Race Weekend Central

Kenny Wallace Driver Diary: Goals, Dirt Cars & Social Influence

Richmond is statistically in the top three for me as far as racetracks. Bristol is really good for me, of course; Martinsville is really good for me, but Richmond, that’s my track. We went up there with a lot of confidence from the first race. In the first race we ran in the top three or four only to mess it up on a late-race pit stop. So, here we go back in September with the exact same car, the exact same setup, just with a couple of small adjustments, and we ran in the top five all night long.

We had a really good qualifying run; we qualified fourth or fifth. I know it was better than the first race and we qualified seventh in the first race. Everything was better the second time around. We qualified well, we ran in the top five all night – I think fifth was the worst I ran all night long.

We just had bad pit stops all night. My car owner, Robby Benton, is trying to fix our pit stops. All night long, I’d come in fourth and go out ninth every time. The car was so good we were able to pass everybody. On the very last stop, we came in fourth again and went out ninth again. We were able to get back to fifth that time. It was my first top five of the year and it felt really good!

We were hoping to go back to Chicago and have another solid run. Chicago marks the first race where we did not run better the second time around. The first race at Chicago, we ran around ninth all day and we ended up seventh because it was a fuel-mileage race. This time, we qualified 15th and we had one bad set of tires that kind of ruined us.

I felt like we should have finished around 13th or 14th and we ended up 17th. We had one set of tires that was really, really loose, and we were never able to overcome that. So, we ended up 17th. It was one of those deals that we mark it off to one bad set of tires.

I’ve set a lot of small goals for myself, and in the meantime, we’ve set some great goals for RAB Racing. My car owner, Robby, told me they’ve never had more than one or two top 10s in a year. This year we have 11. We’ve overcome some big obstacles. You have to remember that for RAB Racing, this is only their third year in Nationwide. Personally, my goal was to make this comeback and everybody tells me that I’m back. Especially Brad Daugherty; on ESPN he said that I was the comeback driver of the year.

He said personally to me that it’s not that I went anywhere, but after three years of not running very well I’m back. Once we got halfway through the year we set another team goal. I said, ‘let’s see if we can run better the second time around.” We’ve done that all but once. I’m pretty proud of that and we’ll see if we can keep rolling. There are only six races left in the year and I’d like to finish strong.

We went two months with no dirt racing. We got rained out a lot in June and July. We were able to finish fourth at Quincy, Ill. this month. We also were able to finish fourth at Kankakee. We went to LaSalle the night after the Nationwide race at Chicago and we won that race. Then we went to two really big races last weekend at Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Ill. We were able to run 10th the first night and seventh the second night in the A-main. They had really big car counts; there were 90 cars each night and only 24 spots in the A-main.

I’m excited about my dirt program. I had to back off the dirt car a little bit this year because I had to really focus on my NASCAR career. The reason I had to back off was I had a lot of speeches to give for American Ethanol and Family Farmers. I had a lot of midweek speeches. I went to Husker Harvest Days in Nebraska. I went to Decatur for the Farm Progress Show. I went to Washington, D.C., just a lot of appearances that cut down on my dirt schedule.

Competition is really funny. When the Cardinals won the World Series in 2006, we were the worst team in baseball. We only had 85 regular-season wins and we went on to win the World Series. This year, we have 90 wins and we fought for a wild card spot. A month ago, two months ago, we were 10-and-a-half games behind Atlanta. I tweeted about a week or so ago that Father John, who was Kim’s and my priest who married us, he said, and I’ll never forget what he told me when I was about 18 years old, he said, ‘Kenny, competition will kill you.’

Not just in the racing world, but also my Cardinals. We’re calling them the Cardiac Cardinals. We had a football team that was called the Cardinals years ago and then we sold them to Phoenix, Ariz. The Cardinals used to be our football team and we called them the Cardiac Cardinals because they would win in the closing minutes. We have turned it into a nickname for my Cardinals here at the end of the season.

One topic that’s been a hot topic here is that Jeff Gluck posted an article that said that Kenny Wallace and Jimmie Johnson are tied for the most influential social networking people in NASCAR. What this company called Klout.com does is, they look at things like how many responses you get, how many re-tweets and replies and things like that. Johnson has like 70,000 followers compared to my 50,000, but we tied for number one in NASCAR and that caught me off guard.

It humbled me. I’ve always had humility and I feel that I’m trying in my life, but that was really something good. It was a big feather in my cap and it went through the whole sport. It really helps me in my sponsorship search. I was listed as No. 2, but I was tied with Johnson on the score.

That was good, and then I’ve had a couple ask me if I’m not racing next year. I am racing next year. I have told everybody that I am for sure racing at RAB Racing in 2012. Beyond that, I don’t know yet. I’ve said this, but I don’t think anybody has got it out there in public yet, but yes, I’m running next year with my same sponsors. I do not know yet what 2013 holds for me.

I tell everybody that I kind of feel like Mark Martin right now. As long as these sponsors want me to keep coming back and selling their product and they want to sponsor me, I’ll continue to race. My favorite part is getting in the car. I love to drive the racecar.

It’s exhausting trying to find money. Sponsorships are very hard to find right now. But yes, I will be racing next year, and it appears that all the sponsors are coming back. I do not have the contracts signed yet, but they’ve all verbally told me that they’re happy with the way things went this year and they want to be back next year.

Charlotte is going to be a really big week for me. I’m looking forward to the fan car and to Oct. 12 when all the fans who put their names on the car can come and look at the racecar. I’m excited to be one of the Dash for Cash drivers and to go for that $100,000 there, too.

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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