MOORESVILLE, N.C. - Officials of Rusty Wallace Racing announced Wednesday that 23-year-old Steve Wallace will make his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut in February's Daytona 500. Wallace will pilot the No. 77 Toyota Camry for RWR at Daytona, with backing from longtime sponsor 5-Hour Energy and new partner Aspen Dental.
When Steve Wallace and the 5-Hour Energy Camry take the green flag on Feb. 20th at NASCAR's most historic venue, the well-pedigreed racer will write his own chapter in NASCAR history.
His Sprint Cup debut will make the Wallace family the first ever to have produced four Daytona 500 competitors, breaking a longtime tie with the Petty, Allison, Earnhardt and Bodine families. When Wallace starts the 2011 event, a member of his family will have competed in 27 of the last 30 Daytona 500s.
The third-generation driver will have familiar leadership for his first run in the 500, as RWR General Manager Larry Carter will serve as crew chief for the No. 77 5-Hour Energy Toyota. A veteran Sprint Cup crew chief, Carter led Rusty Wallace to a top-10 in the elder Wallace's final Daytona 500 in 2005, as well as a fourth-place finish in the July 2005 event at Daytona.
Providing additional comfort to the younger Wallace in his Cup Series debut is a guaranteed place among the 43-car starting field, enabled through an agreement between RWR and Penske Racing.
"Starting my first Daytona 500 is definitely going to be the most exciting day of my career - make that my life - so far," Wallace said. "It's something that every kid wanting to be a racer - including me - dreams of doing one day. It's the some of the best drivers in the world competing in the biggest race in the world. I really have to thank 5-Hour Energy and Aspen Dental for making this possible.
"As far as the race, my goals are simple: to stay out of trouble, earn all the respect I can from the other guys and make sure the 5-Hour Energy Toyota is there at the end of the race. The way restrictor-plate racing goes, if we can do that, there's no telling what can happen."
If his Nationwide Series record is any proof, Wallace has shown his ability to survive-and thrive-on Daytona's high banks. Wallace has four lead-lap top-15 finishes in his last five Daytona starts, including a top-ten in last February's 300-miler. In the other event, Wallace ran among the contenders until being taken out by a bizarre incident for which Jason Leffler was penalized five laps.
Team owner Rusty Wallace shares his son's enthusiasm for the event.
"This is a big event for all of us - for Steve, our team, our family and our sponsors," Wallace said. "When you're a young driver coming up, you dream about racing in the Daytona 500 and now Steve's going to get the opportunity to do it. He's grown by leaps and bounds as a driver in the Nationwide Series over the last few years and we think he's ready for this opportunity.
"We've been looking at this race as an opportunity for a while, because I really believe that the new pavement at Daytona is going to be a great equalizer among the teams. The cars will have a ton of grip and it's going to make handling a much smaller part of the equation.
"Our program for Daytona has come together pretty quickly and I really want to thank 5-Hour Energy and Aspen Dental for coming aboard to support it."