Race Weekend Central

Kenny Wallace Driver Diary: Overachieving, Sponsor Search & Waiting on Rusty

Texas was a heartfelt race because we had such a great sponsor on the car. It was the Chloe Duyck Memorial Fund, which is for infant heart disease, to help babies that are born without a properly operating heart. So it was fun to drive that car because it had butterflies and hearts all over it. Chloe was a little girl who lived for five days. Her mother Michelle was there.

It was a pretty rainy week. It was one of the first doubleheaders of the year, which the fans love. The Cup race ran first and then the Nationwide race after that. We had a solid run. There was nothing exciting that happened. I really like that track a lot, but our team is not competitive on the mile and a half tracks because we just don’t have the horsepower. I think everybody understands our cars and our situation.

Talladega was a track where we had one goal: we had to finish. The Top 30 in the points is really tight. We went to Talladega with our Daytona chassis setup in it. It ran like clockwork. Everything was good. We ran minimum laps on the racetrack in practice to save the motor. I approached that race like I had to be there in the closing laps. We protected the car until about 50 to go.

I said, “Hey look, this is the last race on these superspeedway cars. NASCAR is going to the new car at Daytona, so this is the very last race for that car. You can’t even sell them to ARCA teams; the car’s not good for anything anymore except for scrap.” So I decided to run up front and take the chance to wreck. We ran good, in the top 10 for about 50 laps or so. We gained a lot – the green-flag pit stops separated a lot of the teams.

We rolled off turn 4 under the green flag, put fuel in it and took off, and there we were within striking distance. There was another wreck and then we had a green-white-checkered finish. We had a really, really big wreck coming to the checkered flag, and thankfully, even though I wrecked really bad, I was able to finish the race. That really helped us to start moving up in points. So it all worked out real well.

Richmond. Man, we ran really well at Richmond. We started 36th and we were up to 18th without a caution flag – we drove up there on our own. What really hurt us at Richmond was that our team was not ready for me to be so competitive. To have a good pit crew for a full year costs at least $100,000. So one of our fabricators was a tire changer, and our stops were so slow that we kept coming out last every time. We had a 15th-place car that ended up finishing 22nd.

But these finishes of 20th, 11th and 22nd have got us 19th in car owner points right now. We’re definitely overachieving. I’d still like to let everybody know that I am not used to running where I’m running and I see good things in my future to get back into the top 10. This will all be worth it here pretty soon.

Anybody could give up because they’re running 20th. But there are 43 cars on the track and to finish 20th, you beat 23 of them. I think that it’s important to know that I am a racer. I like racing, and I like being best in class. I would definitely say that our team is best in class. We are outrunning everybody in our category.

The tire spot is something that I dreamed up on my own that we started running at Richmond. It’s an opportunity for anybody to get their name or their group on the car. As everyone knows, we’re working hard to survive this year. We have about 13-14 more races where we don’t have a sponsor. We are closing in on it. We started out where we didn’t have sponsorship for 28 races and now we’re where we need sponsors for about 13-14 races. So the tire spot is something I came up with.

A racecar can no way run a race without tires, and tires are $1,800 for four. So I announced that if someone wants to get a group together and name the group, for $1,800, we’ll put your name on the racecar one inch tall, and I will stand down next to the car, take a picture of it with the names, and send you 8×10 photos. It was very successful. At Richmond we had a lady named Besty Steadham on the car, we had one of our sponsors, Uncle Bob’s Storage, and then a guy named Tim Miller bought the rest.

I definitely understand that $1,800 is a lot, a lot of money. I say a lot, a lot; I say it twice because it’s a lot of money. But you have groups like the NASCAR Fan Club out there with 160,000 members and they’re looking at seeing how to get their name on a car, or in different regions, there are clubs, and they sometimes have 100-200 people, and they can put in $10 or $20 apiece and have their group’s name on the car and everybody gets a picture. We have one man, Tim Miller, who bought the whole spot here at Darlington. I can’t assume that the spot will be sold every week, but we keep on doing the best we can.

We have a great sponsor at Darlington. It’s a super story. My wife, Kim, got the sponsorship on her own through a friend. My sponsor is well known in the U.S. It’s called AAA Parking and they manage parking lots throughout the United States at places like stadiums, hospitals, airports and events. They’re based out of Atlanta, Ga., and they will be on the hood and the rear of the car.

We’ve been lucky two weeks in a row to have the race sponsor actually sponsor our car. Royal Purple Motor Oil is going to be on the quarterpanels. I think there has only been one race this year, I think it was maybe Phoenix… Phoenix and Nashville that we were really down and out. At Phoenix, I ran Jimmie Johnson’s used tires off his racecar and finished 19th. We’ve got a group of five people working really hard to find money so we can race the car every week.

I’ve heard a lot about the new Hall of Fame, and I’ll be involved in some things in the future. I’m definitely looking forward to going down there. I can’t wait until my brother Rusty gets inducted. Down the road, he definitely will be. He’s a champion and was named one of the 50 greatest drivers. So Rusty will definitely be in there and that’s one thing I’m really looking forward to. It might take 10-15 years for Rusty to get inducted, but still, we know it’s coming and as a family we are really excited about it.

About the author

Amy is an 20-year veteran NASCAR writer and a six-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. As well as serving as Photo Editor, Amy writes The Big 6 (Mondays) after every NASCAR Cup Series race. She can also be found working on her bi-weekly columns Holding A Pretty Wheel (Tuesdays) and Only Yesterday (Wednesdays). A New Hampshire native whose heart is in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits have extended everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports. She can also be heard weekly as a panelist on the Hard Left Turn podcast that can be found on AccessWDUN.com's Around the Track page.

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