Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Holding A Pretty Wheel · Amy Henderson · Wednesday June 29, 2011
Out of hundreds of racers to run in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in its most recent incarnation (since 1982), less than 40 have nine or more victories. Only two men on that list have more than 500 starts, and just one is racing full-time in the series in 2011.
It’s been a remarkable career for Kenny Wallace. The numbers can tell you that: 503 races, nine wins, 64 top 5’s, 164 top 10’s, ten poles, average finish 16.7, three-time Most Popular Driver. But for Wallace it’s so much more than numbers. The 1989 Rookie of the Year has been at the top of the mountain and at the bottom of the darkest valley, and he’s come out of it a wiser man and a smarter racer.
It’s been a hell of a career. As a young racer, success came quickly and if not easily, at least regularly for the youngest of three brothers in a racing family. Success led to opportunity, but opportunity didn’t always lead back to success. There were opportunities in Sprint Cup, but roads seemed to lead back to the Nationwide Series, where Wallace began, and will likely end his NASCAR career. The series has been good for Wallace, the racer, and he has been good for the series. Wallace has followed the series from the short tracks like Myrtle Beach and Hickory to the huge, nasty-fast ovals in Las Vegas and Texas, and he has evolved with it, as part of it. The wild child rookie is now the respected veteran, but both are the same man in reality.
I sat down with Kenny Wallace in Charlotte, intending to tell the story of a career come full circle. Instead, as only he could, Wallace told it himself.
“I won my first race in 1982, Wallace says. The remarkable part of that Illinois Street Stock Championship is that it really was his first race. Ever. But what happened after that win is the real story. “It’s no secret that my career has been like a heartbeat. It’s been up; it’s been down; it’s been up; it’s been down, and the whole time my whole career has felt like it was going to slip away, like I’m not going to have it anymore because I’m not good enough. But here I am and just realized I just had a whole career.”
“I’m 47 years old, going to be 48 in August so, I think I’ve spent most of my career thinking I’m not good enough when in reality, yeah, I guess I’m maybe not good enough to be a champion, but I’ve contended for some good NASCAR Nationwide Series championships and I truly feel that one way or the other, if my timing had been better just here or there. What would have happened if I’d pulled out to pass Dale Earnhardt at the white flag, what could have happened if I could have had a better pit stop at Rockingham? I have three second-place finishes. I’m really at peace where I am now. There is no doubt that I’m the poster child for the heartbeat of an up and down career. But I’m still here and I feel better about myself right now.”
Many people wonder what might have been. Wallace is no exception, but he’s not going to dwell on it, either. And he may be misspoken when he says he wasn’t good enough to win a championship, because the one that got away was never a question of good enough. It was more like having the rug pulled out from under the whole room with the good china on the table. In 1991, Wallace was running for his brother Rusty and was locked in a championship battle with Bobby Labonte, another up-and coming driver also running for his older brother’s operation. Wallace had a comfortable lead with three races to go when a crash at Loudon, NH changed things.
“One of the biggest crushing blows in my career ever was leading the championship in ’91 and it looked like it was mine to lose,” Wallace says today. “I’m up at Loudon with a 90-point lead and the rear end broke out of the car. I went spinning into the wall. It knocked me out. I had what they call positional vertigo and I couldn’t race the next week, the next race at Rockingham. I was leading the points with three races to go. To this day, I’ll be one of the first drivers to admit it, but I went to sports therapy. I went out to Topeka, Kansas and I got over it because I was able to receive some help to put it away and move on. It (could have) killed me. My head came out, hit the B-post, no HANS or anything. In 1991, we didn’t have any of that stuff.”
Later events have also given Wallace some perspective on that twist of fate. Labonte never wanted to win that way. To this day, he’ll tell you he regrets not being able to race Wallace for that championship the way both young men wanted to. Wallace knows with certainty there was nothing he could have done differently. And there have been reminders, painful ones, of what that wreck could have cost.
“Bobby called me when I got hurt at New Hampshire, he came to the hospital and then called me the next day and said, “‘Buddy, I don’t want to win it this way.’ But there was nothing I could do. I had a part failure, the car broke, and I went slamming into the wall. I had such a hard time accepting that but then it was like 10, 12 years later and I looked back and understood how lucky I was. Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin got killed in that exact corner, in that exact spot. I’m so very grateful. I’m just thankful that I’m still alive after hitting the wall so hard in that corner. “
That near-championship led to Cup rides, some of them great ones, some of them coming with difficult lessons, as his first Cup ride with an upstart owner named Felix Sabates, did. “Felix Sabates asked me to drive for him in 1993 for Rookie of the Year. I went up against Bobby Labonte and Jeff Gordon and at the end of that year, Felix let me go. Now, he told me he let me go because Dirt Devil decided to leave. But still, him letting me go stunted my growth. It made other car owners believe that ‘Well, Felix fired him because he couldn’t get the job done.’ It was a long time ago. But I did go on to win three (Nationwide Series) races the very next year with TIC and Filmar racing. So, I’m happy with the way it turned out, but I’m not happy about the way Felix went about it. He did replace me and went on to run the car another year and then sold the team to D.K. Ulrich and they ended up shutting down. But once a team fires a driver, it kind of puts a damper on that team, kind of makes everybody think he couldn’t get it done.
And then, there was DEI. In the early 2000’s, Dale Earnhardt, Inc. was an up-and-coming force in the Cup garage. The team suffered some heavy blows in 2001 though, with the death of Dale Earnhardt and the life- and career-threatening injury to Steve Park in a Nationwide race at Darlington. Out of Park’s crash would be a silver lining for Wallace when he was asked to fill Park’s seat for the rest of that year and maybe the next. Wallace says that DEI was the ride of his life, and the numbers back him up. From that race at Darlington to the season’s end at Atlanta, Wallace was in the top 10 in points earned during that span. He came achingly close to winning at Rockingham. It revived Wallace’s career.
“I was sitting there in 2001 and driving the Gould’s Pumps car,” Wallace remembers. “Steve Park is in my Busch race and his steering wheel comes off and he gets hurt. Before the race was over, Paul Andrews said he’d looked at the rundown and said I’m going to get the best available driver for the next week. They looked at my stats in my Busch and Cup career and Paul said I had the best stats. So they put me in that car. When they hired me, I think there were 11 races left and I had ten top 10s in 11 races. Such really good runs, qualifying fifth at Dover and then running good all day, and the pole at Rockingham and finished second. That team saved my career then.”
“The one thing I am most proud of was that during those times that I thought I was losing my way, I’ve had teams that were incredible, like Jack Roush hired me, at Phoenix, Robert Yates hired me to replace Davey Allison. Richard Petty Motorsports hired me for Bristol. I’ve had a lot of great teams, and everybody called me the go-to substitute, things of that nature. It seemed like it was a lot of ups and downs, that’s for damn sure.”
Looking back now, a decade down the road, Wallace wonders what might have been at DEI; whether Park’s premature return to the car changed two careers. The years since have been a roller-coaster ride with some real lean times to lend perspective.
“I truly believe in timing and circumstances. I truly believe that I have the talent, or else I wouldn’t be here this long,” Wallace says. “I guess this year is the biggest example. The last four years, I struggled, then I get with this great team I’m with. I would say that for years I’ve been with start-up teams. I know that’s true. I wouldn’t do anything different because when I look back on it, every team that was good I ran good. Every team I ran with that was a new team – Andy Petree was a new team, and Bill Davis folded up after I left, the Sabco team – I wouldn’t do anything different, I would just say that my timing was off.”
“Who knows what would have happened if I had just stayed in that Pennzoil car. Steve wasn’t ready to come back. They put him in there and it ended his career. When we all look back at it, even a lot of people at DEI told me we should have given Steve more time, we should have kept Kenny in the car. I think that if I had kept driving that car, because there was no doubt that everybody went ‘wow, Kenny Wallace can flat get it done’, but I also think God gave that to me, that God knows that I can handle those circumstances better than any driver. I think that’s what this year is about. I had Jason Keller call me and congratulate me on 500 starts he says, ‘I want to race, but unless I can get in a good car I’m not going to do it. Look what you’ve done this year. I weathered some pretty tough storms. Jay Robinson Racing, while I appreciated the opportunity, it sure did downgrade my status as a racecar driver, and I’ve had to overcome that.”
“For awhile, it was like OK we’ve got the US Border Patrol, we’re going to do what we can do, and then it was just ridiculous. It was like, we’re not even going to race, we’re going to start and park, we’re going to put used tires on, and it was OK for Jay, but it wasn’t okay for my fans or my sponsors. Now I’ve got sponsors calling me and saying hey, can we sponsor you for 5 or 6 races. That’s how we got G-Oil; they came on because of my story. It’s a double-edged sword: if you don’t have the money, you can’t run good, but if you don’t run good, you can’t get the money.”
Now, in 2011, Wallace has found a home at RAB Racing, another upstart team that, like Wallace, found itself at rock bottom in 2010, until one race saved the future. Wallace and RAB needed each other. Wallace, who wanted to prove that he’s still got it, needed a team who could put fast racecars under him. RAB needed an experienced driver who would finish races and finish them right. Together, they have proven to each other that they had what it takes all along, they just needed the right opportunity.
“RAB is overestimated,” Wallace claimed. “We’re so new that nobody realizes it. This is only the third year in the Nationwide Series for this brand-new upstart team. The win with Boris Said saved the team. Robby Benton, my car owner, told me that after that race, they were shutting down. True story. When they won that race, it saved them. I believe in timing and circumstances. Here we were pitted next to them and Robby told me they had been through 14 drivers that year. Robby is old enough to know… he’s seen all my wins as a kid. He’s 31 years old. He’s got a picture of him wanting my autograph. So Robby knew that I was a winning racecar driver, and I knew that he had good parts on his cars.”
“But still, there was just no money. But we were able to get Toyota factory backing, we were able to get new tires, good motors, but still, the cars we’re running are used Red Bull racecars. But they’re like new. That’s how we had to do it. We couldn’t afford to go out and build new. We’re a top-15 team, I feel like, when we do it right, we’ll get in the top 10. We earned our top 10 at Phoenix big time. We earned the top 10 at Vegas. We had a top 5 easy at Richmond before we made a mistake. Some crazy stuff has happened or else this team would be even better. When I look at the whole Nationwide Series, at best we line up 20th, because you’re looking at Roush, Gibbs, Penske, Turner, Michael Waltrip Racing, Rusty Wallace Racing… if you put everybody in order, we’ve got about the 20th or 21st-most money. We still don’t have enough. So we’re basically the 20th or 21st financially, but we’re sitting there 13th in car owner points and seventh in driver points. I think my team is overachieving. I think my guys are really doing a good job.”
I asked Wallace what’s next. And not surprisingly, he’s got it all figured out. “I know what I want to do next,” he says with quiet conviction. “Here’s what I have planned. I’m going to be 48 in August. My goal is to turn 51 in August of my last year in NASCAR. I want to go three more years. The reason I want to do that is I’ve been given some great advice by my brother Rusty. Rusty said, ‘Don’t make the mistake I made. I quit two years too early.’ He said, ‘You tune out everybody. Race, get it out of your system.’ The only thing that would cut that short is if it’s this hard to get the money to be competitive. That’s my goal, three more years. The only thing that would cut it short is if the money wasn’t there. I need a hundred grand a race. And then I want to continue doing TV. I love TV because I love the sport. It’s no different than anybody in the media center wanting to be a part of the sport. And then – my career has been kind of backwards – I want to continue to keep my one employee, Billy Smith, and I want to keep my team going and I want to race dirt until I’m 60. I love dirt racing. My career has kind of been backwards. I want to travel all over the United States and hit all the dirt tracks. I told my wife, go with me, sell souvenirs. Even when I’m done racing at 60, I’m only 60, you know? That’s young! So that’s what I want to do. And even if I were to wind up quitting everything at 60, then what? We’ve got Jack Roush at 60-something years old and he’s running around the pits like a damn Tasmanian devil. You hit 60, you’re still really young. I don’t see myself ever shutting it down.”
Anybody who’s ever met Wallace will agree that he rarely, if ever, shuts it down. What you see is what you get with Wallace: outgoing and gregarious in front of the camera, but what you don’t always see is also what you get: the deadly serious racecar driver that straps into the car every week, focused and hungry. Driven. It’s that Wallace that has turned heads during Nationwide races for 22 seasons. It’s the first one that endears himself to fans. To meet Wallace is to feel like you’ve known him for years. He’ll throw and arm around you and talk to you for a minute, and never treats anyone like a stranger.
Wallace knows there have been critics throughout his career, some of them nasty. But the worst critic is the one he spends 24 hours a day with. And in the end, he’s comfortable in his shoes. He’s a man who is grateful for having a career he loves and a family he loves even more. He’s come full circle in the sport he loves, the sport he will always love. Wallace understands how hard it is to make it in racing because he has done it through his own blood, sweat and tears.
“I’m the hardest on myself, I truly am,” Wallace says. “I look at a lot of great drivers, a lot of good friends of mine who have said, if I can’t get a good ride I’ll just quit. And I’ve seen a lot of good drivers like Randy LaJoie, like Steve Grissom, Ricky Craven, a lot of my friends. I’ve held great conversations with all three of those drivers. I talk to them weekly, they’re great friends of mine. The latest was Ricky Craven. A lot of drivers just say, ‘look, I’m done. I’m tired, can’t get in a good car anymore’. So I feel fortunate to have loved the sport this long. I think that’s one reason I run my dirt car, cause I truly love driving cars. I love it. I truly like dirt racing…I just love cars. My career has been one of those where just something here or there could have made it. But I truly feel that I’m a good driver, and I get to be here.”
Wallace will likely break the record for all-time starts in the Nationwide Series this fall. He could reach double-digit wins in the series as well. He’s come through the darkest hours of a long career and shown that he’s still, has always been a racer. Respected on the track, popular off it, Wallace will end his career in the series he began it in. It’s been good to him, but he’s been good for it, too. It’s full circle at last (or for the racer in Wallace, is that full oval?), and the best is yet to come.
©2000 - 2008 Amy Henderson and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Probably the best piece Amy Henderson has ever written—at least that I’ve read, and I’ve read most of them. Congrats.
I really enjoyed this article. Have had some gaps in my knowledge of Kenny,and you (Kenny) filled them. Have decided the REAL KENNY is just what you see. Like or dislike! Keep going Kenny and follow your dreams as far as you can.
Great story Amy. One of the best pieces I have ever read on this website. We also see another side of Kenny Wallace, which is the great thing. He is and always will be the crazy guy with the laugh in the eyes of many people, but he is a wheelman first and foremost.
Race on Kenny and best of luck.
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