WALTZ: Kenny Wallace Has A Lot To Say

Keith Waltz
Keith Waltz.

HARRISBURG, N.C. — No one — and we mean no one — has ever accused Kenny Wallace of being a man of few words.

Keeping that in mind, it was certainly no surprise when our recent phone interview for a feature story that appears elsewhere in these pages produced considerably more words of wisdom than would fit in the allotted space. Instead of leaving portions of the interview on the proverbial cutting-room floor, we’ll use this space to share a few of Wallace’s thoughts on the state of short-track racing and something he learned this season about his priorities.

First, he discussed a topic that frustrates race fans across the country.

“I’ve got to be honest with you, so many of these race tracks are so poorly run — and I hate to say it but it’s the truth — most of these races don’t end until 11:30 or midnight,” Wallace said. “By the time these dirt races are done, everybody is gone. The fans immediately get into their passenger cars and leave.

“But we’ve had some highlights this year. For example, the track I own with Bob Sargent, Tony Stewart and Kenny Schrader — Macon Speedway — during the Summer Nationals, the whole event was over by 9:30,” Wallace added. “We ended up drinking beer until about 2 in the morning and we were there until the last fan left. We closed the place down.

“Typically, these dirt tracks really get it wrong. They think if the show runs longer, the fans like it. But in reality, they haven’t done a survey and they are wrong. If they would get these races over at a decent time, the fans would come to the pits and get to spend some time with the drivers. That’s one thing I wish these tracks would get right.”

Second, Wallace addres­sed the overall state of short-track racing and suggested it is probably time to rethink the concept of weekly racing.

“Here’s what I’ve learned. I learned that the special races are booming — they are skyrocketing,” Wallace said. “Look at the race we just had here 15 minutes from my house. On Saturday night, Aug. 3, we had the World of Outlaws sprint cars with the modifieds and the midgets at     I-55 Raceway in Pevely, Mo. — I ran second in the modified feature. It was standing-room only. They could hardly fit another human being in there, and the atmosphere was outrageously awesome.

“One month earlier, there might have been 700 people in the grandstands for a regular show, but the special races are drawing record crowds,” Wallace continued. “It leads me to believe that the local race fans want to do other things with their families. It would not be a bad thing if some of the local tracks ran every other week.

“I’ve been in conversations where fans say, ‘We want to go to the lake with our family,’ or ‘We’re taking that week off to go to Six Flags.’ Racing is healthy, but I think the game has changed. Racing every single weekend for five straight months, I think those days are gone.”

Finally, during his first season as a full-time short-track racer, Wallace took an inventory of his priorities.

“I did something horribly wrong this year that I’ll never do again,” he admitted. “We had a third birthday party for my grand­baby, Charlotte. It started out that the party was going to be from 11 to 1, but they changed the time and it started at 1. I ended up leaving the birthday party early because I had a race planned. I’ll never do that again. I’ll take off all day and not go racing. That was stupid on my part because family comes first.”

n The dirt-racing fraternity will once again visit our neighborhood Nov. 7-9 when The Dirt Track at Charlotte hosts the Can-Am World Finals, featuring the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series, the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series and the big-block modifieds of the Super DIRTcar Series.

Visit charlottemotorspeedway.com for full details.