Race Weekend Central

2007 NASCAR Driver Review: Kenny Wallace

Kenny Wallace

2007 Rides: No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet (Feb.-Aug.), No. 45 Petty Enterprises Dodge (Bristol, Aug.), No. 88 Robert Yates Racing Ford (Sept.)
2007 Primary Sponsors: Furniture Row (No. 78), Wells Fargo (No. 45), Snickers (No. 88)
2007 Owners: Barney Visser (No. 78), Richard Petty (No. 45), Robert Yates (No. 88)
2007 Crew Chiefs: Jay Guy (No. 78), Billy Wilburn (No. 45), Cully Barraclough (No. 88)
2007 Stats: 15 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s, 46th in points

High Point: Several drivers waited with bated breath after the Nextel Open to find out who would win the coveted fan vote and transfer into the Nextel All-Star Challenge. However, the hopes of many other would-be contenders were dashed when the NASCAR directive came over the radio: send the No. 78 Furniture Row car to tech inspection. Wallace – the 2006 Busch Series Most Popular Driver – trounced the competition to take the slot among Nextel Cup’s best and brightest. Completing every one of the race’s 80 laps, Wallace came home in 16th place – giving his underdog team some excellent exposure in the process.

Low Point: It’s a toss-up between the races that Wallace’s No. 78 team failed to qualify for – and their lackluster finishes in the ones he did. However, the lowest of the low came when a crew member did not correctly install engine plug wires at Michigan, ending one race weekend for team before it even started. That came smack in the middle of a five-race DNQ streak for Wallace during June and July; just one month later, he was out of a ride.

Summary: Wallace took on a challenge by joining upstart Furniture Row Racing in 2005, and the team’s growing pains did not abate after their first full season among the Cup ranks. The single-car effort continued to be located in Colorado, far from helpful for a team that was frequently outpaced by its Charlotte-area colleagues.

It didn’t help, of course, that the season began with back-to-back failures to qualify at Daytona and California – putting the team in an early hole. Wallace and the team then salvaged a 24th-place finish at Las Vegas, setting a pattern that would remain throughout the spring – sporadically qualifying for races, but finishing no better than mid-pack by the time the checkered flag flew. A brief highlight came at Darlington in May, where Wallace scored his best qualifying effort with a sixth-place start – he wound up finishing 24th in the race.

But as spring turned into summer, the road got bumpier, and Wallace was only able to qualify for three events from the Coca-Cola 600 until his release from the team in August. At least Wallace wasn’t out of a ride for long; he went on to sub for injured drivers Kyle Petty and Ricky Rudd to close out his year, although he lost out on replacing the retiring Rudd full-time in the No. 88 to Travis Kvapil.

In the meantime, a switch to Hendrick engines in late August helped FRR’s qualifying woes with replacement Joe Nemechek – possibly giving a false impression of Wallace’s abilities, to boot – but their remote location and lack of competitive equipment continued to bring little improvement to the team’s finishes.

2008 Outlook: Wallace is still searching for a ride for 2008 in any of NASCAR’s top-three series. He plans to test a Nationwide Series car for Baker-Curb Racing this January, but a lack of sponsorship sheds doubt on the team’s ability to compete in the Nationwide Series with Wallace behind the wheel.

2006 Frontstretch Grade: C-
2007 Grade: D

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