2007 Rides: No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet (Feb.-Aug.); No. 45 Petty Enterprises Dodge (Bristol, August); No. 88 Robert Yates Racing Ford (September)
2007 Primary Sponsor: 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 Chief: Jay Guy (No. 78); Billy Wilburn (No. 45); Cully Barraclough (No. 88)
Stats: 15 races, zero wins, zero top fives, zero top 10s, 46th in points.
Best Finish: 21st – Bristol, March
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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Editor’s Note: The 2007 season is over, and even the Final Chase exam has come to a close – which means it’s time to give each driver their annual year-end evaluation. For the second straight year, your favorite Frontstretch staff members are giving driver reviews for every full-time wheelman on the circuit, giving you insight into the seasons of anyone from AJ Allmendinger to JJ Yeley. Be sure to keep coming in every weekday this offseason for even more original content on Frontstretch!