Long, on lap 273. The contact and subsequent crash ended Cywinski's night.
With Cywinski out of contention, Wallace had to focus on making his way around the cars that had chosen not to pit. With the newer tires, Wallace quickly made work of the cars immediately in front of him and set his sights on then leader, short track veteran, Wayne Anderson. Wallace made the move around Anderson on lap 283 of the 300-lap event and never looked back. He went on to beat Eddie Mercer, by nearly a straightaway, to take home the Snowball Derby Championship and its $20,000 prize.
2004 SNOWBALL DERBY CHAMPION, STEVE WALLACE:
"I'll tell you what, this win has really taken a lot of time to sink in. I just sat there in the car in disbelief for a little bit. I couldn't believe what had happened. I knew I could do it and I knew that I had one of, if not the, best teams out there, but being in victory lane at the Snowball Derby is something I had only dreamed of. It's a race that's really important to me. At this point in my career, the Snowball Derby is the Daytona 500. It's that big. It's a race that my Dad tried so hard to win so many times, but never could. For me to be able to bring this trophy home feels incredible.
My run here last year was really embarrassing. I was a lot less mature and the other guys taught me a heck of a lesson. I went home with my tail between my legs for sure. This time it was different. I've learned a lot this year about running and finishing races. This race is such a hard one to win. There's just so much involved in it. The pit strategy, conserving tires, avoiding lapped cars--it's stuff you have to do every week, but it's just ten times as hard to do at Pensacola because of the tire wear and the competition.
After I won, I just sat there thinking, "Wow, did I really just beat guys like Wayne Anderson and Kevin Cywinski? Isn't he the ASA Champion? How in the world did I just do that?" Those guys are so good on the short tracks and to be able to beat them is totally amazing. It's an honor just to get to race with some of those guys, much less beat them. That just goes back to how well our team performed. Richie Wauters and his guys, hands down, build the best short track hot rods out there. It's always fun to get to drive his cars, because you know they're going to be fast.
We had a little party with my family and some of my crew tonight, but now that's over. We're building a Hooters Pro Cup program for next year, so it's time to focus on that. Hopefully, I'll be able to take some of what I learned in Pensacola and carry it over to next year. I have to say though, last night's race is one that I'll never forget as long as I live. I'm just totally humbled and honored to be able to say that I won the Snowball Derby."
RUSTY WALLACE, NASCAR LEGEND AND STEVE'S FATHER:
"I am so proud of that kid; I just really don't even know what to say. When I found out that Steve won, I just couldn't believe it. I mean, I could believe it, because Steve just has a ton of talent, but that race is so darned hard to win. The guys that Steve beat last night are the best of the best in short track racing.
Take it from me, a Snowball Derby win doesn't come easily. We took some of the baddest short track cars in the country there in the 70's and 80's and just could never pull it off. There are just so many elements to that race, especially for a young kid like Steve: the terrible tire wear, having to make pit stops, the closure rate because of new tires--these are all things that you really have to work on as a young driver. Tracks like Pensacola are so frustrating sometimes because you can have the fastest hot rod there and get totally run over by a lapped car with new tires. You really have to be patient and race the racetrack.
We all know that when Steve went to the Snowball Derby last year, that patience wasn't his best virtue. I think those guys down there taught him a big lesson. He got his butt kicked and realized that there were things he needed to work on. Since the halfway point of this year, Steve has been a totally different driver. He's learning that to win the race, you have to finish it. He's more patient and calculating. He's learning that there are times to push it and times that you have to ride it out and let the race come to you.
Those are things that Steve didn't understand last year. He's got a totally competitive attitude and he just thought, "Heck, I'm going to drive the wheels off of this thing and kick everyone's rear end." He's starting to realize that there's more to it than that. He's becoming less of a daredevil and more of a focused race car driver. I think everyone's starting to realize that the kid has totally unlimited potential. He's just finally starting to learn how to use it. Once he does, I think it's going to be bad news for the competition. Last night's race just proves it."