2011 Ride: No. 66 Rusty Wallace Incorporated Toyota
2011 Primary Sponsor: 5-Hour Energy
2011 Owner: Rusty Wallace
2011 Crew Chief: Doug Randolph
2011 Nationwide Series Stats: 34 starts, 0 wins, 2 top fives, 5 top 10s, 5 DNFs, 10th in points
High Point: While not known as a sports car ace, Wallace managed to score his season-best finish of fourth at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal after starting in the seventh position. Despite managing just five top-10 finishes, Wallace maintained a certain level of consistency, earning 25 top-20 results to keep himself up in the points race. Perhaps his best stretch of the season came in the summer months; he scored seven top 15s over a span of nine races, with the lone finishes outside coming as a result of accidents at Dover and Road America.
Wallace also made his Sprint Cup debut in the Daytona 500 and was able to run a clean race, slotting in 20th for Rusty Wallace Racing with crew chief Larry Carter. It was his lone Sprint Cup start on the season.
Low Point: It’s difficult to find one specific low point for a team that was consistently a top-20 car week in and week out. Wallace has become a household name among NASCAR fans with at least one Nationwide start in each of the last seven years, but it’s important to remember that he is still just 24 years old. It was a disappointing season for the No. 66 as the team failed to take another step forward in 2011, but Wallace did tie his career-best result of two top-five finishes this season.
The team particularly struggled at the tail end of the year as Wallace failed to finish on the lead lap in six of his final seven races, posting finishes of 29th and 34th at Phoenix and Homestead to close out another winless campaign.
Summary: Rusty Wallace Racing was expected to take another step forward in 2011, but it didn’t happen. Instead, middling results were the name of the game; while Steve Wallace managed a career-best average start of 14th and a second-best average finish of 17th, it was not a big enough jump to satisfy an ever-evolving driver and team.
2012 Outlook: 5-Hour Energy has left as a sponsor, joining Clint Bowyer in the Sprint Cup Series in 2012. That leaves funding an issue in what should be a critical year for both Steve Wallace and Rusty Wallace Racing. Is the team forever destined to remain a midpack Nationwide Series car? Or will Steve finally dip into the well of talent father Rusty has claimed he’s had for years?
2012 Frontstretch Grade: C-
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