Kenny Wallace (born August 23, 1963) is a NASCAR Busch Series driver who currently drives the #22 Ford Taurus.
“This is exactly the position I want to be in now in my career,” said Wallace. “I want to end my driving career with Bill Davis Racing, as I feel I’ve found a home here, especially since Bill and I are such good friends. I've known Bill since I was 13 years old. When I first met him, he was Julian Martin's friend in the truck industry. Mark Martin had just started ASA and my brother, Rusty, and Mark raced against each other in Arkansas. Bill’s shop was about four hours south of St. Louis. When I had first gotten to know him, never in a million years did I think Bill Davis would be where he is right now. For starters, he has a successful trucking company and then to see what he and Gail have accomplished in Winston Cup Racing is just amazing. I've got a ton of respect for him because I saw where he came from. Just like anybody who saw me 15 years ago when I was driving the hauler at four o’clock in the morning while my brother, Rusty, and Paul Andrews were sleeping in the back. They'd say I was a racer, and that's exactly what I think of Bill Davis.” A win in the ultra-competitive NASCAR Winston Cup Series is the number one priority on Wallace's list, because the youngest of three Wallace brothers is used to winning.His father, Russ, was one of the Midwest's most successful short track drivers, and his two older brothers, Rusty and Mike, are also prolific racers. Winning races is a Wallace tradition, and Kenny has certainly carried on the family heritage.
In his first stint ever behind the wheel of a race car in 1982, Wallace won the Street Stock State Championship in Illinois. After turning wrenches on older brother Rusty's race cars for a few years, Kenny returned to driving by competing in the American Speed Association (ASA) in 1986. He immediately found success by garnering Rookie of the Year honors and finishing 11th in points.Wallace spent two more years in the ASA ranks operating on a shoe-string budget, as his wife Kim worked two jobs just to pay the bills.
"Those were some tough times," recalls Wallace. "Kim was working and I was traveling and racing. Sometimes I would sleep in the car just to save a few dollars."By 1989, Wallace's perseverance and hard work began to pay off, as Rusty picked Kenny to drive for his newly formed NASCAR Busch Series, Grand National Division team. Together, they won two races in three seasons.With his eyes set on Winston Cup, Wallace joined Team SABCO in 1992. They competed in the Busch Series for one year, collecting one win and two poles before moving up to the Winston Cup level in 1993 in search of rookie accolades. Success was tough to find however, and Wallace left the team at season's end.
"It totally sucked and I hope I never have to go through it again,” said Wallace. “When Felix fired me it was kind of like, 'you don't understand. I'm Kenny Wallace.' That's the way I felt. He can't fire me, because I'm a good driver. I always got the job done. It disappointed me. I'll never forget that as long as I live, but the experience taught me a valuable lesson. The lesson was that racing is a team sport. It takes more than just a driver’s talent to get the job done. Everyone needs to work together in order to be successful. I don't think you could go to college and learn that. In the long run, it was the best thing that ever happened to me."
Wallace returned to the Busch Series in 1994 with FILMAR Racing. Over the next three years, they tallied five wins, 19 top-five finishes and 26 top-10 finishes in the Busch Series. In 1995, the team ran a 15-race Busch Series schedule and a limited Winston Cup effort in preparation for a full assault on the Winston Cup circuit in 1996 with backing from Square D.
After three years of full-time Winston Cup competition with FILMAR, Wallace garnered two poles and 11 top-10 finishes while earning a total of $2,416,527.
However, in late August of 1998, car owner Filbert Martocci and Wallace agreed to part ways at the conclusion of the Winston Cup calendar. Wallace continued to drive Martocci's No. 81 Tauruses through the season finale at Atlanta Motor Speedway, as it was an amicable parting, but he was free to pursue other options for the 1999 Winston Cup season. Kenny joined Andy Petree Racing in 1999. Owned by the man for whom the team is named, Petree jumped on the opportunity to hire Wallace as a teammate to his driver of two years - Ken Schrader.From boyhood chums to fellow Winston Cup racers to, now, teammates, Wallace relishes the role of working with Schrader.
"I think only Kenny and I understand how odd it sounds for us to be called teammates," said Wallace, "because we're best friends more than we are teammates. In the early '70s my brother Rusty and Kenny were rivals on the tracks around Missouri. Our families spent a lot of time together and Kenny took a liking to me. He used to take me to a town called Licking, Mo., where he had some property. It was there where Kenny put me in an old pickup truck and let me drive around. I'll never forget that experience. It was the greatest time I ever had - to be able to drive for my first time." Wallace stayed with Petree for two full Winston Cup Seasons, posting four top-five finishes, but at the start of the 2001 season, Wallace joined Eel-River Racing. Wallace also signed on the driver the No. 48 Gould’s Pumps Chevrolet for Innovative Motorsports, attempting to run ‘double duty’ in both the NWC and NBS seasons. Wallace made 12 starts for the Eel River Racing team, however, at mid-season they chose to part ways.
In the middle of 2001 after taking some time out of a Winston Cup car, Kenny was at the right place at the right time. Steve Park was injured in the fall Darlington BGN race and Kenny was picked to drive the car on Sunday. "You know that team has been thru alot this year, so when Steve was hurt it was very painful for them," says Wallace "So my job was to simply get in and keep the car up in the points for them until Steve returned."
Wallace started out the 2002 season driving full-time in NASCAR Busch Series competition for Innovative Motorsports and Stacker 2, while still substitute driving for Steve Park and the Pennzoil car. After four starts in the No. 1 car, Park returned to the ride at the spring Darlington event. Wallace continued his NBS program and also ran five NASCAR Winston Cup events with Innovative Motorsports and the No. 98 Stacker 2 car. Wallace took over driving the No. 23 Hills Bros. Coffee Dodge for driver, Hut Stricklin, at the Darlington fall event in 2002 and will fill the seat for almost the rest of the season.
“My goal for the remainder of the 2002 season for the Hills Bros. team is to get a pole and a handful of top-10s. If I position myself like that, the win I've been striving for will come. I'm not going to leave any race track this year finishing 18th and saying it was a pretty good run. That's just not me. I really want to get a pole and get the car in the Bud Shootout in 2003 for Stacker 2 and Bill Davis Racing. We also want to get the team out of 34th in car owner points and get it back in the top-25. I'm going to drive 10 of the 12 races. I won't drive it at Talladega, as I signed to drive with Andy Petree Racing, nor at Martinsville, due to my Busch commitments.”
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