NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Driven to the Past: Kenny Wallace

We aren’t reaching too far back this time, but I did promise last week in a response to Kenny Wallace‘s driver diary that I would tell the story about how I broke a couple of ribs at Bristol back in 2002 and it was really Kenny’s fault.

Let me preface this by saying I love Kenny, to a fault. He’s been one of my favorite people since we met, way back when he was a fixture on his brother’s pit crew in ASA. Right away I knew this kid was one of a kind. The fact that he has persevered no matter how many times the breaks didn’t go his way has endeared him even more to me. If anybody wants to hear the whole story, read Inside Herman’s World, written by Kenny with Joyce Standridge.

At the time this incident happened, I was helping to run I-75 Speedway at Mt. Vernon, Ky. and Corbin Speedway. The general manager, an Illinois native named Mike Duenser, called me one day and asked if I knew that the All-Pro (I think they still called them All-Pro that year) cars were running at Bristol in a mid-week event. This was before the annual August race.

I didn’t, but I was all for a road trip and called an old friend, Bill Desmond of All-Pro, for some information. He set up a couple of credentials for us and we set out down the road.

First thing we did when we got in the infield was grab a lineup sheet, and we discovered that my old friend Kenny was in the race and starting well up in the field.

The Baby Grand race was going on, and we found Kenny strapped into his car, sitting in the lineup in the infield.

I was on my handicapped electric cart, and as I pulled up beside the car, he looked around and exclaimed, “Man, I haven’t seen you for a while!” We had a nice visit, and I told him I’d see him later in the winner’s circle.

Well, sure enough, he won the race, so I headed for victory lane, which is on top of a building on the inside of the third and fourth turns.

I had made it about halfway up the ramp when the circuit breaker kicked off and I came to a complete stop. Now, when this happens, you have to shut the thing completely off, turn around and reset the breaker, and then turn it back on.

This time, however, while resetting the breaker, I inadvertently hit the switch that takes the cart out of gear. I started rolling backwards at an angle, and before I could get it back in gear it rolled. At least twice – hard.

All kinds of people came running to my aid, including two guys who said they’d pick me up, just take it easy. I took one look at these two skinny dudes and knew that at my weight, it wasn’t going to work. They said they were doctors, and they knew how to pick me up. I told them I didn’t care if they were psychiatrists – the two of them weren’t going to pick me up.

Fortunately, two huge crew members came along and helped me up and back on the cart. We decided to wait at the bottom of the ramp for Kenny, while I endured all kinds of jokes about how I needed a roll cage, five-point harness and HANS device.

What did Kenny have to say when he saw me down there?

“Hey, Potts, you wanna get off the ramp so we can get the car down?”

“Wallace, if you hadn’t won the race I wouldn’t have been trying to get up the ramp in the first place!”

I felt fine after it happened, and some adult beverage on the way home must have masked the situation. However, the next morning I was in no shape to do anything. A trip to the emergency room at Mt. Vernon disclosed two broken ribs.

I’ve been tapped by racecars, had to dive and roll because of approaching racecars and been stove up many, many times, but that was the sorest I’ve felt in 50 years of banging around this sport.

It’s your fault, Herman.

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