Steve Wallace continues to improve as a driver, only to have his future on the track clouded by a difficult economy.

Wallace drives for his family team, Rusty Wallace Racing, which fields two cars in the Nationwide Series. Steve Wallace drives the #66, and Brendan Gaughan the #62. Both cars are in the top ten in points. At present, both cars are Chevrolets, but that may change before the start of the 2010.

Rusty Wallace -- team owner, ESPN analyst and former NASCAR Sprint Cup champion -- was one those who felt the pain when General Motors, faced with reorganising under bankruptcy, cut its support to the NASCAR's Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series.

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Under the circumstances, Steve Wallace says, the team has decisions to make when it comes to working with a manufacturer in 2010 and beyond.

"We're looking at all options, whatever manufacturers can bring something to the table," he said Thursday at a media day and autograph session at Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon Beach, Ill. "Basically, for next year, we just don't know at this point."

Money, whether through support or sponsorship, will be at a premium next year, and Wallace says NASCAR's probable phase-in of its new Nationwide car may further strain the resources of many teams, particularly those that run Nationwide-only programs.

"I think if they go ahead with the new car, it will knock some people out of the sport," he said. "I think it would be a mistake for NASCAR to phase in the new car next year. I think they should do it all at once or not at all."

Further complicating matters for RWR are wide-ranging investigations in at least 40 states of companies that offer extended warranties on vehicles, independent from the original manufactures. The industry is based largely in the St. Louis area, and one of the firms in question, U.S. Fidelis, is the primary sponsor of Wallace's car.

The Wallace family traces its roots to St. Louis, too, with brothers Rusty, Mike and Kenny Wallace having succeeded their father, Russ Wallace, as racers. Steve, Rusty's son, is making his way as a third-generation driver, and though he lives in North Carolina, he can appreciate the family heritage.

In fact, Mike, Kenny and Steve will be racing in Saturday night's Missouri-Illinois Dodge Dealers 250 at Gateway International Raceway, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis' Gateway Arch.

"Especially here, it always cool to have all the Wallaces," said 21-year-old Steve. "The year before I started racing full time, which was in '05, they had the Wallace family tribute race here. I ran the ARCA race the night before, but I wasn't old enough to run the (Nationwide) race, but, man, it would have been cool to do that.

"You definitely want to come here and run good, but, man, I want to run good every week. I want to run good at every racetrack. But it would be really cool to come to Missouri, St. Louis, where the family's from, and have a good strong run."

Don't be surprised to see Wallace do exactly that. According to his peers on the racetrack, Wallace is doing a noticeably better job of harnessing his aggressive tendencies.

"He's matured as a driver and calmed down a little bit," said Richard Childress Racing driver Stephen Leicht, who competed in late model stock cars against Wallace when both were teenagers. "And he's definitely running better week after week."

by Reid Spencer/Sporting News