The finish was Wallace’s first of 2013 and his first in a Nationwide race since the All Prop Bumper to Bumper 300 at Charlotte on October 7, 2000, 404 races ago. That day, Wallace’s #77 Lear Corporation / UAW Ford was involved in a twelve-car crash and fell out after he completed two laps. The race was won by Matt Kenseth. Jeff Green, the current LASTCAR leader, finished 4th in that race. It was the 21st of Green’s 25 top-five finishes en route to the 2000 NASCAR Nationwide Series title.
Wallace, the middle racing brother of Rusty and Kenny, was making his 470th Nationwide start on Saturday. Since his series debut at Martinsville in 1990, he has competed in all three of NASCAR’s top divisions, scoring four wins in Nationwide and five in the Truck Series. A steady competitor at the plate tracks, Wallace scored his most recent NASCAR victory at Talladega in the fall of 2011 when, at the age of 52, he led teammate Ron Hornaday, Jr. across the line in the Coca-Cola 250. Wallace hasn’t competed in the Cup Series since 2009, when he ran a pair of races for Larry Gunselman. That same year, he joined JD Motorsports, a smaller team owned by Johnny Davis.
Davis joined the Nationwide Series in 2002 with drivers Kertus Davis and Brad Teague. The single-car team expanded to two cars the following year, but has still struggled to find consistency. In 517 combined starts, Davis’ team has just seven Top Tens and one Top Five. The top-five finish came with Wallace during the chaotic finish at Road America in 2011, where Wallace’s #01 Cowboys & Aliens Chevrolet finished fifth.
In 2013, Wallace has continued to run Davis’ flagship #01 alongside a team car, #4, which has been driven by relative newcomers Landon Cassill, Danny Efland, and Darryl Harr. Coming into Watkins Glen, Wallace’s best finish of the year has been a 7th at Talladega. That race saw the #4 team’s best run of the year, a 17th despite a hard final-lap crash in the tri-oval.
At Watkins Glen, Wallace qualified 23rd at an average speed of 119.104 mph. He would start alongside teammate Landon Cassill in the #4. Cassill went on to equal his season-best 17th during Saturday’s race at the Glen.
Missing the start of Saturday’s race was Bayonne, France native Anthony Gandon, who was making his series debut in the #23 Qolix Ford fielded by R3 Motorsports and Rick Ware Racing. One of the few “road ringers” in the field, Gandon lost his primary car in a vicious practice crash and ended up driving a flat black-colored backup in the race. Since both he and Morgan Shepherd did not complete a lap in qualifying, Gandon may have missed the start so the team could finish preparing the car, although as of this writing, I do not have any information to confirm this.
While Gandon’s team struggled, the green flag flew. Suddenly, 2nd-place driver Kyle Busch lost control entering the first corner, sending his #54 Monster Energy Toyota into the inside wall. The car didn’t suffer much damage until Wallace, who was attempting a three-wide pass in the corner, found himself unable to collide with Busch’s left-front. Both cars suffered extensive sheetmetal and suspension damage. While Busch was able to return to the track with Gandon, who finally made it on track around Lap 19, Wallace did not, and the #01 ended up in the 40th spot.
During the ensuing caution, The Motorsports Group teammates Josh Wise (#42) and T.J. Bell (46) both pulled behind the wall along with 2013 LASTCAR leader Jeff Green in th #10 TriStar Motorsports Toyota. All three finished in positions 37th through 39th. Rounding out the Bottom Five was Blake Koch in the #00 Compassion Racing Toyota, the team’s fifth consecutive Bottom Five.
*This was the first last-place finish for both Wallace and the #01 in a Nationwide Series race at Watkins Glen.
*This was the first time a Nationwide Series driver failed to complete a lap of a race at Watkins Glen since 2008, when Chris Cook’s turn in the #90 MSRP Motorsports Chevrolet ended due to suspension problems at the start of the Zippo 200 at the Glen.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #01-Mike Wallace / 0 laps / crash
39) #42-Josh Wise / 1 lap / brakes
38) #46-T.J. Bell / 2 laps / electrical
37) #10-Jeff Green / 4 laps / vibration
36) #00-Blake Koch / 7 laps / overheating
LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Jeff Green (10)
2nd) Joey Gase (2)
3rd) Tanner Berryhill, Blake Koch, Johanna Long, Eric McClure, Michael McDowell, Robert Richardson, Jr., Morgan Shepherd, Dexter Stacey, Mike Wallace (1)
LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #10-TriStar Motorsports (10)
2nd) #52-Jimmy Means Racing (2)
3rd) #14-TriStar Motorsports, #17-Vision Racing, #23-R3 Motorsports, #27-SR2 Motorsports, #70-ML Motorsports, #89-Shepherd Racing Ventures, #92-KH Motorsports, #00-SR2 Motorsports, #01-JD Motorsports (1)
LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Toyota (16)
2nd) Chevrolet (3)
3rd) Dodge, Ford (1)