By Michael Guzman, Contributing Writer
Hampton, GA – “Woo Hoo Hooo…” Darrell Wallace blared into the radio as he made a pass for the eighth position. After a winless 2015 turned into a frustrating 2016, a sixth place finish at Saturday’s Rinnai 250 has given a brief bit of momentum to start the 2017 season.
“We needed it,” Wallace said following his best finish since July of last year. “We’ve been on the struggle side for the last two years. So we needed a good run and to be able to come here and not really have the best car right off the bat and then to break into almost the top five there at the end, it’s something special.”
The 23-year-old Mobile, Alabama native earned 31 points to his playoff push, despite being out of the top 10 at the end of both stages. Wallace’s race was not without incident either, as he bounced off the frontstretch wall after running outside the top-20 near the end of the first stage.
“That just shows the attitude of our team, and Roush-Fenway’s organization,” Wallace added. “We needed it.”
Looking forward to tomorrow, so many people @roushfenway have dug in, changed mindset, and we are building faster cars, thanks.
— Mike Kelley (@Mkelleynscs17) March 4, 2017
The solid run was indicative of an overall strong day for Ford, who took four of the top 10 spots despite a race victory by Kyle Busch’s Toyota. Cup Series drivers Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick contended for the win throughout, while Wallace’s teammate Ryan Reed brought home 19 playoff points and an 18th place finish after running in the top 10 throughout the day.
“(Ford) are sitting down having conversations on how we can be better as a whole organization and across the whole board,” said Wallace.
The improvements have not only been noticed by Wallace and other Ford drivers; they’ve been seen by the competition as well.
“Obviously (the field) was a lot closer throughout the weekend, we noticed that,” race-winning crew chief Scott Graves said. “The 41 had the dominant car for parts of the race by far, so the competition I expect to be a lot tighter this year, especially with the rules package and everybody getting started on that. It’s going to tighten up those top cars.”