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Batesville Bullet shows 'em at Show-Me 100

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

On paper it looked impossible.

On dirt, however, it was another matter entirely.

With a who's-who of the nation's best dirt late model drivers filling the starting roster of the 15th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts Show-Me 100 at West Plains Motor Speedway May 26, the odds seemed long and lean that any one driver would dominate the field.

But against all prevailing logic, one driver did dominate the field.

The "Batesville Bullet."

Wendell Wallace.

Wallace, starting on the outside front row, grabbed the lead from polesitter Clint Smith early in the race and then led flag-to-flag around the 3/8-mile oval, en route to his second straight Show-Me 100 win.

In addition to picking up a hefty $41,700 for his victory, Wallace can now also brag about winning the nation's premier dirt track event for the third time.

To say that Wallace loves racing at WPMS might be a bit of an understatement.

In his last four starts in the Show-Me 100, Wallace has two wins, one second-place and one fourth-place finish to show for his troubles.

Before his back-to-back checkered flag finishes the past two years, Wallace's other win in the Show-Me 100 came in 2002.

According to the "Batesville Bullet," track preparation at WPMS is second-to-none and also falls into his preferred style of driving.

"You know going into the race that Don Gibson does such a good job in preparing the race track," he said. "You know it's not going to be rough and that really suits my kind of racing."

And a slick, fast racing surface puts a premium on car setup, says Wallace.

"The technology of the shop and the way the car is setup is really at an emphasis when the track is slicker," he said. "I feel like it takes a whole lot more work to get a car ready in that situation."

Last year's race was a different story for Wallace. He didn't grab the lead until lap 67 before hanging on to win.

This year, it was all Wallace, all the time, as he took the lead early and almost coasted to victory.

"Last year, I felt the same way as this year. You've got to maintain your tires for 100 laps," Wallace said. "You've got to pace yourself for 100 laps and know what your tires are capable of doing, no matter where you're at -- front or back."

Nothing seemed to throw a curve in Wallace's plans for a first-place finish; not the other drivers, nor the six caution periods, mostly due to flat tires.

"Actually the caution flags may have been a plus for me," said Wallace. "I didn't have to work as hard. I did hate to see that many cautions, because anything can happen -- a tire can go down -- you just always think worst-case scenario when you have very many cautions, but it all worked out."

The top five was rounded out by Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga., and Brady Smith of Solon Springs, Wis. Cave City's Jeff Taylor, who started in the 23rd position, ended the race in 17th place, earning $4,100.

And how does it feel to thoroughly outdrive the best drivers the sport can throw at you?

Not bad, says Wallace.

"It feels good. I've got a lot of confidence when I go to that place (WPMS)," he said. "To come back and win this thing back-to-back, it just shows we have a real strong program, you know."

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