Iracingone On One:/I Kenny Wallace

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(It’s all about perseverance for Kenny Wallace. The driver of the No. 27 Eel River Racing Pontiac has had to endure endless questions about the continuing existence of his financially troubled NASCAR Winston Cup Series team this season while trying to stay focused on racing. The youngest of the three Wallace racing brothers, Kenny continues to race in both the Winston Cup and Busch Series and is doing so with the ardent support of his wife, Kim, and his three daughters, and continues to reach for the brass ring in a sport he dearly loves.)

RacingOne: This has been a tough Winston Cup season for you. Just how tough was it before hearing about sponsorship at Charlotte, not knowing if you were going to have a ride from week to week?

Kenny Wallace: It was a difficult situation for me and my entire team. I can’t explain to you just how hard it was on us. In order for you to prepare to go and race, you have to have organization, and there wasn’t much of it at Eel River Racing. We weren’t able to do any of the day-to-day, hour-to-hour things we needed to do to get ready to go race. From that standpoint, it was very difficult. If you can’t do that, you don’t know what you’ve got when you get to the track.

RacingOne: Talk about the relief of landing the C.F. Sauer Company as your Winston Cup sponsor.

Kenny Wallace: It’s difficult when you don’t know what’s going to happen from week to week, but when Sauer’s decided to sponsor us, it was a huge weight off everybody’s shoulders. We’re still going to be hanging on for a while. Now the team can really get down to business. We’ve put a lot of effort into the start of the year and I just want to thank Jack and Devin Birmingham (team owners) for hanging in there with us.

RacingOne: With all of the uncertainty surrounding your Winston Cup team, how important was it for you to have the No. 48 Busch ride?

Kenny Wallace: It has been good for me personally, very good. We’ve run well in the Busch car so far this year. The deal came together so suddenly at the beginning of the year. They didn’t even know who their driver was going to be a few days before Daytona. When they asked me to do it, I told them I’d be happy to. If our Winston Cup deal would have gone away, the Busch deal would have been a good thing to keep me out there in the spotlight. Racing feeds my soul, and I really enjoy racing that Busch car.

RacingOne: What were the factors involved with leaving the No. 55 team and heading to the No. 27 team?

Kenny Wallace: The longer our sponsorship situation went on at Eel River, my leaving the No. 55 team became more and more of a story. With the plans we had for the No. 27 car (at Eel River), I honestly thought it would be a better situation for me. As time went on, there were some unforeseen things that happened, and we haven’t been able to do what we’ve really wanted to do. We all do things we regret in life, but this is not one of those situations. My career wasn’t going to be on the line, and my life wasn’t going to be on the line. Now, if I would have known the 27 team would have met with these problems, then I probably wouldn’t have left the 55 team. I had no idea what would transpire. But if you’re asking me about any regrets, I don’t have any whatsoever.

RacingOne: Talk about your friendship with fellow driver Ken Schrader.

Kenny Wallace: Kenny Schrader is probably the closest friend I’ve got in the Winston Cup Series. Our relationship began way back when I was a child. Kenny was a rival to (older brother) Rusty. As a matter of fact, they were big rivals back then. Rusty’s and Kenny’s careers followed different paths, but they wound up in the same place. My career took a different path too, and I’m back in the same place they are. Kenny has been a big supporter of mine, a big Kenny Wallace fan. And I’m a big Kenny Schrader fan. That’s what makes our relationship great. Kenny’s a great racer, and he’s the bible as to how you should enjoy auto racing. He’s what it’s all about. He just races without getting wrapped up into all of the negative things. He has a lot of fun.

RacingOne: Has it been difficult for you to watch Rusty’s career be successful, whereas both you and Mike have struggled to reach the top?

Kenny Wallace: Not at all. In no way has it been difficult to watch Rusty do as well as he’s done. He’s the biggest reason I’m even around. There’s seven years difference between me and Rusty, and early on, I was all about helping him get to where he needed to be. I came down with him when he came down to drive the Gatorade car… He’s a lot like Dale Earnhardt was – he’s damn good. I’m thrilled to see he’s done so well.

RacingOne: With a wife and three daughters, you’re surrounded by women. Tell us what that’s like.

Kenny Wallace: It’s the biggest single joy I have. It’s like a show around my house. It’s like going to the movies. I don’t get to spend weekends at home, but when I’m at home, I’m able to have a great time with them. I get to go and watch my daughters’ softball games, I get to have fun in the swimming pool with them. It’s wonderful. The kids give me a reason to have fun, and it’s just awesome. They definitely rule the roost, though. Kim and I wanted so badly to try to have a boy, and we’re both still young, but we’ve felt very blessed by God to have three healthy girls and we don’t want to press the issue. We’re pretty comfortable in life, and we feel very blessed.

RacingOne: Along the same lines, Kim has really stood behind you in your career and sometimes has had to work a couple of jobs to help you get going in your career. Your relationship must be very special.

Kenny Wallace: Gosh yes, my wife is everything to me. She’s gone through so much. I love her more than anything in the world. She was blind to the rest of the world when I was first getting started. She did everything she could do to help me do what I wanted to do, and that’s race. She laid her life aside to help me. She worked as a cafeteria cook for years just to put paychecks together. We took out a loan for a hauler and to try and pay that off. Our story is just like the one with the kid walking through two feet of snow to get to school. We’ve been blessed along the way very much, and God has given me the tools I needed to race. At no time was I handed anything, but I got a few breaks along the way. Kim and I had to pay for everything. Kim understood all of that and stood right beside me every step of the way.

RacingOne: Your nickname is Herman. Tell us how that came about.

Kenny Wallace: When I was in school, I was very hyperactive. I was always in trouble in school. I was diagnosed as a hyperactive child. My parents always tried to calm me down and keep me from being rebellious. I was an all-American kid, though, and I ran wild. I played sports – basketball, football, baseball, and I was always at the track defending my father, who won at the time, to the fans who didn’t like that. There was a cartoon in the St. Louis Globe Democrat newspaper that was called “Herman the German.” I was just like that cartoon character. A local promoter named Bob Miller got hold of that and put that nickname on me. Herman is kind of like Dennis the Menace. That was exactly what I was like.

RacingOne: What do you remember most about your first Winston Cup race?

Kenny Wallace: That’s easy. My first race was at North Wilkesboro in 1990, and I was running very well, in the Top 12. I remember I was going into Turn 1 and Davey Allison lost his brakes and hit me in the ass and put me in the wall. It was devastating to me. I just knew I was going to be the next A.J. Foyt, and to have that happen really sucked. I didn’t understand why Davey hit me so hard and was mad at him until after the race when he told me he was out of brakes.

RacingOne: Our weekly question, what’s right and what’s wrong with NASCAR racing right now?

Kenny Wallace: What’s right is that NASCAR has worked 53 years to be the No. 1 form of stock-car racing in the world, and they are by far. What’s wrong is really simple. There are too many problems that crop up from week to week. There’s never a time when everything seems to flow perfectly. A lot of that is because the sport is so big. There are too many trivial things that come up. If a Ford driver wins three races in a row, then the teams with manufacturers are going to get upset about it and start complaining that it’s not fair. It’s a crybaby situation and they’re looking for NASCAR to react. It just never ends.

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