Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Wallaces, a Nascar family!

In 1987 at 15, I started watching Nascar. After a few races, I decided I needed a driver to cheer for. Rusty Wallace was a natural choice for me. He drove a Pontiac at the time, different from the Fords and Chevys, I like different. The car was green /white, which were my high school colors. Plus, he was from St. Louis, hometown of my dad and home to my grandparents. With that a Rusty Wallace fan emerged.

Now we all know that there are many storied families in Nascar. The Petty's, Allison's, Labonte's and Earnhardt's just to name a few. The Wallaces should be considered one as well.

The patriarch, Russ Wallace raced all over the midwest in the 50's and 60's, in latemodel and sportsmen type cars. Amassing over 400 wins and injecting a love of racing into his 3 sons.

Russell William Wallace Jr, knew he wanted to race from the age of ten. Track rules kept him from that until Aug. 14, 1972, when Russ and Judy (RW's parents) went to the courthouse to get a release from the judge. At that time you had to be 18 to race at Lake Hill Speedway, or get the court to sign a release. 6 days after the judge signed off on Rusty racing, he ran his first race. A heat race which Rusty won. Although he ran out of gas in the Feature (Russ won) that race signaled the start of what would be a bright future in racing.

Now retired and working in broadcasting (for Espn and co-hosting Nascar Angels), Rusty had a great Nascar career. Amassing 55 wins in 706 starts. In those 700 plus starts he had an incredible 349 top 10 finishs. 1989 saw Rusty win his only Nascar Championship, with a 12 point victory over friend and rival Dale Earnhardt Sr. Wallace also claimed 2 IROC titles and was named to Nascar's 50 Greatest drivers.

Mike Wallace is the middle brother, and probably the least known of the Wallace clan.He made his debut in the Busch (Nationwide) series in 1990. Known more as a journeymen driver, Mike has raced for many teams, in all 3 Nascar series. He has made 187 Cup starts and his best finish was a 2nd at Phoenix in 2001, driving as a Penske teamate of Rusty's. Mike has enjoyed more success in the NNS and Trucks. With 4 wins in each series. Most recently in 2004 with a NNS win at Daytona. His plate prowess makes him a likely pick for a small team looking to qualify at the Superspeedways.

The baby of the family is Kenny Wallace. Kenny is probably best known for his insightful and funny commentary on the Speed Channel, and for those awful Stacker2 commercials. Kenny is a racer's racer. Willing to race any kind of car on almost any track. He has enjoyed 9 NNS wins and numerous Cup and Truck starts. His best finish in Cup being the Infamous 2000 race at Talledega in which he pushed Dale Sr. to what would be his last win. That day is a highlight of his career. Kenny was the 1986 ASA Rookie of the Year, and claimed that same title in the Busch Series (NNS) in 1989. I am sure he also relishes the Most Popular Driver awards which he earned in 1991, 94, and 2006. If you don't see him on Speed, or at a Nascar race, you can be sure he is on a dirt track somewhere.

The Next generation of Wallaces are already on the track as well.

Stephen, son of Rusty, is a driver in the NNS starting there fulltime in 2007. Stephen started racing in 1998 at 11 yrs old, in the Bandeleros and Legends cars. In 2004 at 17 he won the Snowball Derby ( a big short track race in Florida), a race in which both his dad and Uncle Kenny have entered but never won. Now into his 3rd year, Stephen has yet to win a NNS race, but has won numerous ARCA series events. I look for him to keep improving and one day be in the Cup Series.

Chrissy Wallace is the daughter of Mike Wallace. She is an up and comer in the race world. Also starting in the Bandeleros and Legends, she quickly moved up to late-models. In 07 she had 5 late model wins, including at the historic Hickory Speedway. She has been running some ARCA and Trucks races. With luck and sponsors hopefully she can continue, and reach her goal of running in the Sprint Cup Series.

Don't forget young Matt Wallace, son of Mike. He is currently running Bandeleros, and one day dreams of Nascar glory.

So, even though I started as just a Rusty Wallace fan, I have grown to admire the whole racing family. Plus, since Rusty has retired, atleast I still have Wallaces to root for, and that looks to continue, well into the future.


*Kenny Wallace- better known as "Herman" got the nickname from Lake Hill promoter Bob Miller. Mostly because of his rowdy demeanor in the stands. He called him Herman after Herman the German, a mischievous cartoon character.

*Ken Schrader, is a fellow racer from Missouri, who just happened to grow up and hang out with the Wallaces in the early days.

*Rusty had a race chassis business in the 70's named Poor Boy Chassis Co.

*On occasion Tony Stewart has sponsored Chrissy's late model car. Always a friend to Mike, Tony even flew him to Concord NC so he could attend her graduation.

*the 1991 Pyroil 500 at Phoenix was the first time since the 50's that 3 brother ran in the same Cup race.

*In 1988 Kenny ran a Busch (NNS) race in a Dale Earnhardt owner car, and in 89 ran a full season in a car half-owned by brother Rusty.

* Steven Wallace has Tourettes Syndrome- Other athletes with Tourettes include, soccer players Tim Howard and David Beckam, and b-ball player Mahmoud Abdul Rouf.

*In 2005 Kenny won Smokes "Prelude to the Dream" at Eldora Speedway

*Like Rusty, Kenny also won the first time he raced, on a dirt track in 1982

Thanks for reading, Good luck to everyone in the SYMT race at Daytona.