Steve Wallace insisted he wasn’t out to hurt anyone when he tossed a hammer at Kyle Busch’s car during Sunday’s Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway in Florida.
Wallace, the 2004 race winner, had just been knocked out of the race in a multi-car accident that also involved Busch and Casey Smith on lap 227. Busch and Smith were racing side-by-side and made contact several times before Busch bottled up Smith and Wallace, sending their cars spinning off Turns 1 and 2.
The prone Wallace car was drilled head-on by Florida veteran David Rodgers after he rounded the corner at race speed with nowhere to go. The resulting accident ended Wallace’s race and he finished 22nd.
Upset, Wallace climbed out of his car, found a body hammer and tossed it towards Busch’s No. 51 under the caution.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Kyle Busch, but he’s a guy that really doesn’t belong out there,” Wallace said on Tuesday. “The Snowball Derby is a race featuring some of the best local and national Super Late Model teams, but they don’t have the money that Kyle does and it shows in how he raced a lot of those guys.
“He tore up at least four race-winning cars on Sunday and in the heat of the moment, I voiced my displeasure, picked up the hammer and tossed it at him as he drove by.”
Wallace said he wouldn’t have done it if there was a chance that someone could have been injured. The hammer glanced off the hood, and Wallace said it was no different than Tony Stewart tossing his helmet towards Matt Kenseth’s car in the Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol.
Wallace later signed and donated the hammer to a fan who had offered $200 for the now-infamous tool.
Aside from Wallace, Busch also made several other drivers angry on Sunday. He triggered an accident on lap 158 that damaged three other contending cars, including those of TJ Reaid, Chase Elliott and Bubba Pollard. Race director Dan Spence decided the accident was beyond normal contact and sent Busch to the rear of the field.
Since losing his Nationwide Series ride at the end of 2011, Wallace has spent a lot of his time building his own Super Late Model fleet, even calling himself a full-time short track driver. He said Busch’s aggression was an act of disregard to many of the grassroots teams who spend all of their resources just to compete in races like the Snowball Derby.
Some of the out-of-town teams spent upwards of $20,000 in a bad economy to compete in the event.
“Our car was fast all week,” Wallace said. “We spent three months working on the car and even tested on the Monday before the race. That’s what made it so frustrating to end our day the way we did.”
It was the conclusion of an eventful weekend for Wallace, who qualified deep in the field and needed to use his past winner’s provisional just to make the field of 37. Wallace had one of the fastest cars during the first half of the race and had worked his way up to fifth at the time of his accident.
His car was one of the fastest in practice throughout the week and just missed the short run set-up required for night-time qualifying for an afternoon race.
Wallace says he hasn’t given up hope of someday returning to NASCAR, but added that it would have to make financial sense and the right sponsorship package.
“The sport has really changed over the last 20 years in that you don’t see guys make the sport on talent alone,” Wallace said. “I can’t tell you the last time I’ve seen a story where the driver didn’t bring some sort of financial backing. And that’s where we are now – we’re looking for a situation where we can get out there and be competitive.”
Until that opportunity presents itself, Wallace is going to focus on preparing his two Super Late Models. He hopes to run next year’s Snowball Derby as well as the Winchester 400 and All-American 400.