By Lee Montgomery
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - To read the comments from fans on Twitter and Facebook, Steve Wallace is the devil himself.
Wallace is making his Sprint Cup debut in the Daytona 500 next month, and if you believe what you read, he'll wipe out the entire field. Oh, and while he's at it, Wallace will also take out a few rows of grandstands, some beer vendors and an MRN turn announcer or two.
He's so bad, people seem to believe, that he shouldn't be allowed in a car of any kind. And maybe he should be kept locked up in his dad's basement.
A word to all those people: RELAX.
Steve Wallace is not the devil. Far from it. As someone who has known him a little bit over the past several years, I can tell you he is a really nice guy with a soft spot for kids. I was lucky enough to go on a children's hospital visit with him a couple years ago, and he was great with the kids there. They ate it up, too.
Is he spoiled? Maybe. Is he lucky to have a NASCAR champion as a father? Of course, especially when it comes to finding a ride in this sport.
But then again, how many drivers in NASCAR truly "earn" their rides these days anyway? And if you had a lot of money and the means, wouldn't you give your children every opportunity you could to make their dreams happen?
So let's back off Steve Wallace a little bit. And let's look at the numbers, too, and the situations beyond them.
|Year||Top Fives||Top 10s||DNF||LLF|
Doesn't take a genius to see he's gotten better over the years, both at performance and consistency. Was he a crash waiting to happen in 2007? Even Wallace would probably say yes. Was he a wreck waiting to happen in 2010? Competitors say no.
Yet, there is the perception that he's going to destroy everything in sight in the 500. Why? Sometimes, it's hard to shake a reputation in this sport. Chances are good that once any driver gets a reputation, it's hard to change. Need any examples? Jimmie Johnson. Kyle Busch. Jeff Gordon. Do I need to go on?
Once fans get a fix on what they think a driver is like, they don't change. The fans, not the driver. That seems to be the case with Wallace.
And, yes, I am aware of the scary looking numbers when it comes to Wallace's performance on superspeedways. In 12 career races at Daytona and Talladega, Wallace has failed to finished seven times, including six because of crashed. At Talladega, Wallace hasn't finished a race yet, with three because of wrecks.
But is that the whole story? Of course not. You need to look at each race, and I did, via video on the web:
Talladega 2010: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. turned Carl Edwards in the tri-oval and started a multi-car crash, where Wallace was simply a victim.
Daytona 1 2009: Jason Leffler dumped Wallace heading into Turn 3 and was penalized five laps.
Talladega 2008: Kevin Lepage comes on the track after leaving pit road and was rammed by Edwards, triggering a multi-car crash. Wallace was again caught up in the melee.
Daytona 1 2008: Brad Keselowski got loose in Turn 4 and slid into Wallace.
Daytona 2 2007: Wallace slipped in Turn 2 and scraped the wall, spinning down the track and into the path of David Reutimann.
Talladega 2007: Reed Sorenson hit Wallace in the rear bumper on the backstretch, triggering a multi-car crash.
So let me see if we've got this right: Wallace was the cause of only one of the six DNFs at Daytona and Talladega, and that one was in his third career start on a superspeedway.
Wallace is hardly alone at piling up DNFs at superspeedways in the Nationwide Series:
|Driver||Total Starts||Total Crash DNFs||Percentage|
So others have been in as many - if not more - crashes at Daytona and Talladega, and Wallace has caused only one crash at both places, why exactly are you quick to point the finger at him? Oh, because he causes wrecks at other places?
We're not talking about other places. We're talking about Daytona and Talladega.
Wallace may very well cause an accident in the Daytona 500 next month. So may 42 other guys.
What will you say if he doesn't cause a wreck?