Deep at the heart of it, family is the lifeblood of NASCAR. The family tree is populated with generations of drivers named Petty and Baker, Jarrett and Earnhardt, Waltrip and Labonte, Allison and Wallace and too many more to name.
This weekend, the Wallace family is a poignant reminder of the integral role that family plays in NASCAR as Kenny Wallace competes for the final time at Iowa Speedway. It marks the end of a career that has spanned 26 years. There is no more fitting place for Wallace to end his journey. His brother, Hall of Famer and 1989 Cup Champion, Rusty Wallace, led the design team that created Iowa Speedway.
Wallace has nine wins, 10 poles and 66 top-five finishes in 546 starts in the XFINITY Series and has completed 101,673 laps, the most in series history. In addition, he has made 344 Sprint Cup Series starts as well as 13 starts in the Camping World Truck Series.
As he prepares to strap into the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing this weekend, Wallace reflected on his career, saying, “”To me, this isn’t a sad moment; I’m at a truly happy place in my life right now. After all, not too many guys get to have the privilege of being a NASCAR driver, especially for as long as I have. I really wanted to end my long career on a positive note and I’m very excited about our chances in Iowa. The No. 20 team is one of the best in the sport and I’m looking forward to having a chance to end my NASCAR career with a great finish. I really want to thank U.S. Cellular for helping me make that happen.”
Wallace’s zest for life and boundless energy has made him a fan favorite as a NASCAR analyst for FOX Sports on the “NASCAR RaceDay and “NASCAR Victory Lane” programs. Never at a loss for words, he also shares his opinions on “Herman Unplugged” for NASCAR Illustrated. He will continue his broadcast career and although Wallace won’t compete on the NASCAR circuit, he remains a racer at heart and will continue to run dirt track events.
“Growing up as a kid and watching my Dad race in Rolla, Missouri, I never dreamed that I’d have the chance to do what I’ve done in my life,” Wallace said. “I’ve had a long and successful career and I’ve been able to support my family doing what I love. To me, it doesn’t get any better than that. I’m really proud of everything that I’ve been able to accomplish in NASCAR.”
“I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to turn my NASCAR driving career into another career doing something else I love; that’s working with FOX Sports on television. Those guys have been great to me,” he continued, “and I get a lot of happiness from being able to educate the fans about the sport that I love. I’m going to stay involved in the sport through TV and I’m going to stay behind the wheel in my dirt cars, too.”
While Kenny Wallace closes this chapter of his career, another Wallace will continue the legacy as nephew Matt Wallace makes his second career XFINITY start for JGL Racing at Iowa Speedway. The 19-year-old Wallace made his series debut two weeks ago at New Hampshire. Matt, son of NASCAR racer Mike Wallace, spoke about the significance of the upcoming race.
“I am very happy for Uncle Kenny ending his career on a high note,” he said. “It is pretty cool to see him in the No. 20 car and what a way to make the final start of your career. He has had a tremendous impact on the sport. It is pretty cool to be able to race against him for the first time in NASCAR and have it be his final race. I am honored to carry on the Wallace family tradition in the sport and hope I can accomplish the kind of things in racing as my dad and two uncles (Kenny and Rusty).”
As NASCAR fans say goodbye to a beloved racer, it is comforting to realize that his legacy will live on as the Wallace family comes full circle.