Monday, December 28, 2009

Kenny Wallace

On almost any given weekend, like Ken Schrader, Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer, and many more you can find Kenny getting back to the roots of short track racing in his #36 Jegs dirt modified car on the total opposite of NASCAR’s multimillion dollar “COT” type racing, he races on dirt.

Kenny Wallace was born on August 23, 1963 in St. Louis, Missouri. He is the youngest of three boys to their father Russ, his two brothers Mike and Rusty are also successful NASCAR drivers, and it apparently runs in the family because his nephew Steve Wallace and niece Chrissy Wallace also run in NASCAR. Their father Russ was a racer on the local dirt tracks, and won over 400 races during his career. Lake Hill Speedway track promoter Bob Miller noticed Kenny Wallace’s boisterous behavior when people would talk about his father in a bad way, and started calling him “Herman”, after a mischievous cartoon character named Herman the German.

Kenny was a longtime mechanic and crew member for his brother’s Rusty and Mike on their teams, and one day in 1982 a chance came along to drive his own racecar in the Illinois Street Stock State Championship, he took that chance for all it was worth and won that race, it was the first of many to come.

He joined the American Speed Association ranks in 1986, winning Rookie of the Year honors that year.

In September 1988, Dale Earnhardt gave Kenny the seat for his first-ever NASCAR start, which just happened to be in the Busch (Nationwide) series where he has had most of his success since, he finished eleventh at that race at Martinsville Speedway, driving the #8 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet.

In 1989, he raced the full Busch (Nationwide) Series schedule in a car owned by his brother Rusty, the car was sponsored by Cox Treated Lumber; he earned the 1989 Rookie of the Year award and finished an amazing 6th in the point’s standings for it being only his first year in NASCAR.

In 1990, he made his Winston (Sprint) Cup debut at the historic North Wilkesboro Speedway in the #36 Pontiac for Randy Cox, finishing 26th after a late-race crash.

In 1991, he won his first two of nine races in the Busch (Nationwide) series and finished a career-best second in the points only to the future Winston (Sprint) cup champion, Bobby Labonte; he also subbed for Kyle Petty in two races in the Winston (Sprint) Cup series. At the Pyroil 500, he competed against his brothers Mike and Rusty, marking the first time since Bob, Fonty, and Tim Flock raced that three brothers competed in the same race at the same time. He also won the Most Popular Driver Award in the Busch (Nationwide) series.

In 1992, Dirt Devil became his sponsor as he moved to SABCO racing, and he won his third Busch (Nationwide) series race of his career, but several mechanical problems forced him down to sixth in points.

In 1993, Wallace moved up to the Winston (Sprint) Cup Series full-time to compete for the Rookie of the year title, driving the #40 Dirt Devil Pontiac Grand Prix for SABCO Racing owned by Felix Sabates. He had three top-tens and a twenty-third place point’s finish, but lost the Rookie of the year battle to both future champions Bobby Labonte and Jeff Gordon. He lost his ride at the end of the season. "It totally sucked and I hope I never have to go through it again,” said Wallace of losing his ride. “When Felix fired me it was kind of like, 'you don't understand. I'm Kenny Wallace.' That's the way I felt. He can't fire me, because I'm a good driver. I always got the job done“. He says. "I'll never forget that as long as I live, but the experience taught me a valuable lesson. The lesson was that racing is a team sport. It takes more than just a driver’s talent to get the job done. Everyone needs to work together in order to be successful. I don't think you could go to college and learn that. In the long run, it was the best thing that ever happened to me."

He returned to the Busch (Nationwide) Series in 1994 to drive the #8 TIC Financial Systems Ford for FILMAR Racing. He picked up three wins and finished fourth in points. Towards the end of the season, he was hired by Robert Yates Racing to replace the injured Ernie Irvan in the Cup series. In thirteen races, he finished in the top-ten three times. He yet again won the Most Popular Driver Award in the Busch (Nationwide) series.

In 1995, Wallace and FILMAR split time between the Winston (Sprint) Cup series and the Busch (Nationwide) Series. Wallace had one win with the Red Dog Ford in the Busch (Nationwide) Series, and made eleven starts in the Cup Series in the #81 car.

Wallace and FILMAR began racing in Cup full-time 1996 with funding from Square D. They had two top-ten finishes and a twenty-eighth place point’s finish.

In 1997 in the Winston (Sprint) cup series, he won two poles, at Bristol and Martinsville respectively, but fell five spots in the standings.

Despite seven top-tens in 1998, Wallace and Square D left FILMAR to drive Andy Petree Racing's new #55 entry in 1999.

Wallace finished in the top-ten six times and had a career-best twenty-second place finish in points in the Cup series in 1999 driving for Andy Petree.

After only one top-ten in 2000 and a 26th place finish in the points, he departed the team. The sole top-ten came in his second place finish to Dale Earnhardt, in the then Winston 500 at Talladega which was Earnhardt's final victory. Wallace pushed Earnhardt to the front in four laps to the lead.

In 2001, Wallace signed with the unsponsored Eel River Racing team in the Winston (Sprint) cup series, and also was hired to drive the #48 Goulds Pumps Chevrolet in the Busch (Nationwide) Series full-time for Innovative Motorsports. After several DNQ's, Wallace resigned from the Eel River Racing team to concentrate on his Busch (Nationwide) series ride. He won his first race in seven years at North Carolina Speedway and finished tenth in points.

He did not win in 2002, but moved up to seventh in the standings in the Busch (Nationwide) series. He was hired late in the season by Bill Davis Racing to drive the #23 Stacker 2 Dodge, and was hired to drive the car full-time in 2003. He drove the #1 DEI Winston (Sprint) cup car from late 2001 until Park returned in March of 2002; in that time Wallace won the Bud Pole at Rockingham and had a second-place finish there. He also scored a 6th place at Talladega. He additionally finished the Budweiser shootout in the ninth position in the Winston (Sprint) cup series.

After one top-ten finish in 2003, Wallace and the Stacker 2 Dodge moved down to the Busch (Nationwide) Series in 2004, garnering ten top-ten finishes. He also drove in the Nextel (Sprint) Cup Series four times for Michael Waltrip Racing.

In 2005, Bill Davis Racing closed its Busch (Nationwide) team, allowing Wallace and sponsor Stacker 2 to join PPC Racing's #22 Ford, earning five top-fives. He began driving for Furniture Row Racing in the Cup Series in 2005 on a part time basis. He was the winner of the Tony Stewart 2005 Super Late Model Charity Race "Prelude to the Dream" at the Eldora Speedway which was getting back to his roots, on dirt.

After four top-tens out of 17 races in 2006 in the Cup series, Furniture Row began racing full-time in Cup, which led to Wallace leaving PPC racing in the Busch (Nationwide) series to focus more on his Cup ride. For the third time Kenny won the Most Popular Driver Award in the Busch (Nationwide) series.

Despite getting voted into the All-Star Race at Charlotte, Wallace was unable to keep the #78 in the top-35 in owner's points, and left the team in August. On August 22, 2007 it was announced that he would fill in for Kyle Petty in the #45 Wells Fargo Dodge at Bristol for Petty Enterprises. Shortly after that drove as a sub yet again for RYR, but this time for the injured Ricky Rudd in the #88 Snickers Ford Fusion in all but one of the races he was out, the one he didn’t race was at Talladega where his superspeedway expert brother Mike filled in.

In 2008 Kenny Wallace drove for Jay Robinson Racing in the #28 U.S. Border Patrol Chevrolet Monte Carlo in the Nationwide series. The highlight of the year was a last lap battle for the win in Memphis, TN with Carl Edwards and David Reutimann, with Kenny finishing third. The Team ended the year on a strong upswing.

Last year in 2009 Kenny was back in the familiar #28 U.S Border Patrol Chevy Impala for Jay Robinson Racing in the Nationwide series.

Kenny has also found success in the world of television. He is the co-host of two programs for SPEED TV each week; NASCAR Raceday, which airs before the Sprint Cup race each week, and NASCAR Victory Lane, which extends post-race coverage. He was also featured on the show NASCAR Drivers: 360 on FX.