Race Weekend Central

The Critic’s Annex 79- Chasing Daytona: Kenny Wallace

Hello, race fans. Welcome back to the Critic’s Annex. This secondary critique is back for its third season in companion to the primary critique. Unlike that primary critique, I’m keeping the title (that I created) intact.

The beginning of the season often brings on special programming and special gambits. You might remember ESPN basically “adopting” Shane Doles back in 1996 and chronicling his travails in Daytona (he basically gave everything up for a chance at the big time, for lack of better words) in and around the ARCA race.

This year, two of SPEED’s on-air personalities (Kenny Wallace and Michael Waltrip) both attempted the Daytona 500. Neither made it. As you remember, Waltrip screwed up while getting up to speed after a pit stop and wrecked. Meanwhile, Wallace fell victim to the new electronic fuel injection system acting up. However, before the EFI put a boot in Wallace’s Daytona 500 hopes, SPEED spent some time chronicling Wallace and RAB Racing’s Daytona 500 effort.

The introduction to the show made Kenny Wallace out to be some kind of vanquished hero, sort of like Cole Trickle in “Days of Thunder” after he had his huge flip in the Pepsi 400 at Daytona. That was a little weird.

The show starts off just after the 2011 season ended at Kenny’s house (with, for some reason, a shirtless Kenny in bed). Effectively, the show chronicled Kenny’s entire off-season and how his Daytona 500 deal came together.

Probably the most interesting revelation made in the first segment of the show is that Wallace drove the 2011 season in the No. 09 for free. Granted, he has multiple other income streams (personal sponsorships and most notably, the on-air work for SPEED, which likely pays him a pretty penny (I’m not privy to the details of Wallace’s contract, so I can’t help you there)), but that’s really something worth noting. He did it because he felt he needed to, not because Robby Benton asked him to.

Equally interesting was the admission that he had wasted the previous four years (2007-2010) of his driving career driving for teams that he claimed either “didn’t want to race, or were in it just for the money.” For reference purposes, in that time, Wallace drove for Furniture Row Motorsports in Sprint Cup (22 starts, 11 DNQ’s), a short stint in 2008 with Fitz Motorsports, then three years with Jay Robinson Racing (we’re going to exclude Wallace’s sub role for Yates Racing while Ricky Rudd was recovering from injuries suffered in Fontana). Apparently, there are quite a few stories from Wallace’s stint in the No. 78 that really showed the somewhat amateur status of the team at that time. As for the Jay Robinson No. 28, that team has always been small time. They were at their absolute best right before NASCAR nixed testing. Then, they were effectively bottom feeders.

As a result of all of the struggles, along with the constant attempts to attract sponsorship, Wallace had become run down. However, signing on with RAB Racing has reinvigorated Wallace’s career. Heck, Wallace seemed like a different person on Twitter about a month before it was announced that he was going to the No. 09 for 2011.

We learned quite a few interesting things during the show. For example, NASCAR, in their infinite wisdom, thought that 2012 was a good time to increase license fees for drivers in the Nationwide Series by 167 percent (from apparently $3,000 to $8,000). Wallace was definitely not pleased about it, but you gots to pay if you want to race.

Another fact that just how difficult it was for the RAB Racing team to acquire a car that could be used to even attempt the Daytona 500 with. According to the show, they originally planned to purchase a car from the Red Bull Racing Team. Unfortunately, they decided not to sell at that time. It wasn’t stated outright on the show, but the likely reason why this initial sale fell through was due to the ownership group now known as BK Racing coming together to purchase the operation. Regardless, they eventually did get a car, but it was just a couple of weeks before Speedweeks. Since they had roughly 16 days to prep the car once they got it before leaving for Daytona, it was a thrash at best.

A third interesting point was the fact that the team went to Speedweeks with just that one car (and apparently, the steering wheel out of Wallace’s Nationwide car). This was similar to what MacDonald Motorsports did with Blake Koch at Daytona last July for the Nationwide Series Subway Jalapeno 250. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, knowing just how long it took just to get the one car.

Away from racing, Wallace appeared to be quite the family man. He is clearly in love with his wife, Kim. His daughter cuts his hair on a regular basis (She’s a licensed cosmetologist. That’s her livelihood) and he loves to spend time with the extended family. Of course, even then, racing intervenes. His schedule could be best described as “insane,” but he tries to be as grounded as possible. He spends time in what appeared to be the unfinished basement of his house working out. He touts the benefits of oatmeal for breakfast (apparently, Mark Martin turned him on to it).

Even away from the track, the nutty side of Wallace still comes out from time to time. Someone thought it’d be a good idea to show him showering and singing while in there. That was ridiculous. Other times, he was just acting goofy.

At the end of the show, Wallace was feeling very confident that he could get the No. 09 into the Daytona 500. The car the team bought was apparently the same car that Brian Vickers ran at Talladega last year. The show made it sound like it was the car Vickers raced at Talladega in October. However, the information presented made it sound like it was the car Vickers raced there in April. That race didn’t end well for Vickers. He finished 38th “after wrecking”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EacFQ13J75I/ early in the race and was 73 laps down at the end.

Regardless of inaccuracies or incongruities, this was a decent show to watch. I was concerned about this show at first only because its SPEED and Kenny Wallace. I knew they were going to do something to chronicle Wallace’s Daytona 500 attempt as soon as it was announced. What I didn’t expect was all the extra stuff. I feel like I came out of this show knowing a little bit more about the man called “Herman” than I did before. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I hope you enjoyed this look at Chasing Daytona: Kenny Wallace. Next week, I’m going to stray a bit from TV and take a look at Darrell Waltrip’s new book, Sundays Will Never Be The Same. I’ve already read through the 250 page and have some thoughts about it. Check out next week’s edition of The Critic’s Annex to see my thoughts. Until then, enjoy this weekend’s action in Phoenix.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Share this article

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com