Kenny Wallace is known as much for his sense-of-humor and ebullient personality as he is for his exploits as a NASCAR driver.
That’s not to say he hasn’t had a noteworthy career.
He has nine wins in the Nationwide Series and 345 starts in the Sprint Cup Series that has produced seven top-fives, including three second-place finishes, and 28 top-10s.
He is also part of one of NASCAR’s most prominent racing families with older brothers Rusty, the 1989 Sprint Cup points champion, and Mike and, now, nephew Steve Wallace who is racing in the Nationwide Series with him.
He was a great ambassador for the TD Banknorth 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway on Sunday night.
“The Oxford 250 is a happening,” said Wallace, who was making his first appearance since finishing eighth in 1991.
He wasn’t so lucky on Sunday as his car broke down with 49 laps remaining. He had started 42nd but was running in the top 15 when he departed.
“They’ve had different types of cars here like Busch Grand National cars [pro stock and now late models]. But the rules are great,” said Wallace, who is a close friend of former Sprint Cup driver and Newburgh native Ricky Craven.
He is currently running 15th in points in the Nationwide Series but finds himself in a difficult situation.
“The hardest thing on me right now is I’m with an underfunded team,” said Wallace. “They love me, I love them. We try so hard. I drive hard and they work hard. But it’s hard knowing I don’t have a shot at a win.”
The 45-year-old doesn’t see himself returning to the Sprint Cup Series.
“I’m not being negative but I don’t see it happening. You’ve got guys like Bobby Labonte and Joe Nemechek who are just hanging on [in the Sprint Cup Series]. Bobby Labonte won a championship [in 2000]. We’re both the same age. The times are changing. There’s a generation gap now,” said Wallace.
Older brother Rusty had said one of the reasons attendance is down and TV ratings are slipping in the Sprint Cup Series is because the drivers aren’t making as many public appearances and promoting the sport like they should be.
“Rusty is true to his beliefs. He believes it is important for the drivers to promote the next race to the maximum. You do TV interviews. We grew up in an era in which you really promoted your sport. He loved to do it.
“Some of today’s drivers think ‘Why do I have to promote this race?’ They think they’re so talented [they shouldn’t have to promote it],” said Kenny Wallace. “But, in their defense, there’s probably 10 times more media now.”
He feels the sport is still “awesome” but people have a lot more activities they can choose to watch or play.
“There’s a lot of things going on now. You’ve got the X Games and paintball, so many things people can do,” said Wallace, who also does TV work for the Speed TV network.
In addition, he owns a dirt track in Macon, Ill. with Tony Stewart and long-time Sprint Cup racer Kenny Schrader.
The Wallaces are good for the sport.
They aren’t afraid to voice their opinions and they care passionately about the sport. Their candor is refreshing.
Rusty Wallace was the grand marshal for the 250 and also joined announcer and media relations director Kalle Oakes when he was calling the heat races. Rusty, a NASCAR TV analyst for ESPN, didn’t hesitate to offer his observations and answer Oakes’ questions.
The Wallaces want what’s best for a sport that has been good to them.