Steve Wallace to enter Daytona 500
|By Diego Mejia||Wednesday, January 19th 2011, 17:26 GMT|
NASCAR Nationwide Series regular Steve Wallace will make his Sprint Cup debut next month at Daytona, driving for his father's Rusty Wallace Racing team in the season opener.
The 23-year-old, son of former Cup champion Rusty Wallace, who fields his own team in NASCAR's second-tier series, will make the jump up together with his family's outfit, which will enter the #77 Toyota Camry in the Daytona 500.
Wallace, who has finished in the top 10 in the Nationwide Series points in the past two years, will have his start in the race guaranteed after his team was able to secure a deal to have the 2010 owner points transferred from Penske Racing's #77 car of Sam Hornish Jr, who is not expected to compete for the team in the Cup series this year.
According to NASCAR rules, the top 35 cars in the owner standings from the previous year are automatically guaranteed the start in the first five races of the new season. Penske's #77 was 29th in that ranking at the end of last year.
"Starting my first Daytona 500 is definitely going to be the most exciting day of my career - make that my life - so far," said Wallace. "It's something that every kid wanting to be a racer - including me - dreams of doing one day. It's the some of the best drivers in the world competing in the biggest race in the world.
"As far as the race, my goals are simple: to stay out of trouble, earn all the respect I can from the other guys and make sure [the car] is there at the end of the race. The way restrictor plate racing goes, if we can do that, there's no telling what can happen."
Larry Carter, who was crew chief for his father Rusty on his final appearance in the Daytona 500 in 2005, when he finished 10th for Penske Racing, will be calling the shots from the pitwall for the younger Wallace on his Cup debut.
1989 Cup champion Wallace, who never claimed a Daytona 500 victory despite his 55 wins in the series, believes the new grippy asphalt at the 2.5-mile oval will make it easier for his team to be competitive on its debut as handling will no longer be as large a factor.
"When you're a young driver coming up, you dream about racing in the Daytona 500 and now Steve's going to get the opportunity to do it," said team-owner Wallace. "He's grown by leaps and bounds as a driver in the Nationwide Series over the last few years and we think he's ready for this opportunity.
"We've been looking at this race as an opportunity for a while, because I really believe that the new pavement at Daytona is going to be a great equaliser among the teams. The cars will have a tonne of grip and it's going to make handling a much smaller part of the equation."
Steve Wallace will be the fourth different member of his family to compete in the Daytona 500.