Steve Wallace may not call Bristol Motor Speedway (TN) a second home, but in comparison to the rest of the Super Late Model field for the inaugural Short Track U.S. Nationals, he’s a regular at the track. The Charlotte, North Carolina native displayed his experience when he was the fastest among Super Late Models during the first open test at the Last Great Colosseum two weeks ago.
Wallace competed full time in the NASCAR XFNITY Series starting in 2007 and made a handful of starts at Bristol during his time competing in the series. On top of that, he also won a similar race in the UARA STARS Late Model Series on the high banks.
“I have run about ten Nationwide races here and we actually won this race in 2004 in a Late Model Stock and it brings back a lot of memories being here in a Late Model compared to a XFINITY car,” Wallace told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “The track is a lot of fun; it’s smooth, the car is handling really well and it feels like you’re running 4,000 miles an hour compared to, you know, normal short track that we run around so that’s been really exciting.”
Right out of the gate Wallace was fast in the practice session, but it was more than just his track time that had to do with his success.
“Had a couple questionable things coming into this with the cars being strong enough,” he said. “The car I built in the off season, this is the second time I’ve been in it and it’s a pretty light weight car and stuff so it felt good to come up here and test. The tires and all that stuff are good so I am excited for the race.”
Wallace’s speed was on full display when he and a few other competitors were running close to Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series track record times. Denny Hamlin currently holds the record with a 14.573 second lap. With the right conditions and setup, there is little doubt that a Super Late Model will blow the Cup track record out of the water.
“The track record in a cup car is close to a (14) .83(second) lap and I ran and (14).87 and that was just in race-trim with low air and older tires so I feel when it comes to actual race tires I think it really puts all of the cards out on the table and I think we could be like a 14.50 or something like that,” Wallace stated. “It will be one hell of a lap because you feel like you’re about going to flat foot it which is really hauling some serious a-- in these cars.”
Wallace isn’t the only member of his family with history at Bristol Motor Speedway. The son of former NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series star Rusty Wallace and nephew to driver and personality Kenny Wallace, the Wallace family has their own branch of history in the Thunder Valley.
“I used to come up here years ago in 2000, when Uncle Kenny won a similar race in the NASCAR All- Pro Series, which is similar cars and what not and I remember all the lap times they were running,” Wallace said. “So its cool to see all the advancements in the cars and how everyone’s gotten better and the cars are just better. Back then they were a second slower then the Cup cars and now they’re the same speed and I feel like there is a lot more to go you know?”
Some of the big talk going into the initial testing and even more so the Short Track U.S. Nationals itself was the debate on if Bristol Motor Speedway was a track built for Super Late Models. Many were skeptical, but Wallace thinks otherwise.
“They’re probably just scared of this track to be honest,” he commented. “I have raced my whole life since I was about seven years old and I have raced all over the country and these cars are more than well fit to run here so I don’t know who would think that.”
Another big conversation topic was the tire selection that would be used for the event, and after testing the tire himself Wallace has confidence in the selection for the inaugural event.
“I think Hoosier and the CARS Tour and everybody did a great job of picking the tire. I was a little skeptical of it because I know it’s a hard a-- tire and it’s been really tough on some cars at different race tracks,” Wallace said. “This is the beast of all places and it will show weaknesses where they are at so you’ve got to really dot your i’s and cross your t’s with your cars.”
With the tires selected and the event only a week away its down to crunch time for teams and drivers as they get ready for the big race. As teams prep their cars, Wallace emphasized how teams need to take every precaution on making sure their cars are well equipped for the high down force and demands the fast track puts on the race cars.
“We spent a lot of time on the car and making sure on travel the car was good, and really nut and bolting everything well. I think that’s why some people are having problems because they have the wrong wheels on and stuff like that. These cars are meant to be here. It’s really cool.”
The final test for the Short Track U.S. Nationals is this upcoming weekend as teams get one last chance for some track time prior to the race May 19-21. Speed51.com will be there for the test with Trackside Now coverage.
The Short Track U.S. Nationals will also be available for pay-per-view purchase on Speed51.com Race fans unable to make it to the track will be able to watch Wallace make his return to the high banks of Bristol Motor Speedway.
Story By: Hannah Newhouse -Southeast Correspondent- Twitter: @Hannahnewhouse
Photo By: Speed51.com