Wallace Works Off Rust At Sears Point

SONOMA, Calif. – Rusty Wallace wants to regain his prowess as one of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series’ best road racers.

Wallace, who won the road course event at Sears Point Raceway in 1990 and 1996 and finished fifth and fourth there, respectively, in 1998 and 1999, was the fastest driver during a two-day test session at Sears Point this week, as officials opened up the modified Chute for the first-time at the 11-turn, 1.949-mile track.

Wallace’s fastest lap in the two-day test session was 1 minute, 17.31 seconds. Kevin Harvick was second during the test (1:17.70), followed by Ron Fellows (1:18.10).

The modified Chute, which connects turns 4 and 7 on the road course for all NASCAR-sanctioned events, will be used for the first time in competition at the Dodge/Save Mart 350, June 21-24.

”We’re trying to get a grip back on our road-race program and that’s why we came out to Sears Point,” Wallace said. “We want to start winning road races again and that’s why we’re testing.”

Other drivers who competed in the two-day test were Terry Labonte, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jason Leffler, Matt Kenseth, Mike Skinner and Bobby Hamilton.

”I think we might now have three places to pass,” said Hamilton, who finished second at Sears Point in 1998. “We won't have to wait anymore for just Turn 11 now. We’ll be able to pass in a few areas."

The Chute was originally constructed in 1998 with the intention of giving fans better visibility of the road course. The original move also shortened the course - from 2.52 to 1.95 miles – and provided fans with 40 additional laps, meaning more opportunities to see the stars. The third objective was to provide better competition. The first two objectives were met, but the third didn't work, which is why officials are now correcting it, with the aid of drivers.

The modified Chute features the following elements:

  • A 300-foot straightaway from Turn 4 to what will become the new Turn 5. This segment will feature straight-line braking before entering Turn 4a

  • A sharp 70-degree right-hand turn from Turn 4a into the Chute. There will also be 150 feet of runoff room available outside Turn 4a

  • Once out of Turn 4a, drivers will navigate an 870-foot pure straightaway, which will feature speeds in excess of 110 mph. This will be one of the fastest segments of the track

  • Turn 7 will boast a 90-degree right-hand turn placed 100 feet beyond the current Turn 7 apex. The turn will feature 120 feet of runoff

  • The modification will increase the length of the road course from 1.95 to 1.99 miles. The number of turns remains the same (10).

    The entire segment will span 1,170 feet, nearly 300 feet more than the original Chute (890 feet). Drivers expect the new Turn 7 to be a passing zone, and some even said Turn 4a could be another passing zone, adding to the excitement of the race.

    Other top times for the two-day test session were: Hamilton (1:18.10); Labonte (1:18.20); Kenseth (1:18.39); Skinner (1:18.51), Earnhardt Jr. (1:19.41) and Leffler (1:19.45).

    ”I like what they have out here much better,” Kenseth said. “I felt a lot more comfortable out there now than I did last year.”

    ”So far I like the changes I’m seeing around here but I need to get some more time out here,” Skinner said. “I’m just real pleased that the track is dedicated and is making all these changes. I can't believe all the work they’ve done out here with the new seats and the garages and everything.”

    The original 12-turn, 2.52-mile road course will still be used for all road-racing events at Sears Point Raceway that are not NASCAR-sanctioned.
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