Kenny “Herman” Wallace
2006 Ride: No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet
2006 Owner: Barney Visser
2006 Crew Chief: Joe Garone
Stats: 17 races, zero wins, zero top fives, zero top 10s, 43rd in points.
Best Finish: 25th (twice)
High Point: Intermediate tracks. These were not Wallace’s strong point early in his career, but in 2006, most of the No. 78 team’s 17 successful qualifying attempts came on this type of track. Wallace had to make the race on speed all season in underfunded and underpowered equipment with a first-year team; given this, those 17 starts were not a terrible total. Wallace has always been known as an outstanding qualifier, and he often outran better-funded cars and more experienced teams in making those races.
Low Point: Furniture Row Racing’s 17 DNQs. Despite Wallace’s best qualifying efforts (as well as two starts by substitute Jimmy Spencer), the No. 78 car went home almost as often as it raced in 2006. Although it was a case of the equipment, not the driver, it was not the season that the team had hoped for.
Summary: It wasn’t as bad as the numbers suggest. Wallace missed the Daytona 500 in a close battle in the Gatorade Duels, and each week the team faced an uphill battle just to make each race. Still, there were flashes of promise. Wallace qualified for both the Coca-Cola 600 and the Allstate 400 – quality races that attracted over 50 entrants. The team suffered two engine failures (only one with an in-house engine) and a crash during the season, but found themselves running at the end of most of their races – gaining information with every lap. In fact, Wallace posted one of the fastest laps of any driver at the June Dover race, a sign of how competitive the team could be under the right circumstances.
As for the driver himself, Wallace was better than the numbers show, especially in his outstanding qualifying efforts. “We knew Cup qualifying was gonna be tough,” said Wallace at the end of the season. “I was happy with our effort; the team put up a really good effort, it just sometimes didn’t end up being good enough. I like the direction the team is headed in; they’re working really hard to build good cars. We just hired the shop foreman from Evernham Motorsports (new car chief Doug Holbrook) and fabricator (Gary Beveridge) from Robert Yates. We have a program to make us a lot better next year.”
2007 Outlook: Wallace signed a two-year contract to run the Nextel Cup Series exclusively with Furniture Row Racing. With the added presence of the new Toyota teams, Wallace and the team recognized that making races and running competitively would be an even bigger challenge than in 2006, and to that end, the team made several upgrades to their shop and equipment, including expanding the Denver, Colorado-based race shop and purchasing several new chassis. They’ll use engines from reigning Cup champion Hendrick Motorsports in the four restrictor plate races. With the addition of new crew chief Jay Guy (Garone will take over management duties in 2007) and engineer Claude Rouelle, Wallace and the Furniture Row team have shown that they’re serious about improved performance in 2007.