Living the Dream: 22 Questions with NASCAR Driver Kenny Wallace (Part One)
Every NASCAR fan knows Kenny Wallace. He’s that whacky guy that’s on NASCAR Raceday every weekend and NASCAR Victory Lane on the SPEED channel. However, he’s also the driver of the No. 29 Toyota Camry in the NASCAR Nationwide Series for RAB Racing.
Wallace has been with RAB Racing for what is now his third season. He’s run in the Nationwide Series since 1989 and has been with his fair share of teams. Now, he’s trying to get back to the top of the NASCAR scene. Even though he’s going to turn 50-years old in August, Wallace still has plenty of energy left in him to win a few more races in NASCAR’s second tier series.
As a driver, he hasn’t been the most successful, but Wallace has found a second career as an analyst for the SPEED channel. Wallace’s on and off track knowledge of NASCAR, plus his sense of humor, has entertained fans for numerous years now as he attempts to continue racing, which is his first passion.
Sponsorship has hurt Wallace throughout the later years of his career. In 2012, his schedule was cut down to less than half of the NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule due to not having funding.
The same has happened this year where he’ll be running eight events including the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ debut at the Eldora Speedway in July. He has plenty of dirt racing experience, probably one of the best in NASCAR, arguably against Kenny Schrader. In this exclusive interview, Wallace discusses his past experiences as a substitute driver, working with a moderately funded team, pushing Dale Earnhardt Sr. to his final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory as well as plenty of other interesting details about the St. Louis, MO native’s career in NASCAR.
Q: What has been the best part about working with RAB Racing over the past 3 years?
A: Just having good racecars. Robby Benton, and the rest of the team, work really hard to get the best out of our cars. We’re not a real wealthy team and I think just being on the team and giving me an opportunity to be competitive every race.
Q: What’s the difference between driving for RAB Racing and Jay Robinson Racing?
A: Well I’ve been around for a long time. I started running Nationwide (Busch) Series races in 1989 and Jay Robinson was just a small part of that. I spent three years with Jay Robinson and this team is definitely better than them for sure.
Q: Do you feel a sense of urgency that if you don’t succeed with the team now that younger fans will just see you as a TV personality instead of a successful race car driver?
A: I think they see me as a TV guy as it is now. It’s good; I have no problem with it. I talked with Darrell Waltrip about it and he says that nobody knows him for winning three championships, only as a TV guy. I can’t control what people think about me.
Q: Do you feel like there’s anything wrong about that? Say 20-years from now people only see you as a TV guy and not a racer.
A: I can’t control that. It’s not for me to judge what people think of me.
Q: What’s the best part about working with the SPEED channel while being able to still race?
A: Just what you said, exactly that. SPEED TV is really good at having different analysts, which have each been in the sport. Jeff Hammond was a crew chief, Kyle Petty was a Sprint Cup Series driver, I was a Sprint Cup driver as was Darrell Waltrip. The best part is having people that have raced and that’s what is really cool about SPEED.
Q: You’ve been running plenty of dirt car races, how do you take that experience over to the Nationwide Series?
A: I don’t. The dirt racing experience doesn’t really help me in the Nationwide Series races. I’m running about eight nationwide races this year and one truck race (on dirt at Eldora) and to me dirt racing is like restarting your career. I should’ve done dirt racing in the beginning of my career. I just love it because it’s really fun. I run my race shop out of St. Louis and we won the 2012 summer national championship and won 12 big races.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.