Kenny Wallace: Daytona-bound and ready to go

Kenny Wallace heads to Daytona with the hopes of racing in the Daytona 500.
Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs

NASCAR Nationwide Series veteran Kenny Wallace is Daytona-bound, hoping to make his way into the prestigious Daytona 500.

Wallace is headed to Daytona with RAB Racing after the purchase of a car from the now-defunct Red Bull Racing, and hopes the car shares the same good fortune it had with that organization.  

“It’s the car that Brian Vickers qualified 8th in at Talladega…the last Talladega race last year,” said Wallace.  “RAB Racing with Brack Maggard, we were able to hire some people and we got everything in place. And here we go! I am very serious about this, very focused and I take this opportunity very seriously.”

Last year I asked Wallace his thoughts on being with a new team. He told me “I feel like I am reborn, like it is a time warp back to 2001 when I won my last race at Rockingham. I am excited!” The time warp has continued for Kenny, who proves that age and experience are just like fine wine – they get better with time. 

“How does it go? I love it when a plan comes together! I do not get to say that very much. In 2010, I announced that I would not continue the way I was racing, three years wore me down. I trained everyone for three years; ’08, ’09 and ’10 that I was a 20th to 30th place driver because I was driving such bad equipment. We all knew how good my stats were and it was just a matter of am I a Rocky Balboa, can I come back for more?”

Wallace continued, “We did, that is what we have done and we are competitive. I think the most important thing is that we are doing this with a new Nationwide team. We are an independent team, no Cup affiliation and we are truly doing it the hard way, we are overachieving. Hopefully we can keep this roll going!”

Proving that a small team can compete, Wallace also knows that winning is hard against the likes of Hendrick, Gibbs and Roush.
Focus and determination are key to Wallace's goals.
Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs

“We can be competitive but it is very hard to win. Listen, if we can get lucky, we feel like we can win a race, too. It is very hard to win against those guys but I am a fighter and I like my chances every week.”

Kenny, or shall we say “Rocky,” is the focus of a new documentary on SPEED that will be airing prior to the Gatorade Duels. Entitled "Chasing Daytona: Kenny Wallace" (Kenny Wallace’s quest to make the Daytona 500), the documentary will take a look inside the inner workings of the professional and personal sides of Wallace as he and his family ride this roller coaster.

“The first night it is going to air is going to be Wednesday, February 22nd at 9pm est. and it will air the night before the twin 150s. That night is a big night for me, because that night we will know if I am in the 500 or not. The documentary starts from the beginning and it is not a reality show, it is a documentary, everything is real and nothing is staged. They just followed me for quite a while. I am looking forward to seeing it; it should be a pretty good show.”

What can be expected in the documentary?

“Anything goes! In the shower singing, 90% of it is my life,” said Wallace. “There is a lot of drama, from where we were supposed to be at the test (Daytona test session) and how come we were not, that is all documented in there. It shows what a team like ours has gone through.”

Left hanging, I did ask if not testing was a disadvantage to the team.

“Obviously it is a disadvantage not being at the test, one we will have to overcome. The documentary will show why we are not at the test,” Wallace said with ease, making sure to lure us into watching the documentary. “It will show my reaction and how upset I was to not being at the test. But there was quite a bit of rules changes and if we would have went to the test, we would have had to cut the front and rear off the car. Since the test, everyone has been rebuilding their cars. So, we had a small advantage not being there.”

With all the excitement of Daytona, Wallace is also racing the entire 2012 Nationwide Series schedule with RAB Racing. A question that Kenny often gets asked is “Are you racing yet?”

“I just keep racing, I got the most starts in the history of the Nationwide Series – I rank 13th in the history of NASCAR with 877 NASCAR starts. I understand there is a generation gap now and we are in a different era. I do not need to tell anyone what I am doing; the great thing about social networking is that I am in control of my own marketing. I’ve got over 66,000 followers. Twitter and Facebook have been a blessing.”

Kenny’s message is being heard loud and clear across NASCAR. “The Hermanator” is heading to Daytona on a mission.

“I’ve got 344 Cup starts, that’s a lot,” said Wallace. “From all my years in Cup, I understand how big Sprint Cup is, it is the biggest form of auto racing in the United States. I’ve attempted 12 Daytona 500s and I have raced in 10 Daytona 500s. We made the race in ’08, finished 8th in the twin 150s  and started 17th in the Daytona 500. I understand that when I announce that I am going to attempt the Daytona 500 there is a lot of drama involved because I am not locked in. By the time I get around, there will probably only be about four to five spots left to race. 35 are locked in, so on and so forth but it is a pretty difficult race to make.”

The stats and numbers are overwhelming. Many drivers will attempt the Daytona 500, but few will make it into the race.

“I think that every time I run the 500 it has been like this. If I were locked into the 500, I would not know what to think,” Wallace said with his normal wit.

“I have made the Daytona 500 coming off of turn 4 headed to the checkered flag. There is an old saying, no pressure; well I make lots of pressure. That is me, that’s my whole life. I am an overachiever and God has put me in this position. One hundred people could not handle what I do.”

Wallace said it himself: he has nothing left to prove in his career.

“It’s not like I am trying to prove anything at 48 years old. I just want to race in the Daytona 500.”

Kenny Wallace proves each week that he has defeated the odds. Once close to hanging up the firesuit, now back and revitalized, he says, “I am a racecar driver and that is all I ever wanted to be.” 

Amanda Ebersole brings the readers of Skirts and Scuffs interviews and insight into the people who make NASCAR the sport we all love. Besides interviews, Amanda also writes her weekly columns In the Rearview Mirror and NASCAR By the Numbers. Feel free to contact Amanda via Twitter or e-mail.
Kenny Wallace: Daytona-bound and ready to go Kenny Wallace: Daytona-bound and ready to go Reviewed by Unknown on Wednesday, February 01, 2012 Rating: 5