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Forced Time Off Gave Steve Wallace New Perspective

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 24 2013

Steve Wallace has not been in a Nationwide car for over a year. He returns this weekend. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Christ L Thomas)

CONCORD, N.C. – For Steve Wallace, it’s been more than a year since he has competed in a NASCAR Nationwide Series race and the younger son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace readily admits that coping with that fact hasn’t been easy. Since finishing 11th in the April 2012 Richmond race, the 25-year-old Wallace has been

confined to Super Late Model events when he could pull together the needed finances. The last year, however, has shown the young Wallace just how much the sport means to him and demonstrated to his father the intensity of his son’s desire to race.

“I’ve got a whole new perspective when it comes to being a professional race car driver,” said Steve Wallace, who was 21st quickest in Thursday’s first Nationwide Series practice at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “I have a lot more respect; a lot better work ethic. Being on the sidelines has been a real eye opener for me. I am so thankful and so appreciative to have another opportunity in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.”

After last year’s spring Richmond race, Rusty Wallace Racing had to suspend its two-car operation due to a lack of sponsorship. Employees were released and the equipment for one entire team was sold. However, the efforts to revive the operation never stopped. Greg Wallace, Steve’s older brother, worked constantly to put together sponsorship deals and success finally came about four months ago with Charlotte businessman Richard Tocado.

That’s when Tocado agreed to use his mortgage and real estate company to sponsor Steve Wallace in Charlotte

Steve, Mike and Kenny Wallace. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

Motor Speedway’s HISTORY 300 Nationwide Series event. Two Ford Mustangs were obtained from Roush Fenway Racing, one in 2012 and the other earlier this year. One of the cars, Rusty Wallace said, carried Carl Edwards to victory lane on five occasions. In mid-April, Roush Yates engines arrived at the shop. With sponsorship and cars in hand, Steve Wallace and best friend Blake Bainbridge began working daily to prepare for the HISTORY 300.

“I am so proud of him right now,” Rusty Wallace said about his younger son. “I can’t tell you how hard this kid has worked. The kid has matured so much since we had to shut down the team. The kid has learned so much and misses racing so bad. He’s been doing a lot of short-track racing, (but) once you get out of this sport it’s hard to get back in and he realizes that.”

To keep Rusty Wallace Racing afloat during the down time, Steve Wallace and Bainbridge built “special project cars”, including the Mustang that was sold at Barrett-Jackson to raise money for the NASCAR Foundation. He said the two also constructed “some Super Late Models.”

Only four people worked full time to prepare Steve Wallace’s Ford Mustang for Saturday’s Charlotte race. Rusty Wallace said a NASCAR Sprint Cup team would pit the car.

“We’d like to run six or eight races this year, maybe more,” Rusty Wallace said. “The goal would be 10, but realistically, six to eight, maybe.”

The 1989 NASCAR champion also noted he was off from his television duties with ESPN this weekend, so he would be able to concentrate on being a dad and an owner. He plans to spend his time with the race team that bears his name.

Steve Wallace said the operation selected a Ford for this year’s effort due to the “availability to buy a turn-key car from Roush.”

“We only had one bullet in the chamber, so we had to assure ourselves of having a good car that would perform well,” Steve Wallace explained. “The horsepower (in the Roush Yates engine) is really good, too. We have a really good shot to have a really good run. I am so excited I can’t wait.”

– Deb Williams can be reached at dwilliams@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 24 2013
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