There is a woman driving in the Aaron’s 312 Nationwide Series race that is scheduled for Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. But her name is not Danica Patrick.
It’s Chrissy Wallace, who will make her second Nationwide start of the season during her young career. The daughter of veteran driver Mike Wallace is hoping it goes better than her first, which lasted only one lap before she got wrecked out of the series’ season opener in Daytona.
“I got wrecked at Daytona by Paul Menard on the first lap and didn’t ever get back out there,” Chrissy Wallace said. “So I ended up just having 20 laps in practice there and 11 laps here [Thursday] in practice. I’ve had 35 laps in a Nationwide car this whole time.”
Yet she and her father think she can do well after turning a top lap that was 18th-fastest in qualifying Friday. Chrissy’s speed of 184.154 mph was faster than the qualifying speed posted by her father (183.266), who will start 27th.
Unlike when Patrick made her Nationwide debut at Daytona earlier this season and then also ran at Fontana and Las Vegas amidst a media circus that seemingly recorded her every breath, Mike and Chrissy Wallace said they are happy to more or less fly under the media radar this weekend.
“We haven’t made any big PR deal out of it or anything,” Mike Wallace said. “We tried all that PR stuff before — and then the whole Danica sensation took over and that kind of wore things out. So we just figured if we could get her out there and she could run well, Chrissy would re-impress some people. So we feel very confident she can do that.”
Chrissy, who also has made seven career starts in the Truck Series, added: “I like it how it is with myself right now. I would rather not be under as much pressure as she is. She’s got all this media around her and everything — but people have to realize she’s just trying to learn like every other driver.
“I’m not always worried about beating her [Patrick]. I’m worried about beating 42 other drivers.”
While Mike has much the same philosophy on race days, he said he appreciates the exposure Patrick brought to the Nationwide Series earlier this year — and will again when she returns to race at New Hampshire at the end of June.
He admitted that during Patrick’s initial practice sessions on the track at Daytona International Speedway, he made it a point to run around Patrick to ensure maximum television exposure for the No. 01 Toyota that he drives for J-D Motorsports.
“At Daytona, somehow or another, her and I ended up running next to each other in practice, coincidentally,” Mike Wallace said. “I think she wanted to follow me — because every time I left the garage area, she was behind me. I’ve got a pretty good record down there.
“Somebody said, ‘What are you doing following Danica all the time out there?’ And I said, ‘I think if you look at it, you’ll find it was just the opposite. If you looked at pit road, it was me that left first.’ But once we were out there, hey, why not? The television folks told the world that they were going to follow her with the cameras, so we were in most of the footage of that.”
At California, he admitted he stood near Patrick when the Nationwide drivers were introduced on a large stage at Auto Club Speedway.
“I was joking with one of the television cameramen,” Mike Wallace said. “He asked, ‘Well, why were you standing on the stage next to Danica?’ I told him, ‘Your guys about pushed me off the stage trying to get to her, so I figured standing behind her was the safest place to be.’ ”
And the good times continued in Las Vegas, according to Mike Wallace.
“I was kidding with her in Vegas. We had Carrot Top [the comedian] with us,” he said. “I told her [Patrick] we’re just going to stand around you because that way we’ll get our picture taken and maybe get on television. She was like, ‘Do you want me to get in the middle?’
“She’s done a great job. The marketing arm behind her has been terrific. I know there has been some general feeling in the garage area — not from myself, but from a lot of other people — where they’re like, ‘Why is she getting all the press? Why is she getting so much attention?’ But it’s something new; it’s something exciting.
“I guess because I have a daughter who is trying to race, I’m hopeful that maybe some of that attention trickles down to Chrissy sometime. It is what it is. [Danica] creates interest.”
Chrissy Wallace said it is up to her now to capitalize on her situation. She said she hopes to run well at Talladega to attract sponsorship for the car that has been kind of pieced together for this event. The car and the folks working on it have been provided by J-D Motorsports, while the engine and some other parts and pieces were purchased and provided by her father.
“Everybody does compare me to Danica. Both of us need seat time,” she said. “To this point, she’s gotten more seat time; more exposure; more everything. But honestly, I’m more worried about how I’m going to do and what kind of finish I can get for our team that hopefully will help us get some sponsorship.”