NASCAR: Kenny Wallace Equals Best Finish of the Year
27 April 1998
A tenacious drive behind the wheel of the Square D Ford and two quick pit stops by his FILMAR crew kept Wallace at the front of the pack until lap 129 when Wallace pitted under caution. A lugnut became lodged in the right front tire changer's air gun after tightening only one lug on the wheel. Unbeknownst to Wallace, when the jack dropped, the right front tire still had only one lugnut tight. The Square D pilot took off, but upon being apprised of the situation, he stopped and backed towards his pit so that his crew could tighten the remaining four lugnuts. The team's resilient efforts kept Wallace on the lead lap.
In most cases, this incident would have proved to be disastrous, instead it proved to be an omen. On lap 140, a multi-car wreck engulfed the tri-oval and many of the front-runners. Because Wallace was back in the 25th slot, he was able to watch the accident unfold and pick his way through the spinning cars and debris. When the tire smoke cleared and the dust settled, the 34-year-old was in fourth place.
Once the racing resumed, Wallace continued to run up front with the leaders. But a freight train of cars led by Terry Labonte sped past Wallace with about 30 laps remaining, leaving the Square D Ford pilot to dice with Ernie Irvan, Ward Burton and Sterling Marlin for the remaining top-10 positions.
"The race car handled well all day," said Wallace. "I was just trying to stay out of trouble. I did that, but Terry Labonte was just too fast. I tried blocking him, but he hit me in the rear and I couldn't hold him off. We had good track position all day - we just finished seventh."
Redemption is in order for Square D Ford driver Kenny Wallace and his FILMAR Racing team when they arrive at Roger Penske's California Speedway for the California 500. Last year's inaugural race at the 2-mile oval was the only event the team failed to qualify for in 1997.
"We're taking the car that we've had the most success with - our Las Vegas/Darlington car," said Wallace. "We feel that there are strong similarities between the California and Las Vegas ovals. Both of them are flat tracks where you want to run on the bottom, and the banking of the corners seems to suit that car best."
The Las Vegas/Darlington car, codenamed "FM8," has produced solid results in its two outings so far this year. While a blown engine sidelined "FM8" on lap 179 of the Las Vegas 400, the car was running in the top-10 before heading to the garage. "FM8" also scored a ninth place run at Darlington's TranSouth Financial 400 back in March.
"You've got to have a car that's very aerodynamic but still has plenty of downforce," continued Wallace. "You can't give up straightaway speed because the track's so long. Drafting plays a role too. It's very similar to Michigan and Vegas, because if you can get a good run behind someone coming off the corner, you'll be able to pass them around the start/finish line."