Living the Dream: 22 Questions with NASCAR Driver Kenny Wallace (Part Three)
Q: You’ve worked with some great owners over the years, but some bad ones too. When you retire from NASCAR, which owner do you feel you will remember the most?
A: Fil Martocci (Owner of No. 81 Square D Chevrolet in 1996-1998.) We won three in a row at Richmond in 94, 95 and 96.
Q: What’d he teach you as you were driving for him?
A: To save my money and put it away. Because of that, I’m wealthy today.
Q: How hard was it to replace Ernie Irvan back in 1994 when he was injured at Michigan?
A: Well, I never really looked at it as replacing him. It was pretty wild to drive the Texaco car. When I look back at it, to run fifth at Martinsville and run as competitive as I did, qualifying second at Atlanta as a Nationwide (Busch) driver was great to run in a really good car. It kind of caught me off guard. I think my biggest fill in ride was when Steve Park got hurt and I got in his car right away at Rockingham and finished second in the Cup Series car. I look at it as being a ‘super-sub’, which was my knick name. Everyone would say ‘Kenny Wallace is a super-sub.’ Whenever drivers got hurt they would call me up. I subbed for a lot of great teams, the No. 28 of Ernie Irvan, the No. 1 car, the No. 29 for Kevin Harvick when he got kicked out at Martinsville, Kyle Petty a couple of times, so it’s been a great experience.
Q: In 2005, you subbed for Kurt Busch for getting arrested. What’d you feel about that experience, working with Jack Roush?
A: It was just crazy. I was doing TV. I was on the TV set and my phone rang and it was NASCAR. It was John Darby and he said ‘Kenny hold on for a minute,’ and this was during a commercial. So I was on the SPEED set, my phone rings, and it was John Darby, being it was a commercial break, Jack Roush told us that Kurt Busch got suspended, so I got off the set and jumped in the car and finished 16th. That was pretty cool.
Q: As a racer, do you feel like there’s anything that NASCAR can improve on with their safety efforts?
A: They’ll even tell you that nobody is perfect. Everybody can be better. Whether it’s the NFL or Major League Baseball, they all have improvements they can make. I never bad mouth NASCAR and I think they’ve given me a wonderful career and I wouldn’t ever bad mouth them for giving me so much. I’m sure they’ll tell you they can do better and I applaud them for the way they reacted to the death of Dale Earnhardt. The soft walls came out, the HANS device came out. It’s easy to sit back and tell people how messed up they are, I just don’t ever do that.
Q: Do you have any regrets in your career?
A: The only regret I have is in 1993 driving for Felix Sabates. I tell everyone that. He’s a good guy, but it just didn’t work out. He fired me. He thought I couldn’t drive and that was about it. Then the next year I went back to Nationwide and won a few races and went back to the Cup Series and his team failed so I won.
Q: Your brother Rusty just entered the NASCAR Hall of Fame, say one day you’re up for nomination. What would be your reaction?
A: I’d be shocked because I don’t deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, ever. Maybe the entertainment Hall of Fame. I know my place and I’m a decent driver but I know I’m not great and that’s all good.
Q: Talk about your workout regimen.
A: I work out at RAB Racing’s gym. They got a lot of workout equipment. I don’t have any workout equipment in my house or anything. I don’t work out that much. I stay fit by eating really good. I don’t drink any soda or anything; I just eat right. I just wanted to live longer, I wanted to get my blood sugar down and feel better.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.