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Wallace relishes hard-fought, fourth-place finish

July 23, 2012, Seth Livingstone, Special to NASCAR.COM, NASCAR.com

Kenny Wallace scored his best Nationwide Series finish since a third-place run at Memphis in 2008. (Getty Images)

JOLIET, Ill. -- It's been a long time since Kenny Wallace had a result like Sunday's fourth-place finish in the STP 300 at Chicagoland Speedway.

One hundred thirteen Nationwide Series races to be precise.

STP 300

Results
Pos.DriverMake
2.Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Ford
3.Justin Allgaier Chevrolet
4.Kenny Wallace Toyota
5.Michael Annett Ford

Wallace says sometimes it's all about the situation -- and equipment. On Sunday, it was much about being in the right place at the right time.

Running 12th with 40 laps to go, Wallace moved into the top five when some of the top cars, including race-leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr., pitted just before a caution flag.

One of nine drivers not to pit under green, Wallace ran among the leaders the rest of the way (watch), posting his best finish since a third at Memphis Motorsports Park on Oct. 25, 2008.

* Post-Race Reactions: Wallace, others comment on pit road

It wasn't all roses, however. Wallace's 09 Toyota was found to be light on weight during post-race inspection. NASCAR is expected to render a penalty this week, but history says it should not affect his fourth-place finish.

"We had a fifth-place the last race at Richmond last year and then we had a third-place going at Richmond last year and messed it up," said Wallace, known recently for his on-air analysis as much as his on-track prowess.

"[This race was] just shades of the past -- that's the 'Hermanator.' I'm used to that. It's just been a while."

He also told MRN Radio: "I'm really rolling right now with my talent. ... I know what I'm doing right now. I've got the geometry right and I know what I feel I want [in a car]."

Wallace, who'll turn 49 in August, said he had to battle a loose car late in his runs.

"Really, our Family Farmers Camry handled really good. It was really fast for 40 laps -- then I would go Kyle Busch-loose. Me and Kyle Busch [who finished 27th after a late-race crash] were the same loose all day long. I just drove mine a little underneath me because we don't have any backup cars. That's what happened to me late in the race when I [temporarily] gave up the spot to Michael Annett.

"I don't know why, but after 20, 25 laps we would get wicked loose. Tires cooled down on that green-white-checkered finish and instead of getting fifth, we got fourth."

Once upon a time, Wallace was highly competitive. His Cup Series career spanned 1990-2008 and included 27 top-10 finishes. He's finished in the top 10 in the Nationwide Series standings 10 times, including 1991 when he finished second to Bobby Labonte, despite leading 446 more laps than the series champion.

Wallace, who ran all 35 races without a top-10 in 2010 and last reached Victory Lane in '01, believes he can still compete in the right circumstances.

"Really, it is about believing in your talent," he said. "When you get older, the good rides tend to go away, but these Family Farmers kept supporting me."

"[This race was] just shades of the past -- that's the 'Hermanator.' I'm used to that. It's just been a while. ... Really, it is about believing in your talent."

--KENNY WALLACE

Wallace, who has started nine of 18 Nationwide races this season, might yet get support from another source. Whether or not it happens remains to be seen, but he's hopeful that Roger Penske will offer him at least one start in the No. 22 Dodge, partly as a reward for being on standby to replace AJ Allmendinger at Daytona. Sam Hornish Jr. arrived in time to make that Sprint Cup start, so Wallace's services were not needed.

Hailing from America's heartland, the St. Louis native is appreciative for every chance that comes his way. Wallace knows droughts aren't only experienced by drivers.

"This Toyota Camry, Family Farmers car [comes from] the middle of the Corn Belt," Wallace said. "All the farmers are starving here. They've lost their livelihood, all their money -- their corn has burnt up. I'm a racer and without the Family Farmers of America Ethanol, this car wouldn't be here."

As for Busch, who battled back to the top three after a pit-road violation put him a lap down in the early going, Sunday was an exercise in frustration. Still looking for his first win as an owner/driver in the Nationwide Series, he was positioned for a top-10 finish until a tap from Hornish sent him crashing into Brendan Gaughan's left-door panel and out of the race on Lap 194 (watch).

"It was a really frustrating day," said Rick Ren, general manager of Kyle Busch Motorsports. "Sam Hornish came over and apologized to us. Brendan Gaughan came over to see if Kyle was OK.

"We could only run good for four or five laps and then the car would just go away on us. That's very unusual for how we've been performing lately. We're still scratching our head a little bit as to what happened, because some of the things Kyle was complaining about was with the chassis. Even Kyle said [he'd] never quite felt this before."

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