Monday, August 3, 2009

Wallace Parked In Gunselman Team’s Return At Pocono

Mike Wallace picked up the 8th last-place finish of his career in Monday’s Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 at the Pocono Raceway when his #64 Air Combat USA / Fred’s Hometown Discount Stores Toyota was parked after completing 13 of the race’s 200 laps.

The second of the Wallace brothers, Mike had failed to make five NASCAR Sprint Cup races in 2009. The first came when Wallace narrowly missed making the Daytona 500 while driving Kevin Buckler’s #71. Wallace was replaced by David Gilliland the following week. Wallace did not make another Sprint Cup attempt until Todd Bodine left Larry Gunselman’s #64 team coming into June’s Autism Speaks 400 at Dover. At that point, Bodine and the Gunselman team had qualified for only three races in 2009, the most recent being the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville, where Bodine finished last. Bodine’s departure forced Gunselman to withdraw from Dover while Mike Wallace was brought on to drive in the following week’s Pocono 500 at Pocono. Unfortunately, mother nature was not on Wallace’s side. Qualifying was rained-out not only at Pocono, but the team’s next two attempts at Loudon and Daytona, and Wallace failed to qualify for all three as a result. In between these three races came Michigan and Sonoma, and though qualifying was not rained out, the Gunselman team did not enter either event. Wallace and Gunselman’s absence continued when they were the fastest car not to make the race at Chicago, and the team withdrew again at Indianapolis.

When Wallace and Gunselman returned to Pocono for the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500, qualifying was rained-out once again, but this time only 43 cars were on the entry list. Wallace and Gunselman were on the list and they secured the 42nd starting spot. After skipping two races, failing to qualify five times, and withdrawing seven more times in the fourteen races since Martinsville, the Gunselman team was set to make its fourth Sprint Cup start of 2009. Early in Monday’s race, it appeared Tony Raines would secure his third last-place finish of 2009 when he went behind the wall on lap 13. That same lap, Wallace was forced behind the wall because Gunselman’s team did not have a pit crew. Raines returned to the track 21 laps down and, after completing four more laps, dropped Wallace to 43rd. Only then did Raines end his race, putting him 42nd.

It is Wallace’s first last-place finish since he drove for Morgan-McClure when the timing chain failed on his Lucas Oil Products Chevrolet in the 2005 UAW-GM Quality 500 at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway. The #64 had never before finished last in a NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono. It is also only the second time in NASCAR Sprint Cup history that a car finished last because they were parked by NASCAR. The only other time was when Joe Ruttman, then driving for James Finch, also did not have a pit crew when he started the 2004 Subway 400, the last Sprint Cup race held at the old North Carolina (Rockingham) Speedway.

43) #64-Mike Wallace / 13 laps / parked
42) #37-Tony Raines / 17 laps / power steering
41) #71-David Gilliland / 24 laps / alternator
40) #66-Dave Blaney / 26 laps / overheating
39) #87-Joe Nemechek / 30 laps / ignition

1st) Dave Blaney (5)
2nd) Mike Bliss, Patrick Carpentier, David Gilliland, Joe Nemechek, Tony Raines (2)
3rd) Todd Bodine, P.J. Jones, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Mark Martin, Mike Wallace (1)

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