Editor’s Note: The following report comes from Mathew Krzesinski and chronicles a portion of NASCAR driver Kenny Wallace’s recent performance at Daytona. RV supplier Blue Ox of Pender, Neb., is one of the car’s sponsors.
For Kenny Wallace and the No. 28 Blue Ox last Saturday’s Nationwide Series event was a true test of our will to compete and a first for Kenny behind the wheel.
Due to inclement weather, the Nationwide Series DRIVE4COPD qualifying was canceled on Friday (Feb. 19), putting the JRR No. 28 Blue Ox Chevy in the 19th starting position based on 2009 owner points.
Saturday, in front of over 80,000 fans, on a sunny, clear and crisp afternoon in Daytona, the green flag was about to drop. Shortly after the green, a couple of cars were involved in an early-race incident, giving the team a much-needed caution to take care of some serious communication concerns.
Kenny could not be heard!
We had no communication from him at all and Jay had the No. 28 Blue Ox Chevy come in to the pits to change helmets. Kenny took the chance to tell Jay that the car was mad loose. The net went down, the window was out and the team hustled to complete the switch, but the change did not help; we still could not hear any chatter over the radio from Kenny. Once back on the track and out of the draft, the No. 28 Blue Ox Chevy quickly fell a lap behind with just over 30 laps in the books.
Kenny was able to keep the car only one lap down while fighting some loose conditions. As always in Daytona, wrecks are a plenty. Owner Jay Robinson came over the radio and stated with confidence,“Don’t worry, Kenny, we are going to get the car right and get this lap back. We have a long way to go and the cautions will come!”
Then, coming out of turn 4 on the Daytona SuperSpeedway and down toward the front stretch came cars a flying.
“They are wrecking out of turn 4 – whoa up! Get low – get low – good job! Go on right through pit road,” said spotter of the No. 28 Blue Ox Chevy, Curtis Aldridge. The carnage ate up a handful of cars including heralded rookie Danica Patrick. As NASCAR cleared the track, the JRR Team was given the OK to take the wave around, putting us back on the lead lap and back in contention after a challenging start.
As the race continued and the crew made the proper adjustments, it was apparent Wallace had a strong-handling car capable of securing a top-20 result. Through the second half of the event, the No. 28 Blue Ox Chevy was consistently running some of the fastest laps in the field.
Another big wreck on the back stretch almost collected Kenny, but the No. 28 charged through the wreckage as spotter C. Aldridge guided Kenny through – “Go low – keep coming – they are coming up behind you – go go go!”
Kenny stated after the race that, “There were cars all around me. Parts and pieces flying over top the hood. I don’t know how we made it through that one.”
That incident put us up in the Top 15 for the last restart, but some front-end damage affecting the air flow and left side affected the down force of the car. Wallace and Team Blue Ox motored hard in the final laps to get their No. 28 up as far as possible and ultimately to a great finish in 16th place.
“I have never completed a race start to finish without communication to my team. That was a first for my career and I am proud of the whole Blue Ox Team,” Wallace said afterward.
The next event for Wallace, Team Blue Ox and the rest of the Nationwide Series will be this Saturday’s race in Fontana at Auto Club Speedway
Jay Robinson Racing and Blue Ox Products jointly announced that Blue Ox Products will serve as the primary sponsor of the No. 28 car driven by Kenny Wallace in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race Feb. 13 as part of NASCAR’s 2010 opening weekend in Daytona, according to a news release.
Blue Ox, of Pender, Neb., is a leading manufacturer of recreational vehicle and towing industry supplies and accessories. With the strong roots and legacy of Blue Ox tracing back to 1926, NASCAR teams and officials know well the excellence of Blue Ox vehicle accessories, from gooseneck hitches to weight distributing hitches and from towbars to track bars.
“We’re privileged to be the primary sponsor for Kenny Wallace and the No. 28,” said, Jay Hesse, Blue Ox CEO. “Kenny has been a valued member and supporter of the RV Industry and Blue Ox Products for several years. Vice President Ellen Kietzmann and I are thrilled to be able cultivate our longstanding relationship with Kenny.”
“We are thrilled to have Blue Ox on board as primary sponsor for the opening 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series weekend in Daytona,” said Jay Robinson, owner of the team. “Blue Ox has been a valued partner to NASCAR and Daytona International Speedway for several years and we hope this race sponsorship will lead to continued opportunities with the leading recreational vehicle and towing company in the future.” Jay added: “We have teamed in past seasons, and we are excited to have them join with us again this year. It will be great to have them partnered with Kenny Wallace behind the wheel in Daytona of our Blue Ox No. 28 Chevrolet.”
“I’m looking forward to this season’s start at Daytona, and giving Blue Ox a solid run. Our opening weekend is always an exciting, really competitive time, and I certainly will be backed by a solid company, in the Blue Ox No. 28,” said driver Kenny Wallace. “It is always a pleasure to represent a well respected company like Blue Ox.
“Blue Ox has a longstanding reputation for producing quality hitches and tow bars from a first class quality organization. While looking at the blue on white primary sponsor Blue Ox decals for his Daytona Nationwide car. I will do my very best to ‘get hooked up’ while drafting in the No. 28 Chevy. I’d like to give the outstanding Blue Ox company a good finish; and hopefully give them something to cheer about this opening weekend at Daytona.”
The racing team gets their first shot at the Daytona International Superspeedway on Thursday, with two Nationwide Series practice sessions. Qualifying is on schedule for Friday at 3 p.m. with live coverage on ESPN2. This year’s Nationwide Series DRIVE4COPD 300 Daytona race begins at 1 p.m. Saturday, with pre-race coverage starting at noon on ESPN.