NASCAR Media Conference
July 25, 2006
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon. Welcome to our NASCAR Nextel Cup Series teleconference. Today our focus is on the NASCAR Busch Series and the Busch Silver Celebration 250 that's set to run at Gateway International Raceway on Saturday night. Both the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series have open weekends. St. Louis is of course the home of Anheuser-Busch, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary as sponsor of the NASCAR Busch Series, and Gateway is also celebrating its tenth anniversary this year as well.
Today we are joined by Kenny Wallace and his nephew, Steve Wallace. The Wallace family of course began its racing legacy in St. Louis. Kenny is 10th in the NASCAR Busch Series points standings and will make his 7th career start at Gateway, while Steve is just getting started with his series career and will make his track debut on Saturday which will be his 10th career series start.
And along the lines of anniversaries, don't forget, please, that Kenny is celebrating his 20th year in NASCAR national series competition in 2006.
Guys, thanks for joining us today. We really appreciate having you on the call. Kenny, we'll start with you. Can you talk about your family's racing heritage from your dad, Russ, to you and your brothers, Rusty and Mike, and now it's kind of coming full circle with Steve?
KENNY WALLACE: Well, I would say there's a lot of pride and tradition in the Wallace family as far as auto racing goes. We grew up watching my dad win every week and that set the tone for this type of auto racing life you know. You look at Dale Earnhardt where his dad won all the time and you know, then the big E went on to do it and we follow that same pattern. My dad won a lot of championships and over 500 races in the Midwest around the Missouri, Illinois area.
So, you know, Rusty and Mike and myself, we worked on dad's cars. Of course I did the smaller jobs because I was the youngest and Rusty and Mike, they did the fabricating and the welding. You know, it was a family affair, and it was truly racing all the time. And if we didn't do good, we were all quiet, you know, on the way home after the races and we were all bummed out, and so that's the type of atmosphere we grew up in. We grew up in an atmosphere where we ran second or third it was very devastating, I think that's the drive that it gave my brother Rusty to go out and start this whole Wallace legacy in a lot bigger manner. If it weren't for Rusty, I would have never went NASCAR, and Mike wouldn't have, and of course Steven wouldn't be doing as good as he's doing right now.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Kenny. Steve, you've said you wanted to carve out your own niche in NASCAR, but at the same time it's got to be a great help to have such experience to fall back on with your grandpa and your dad and your uncles. Can you talk about that?
STEVE WALLACE: Yeah, it's definitely a big help. You've got dad who is a NEXTEL Cup champion, won a bunch of races, finished second a bunch in the championship, and Mike's had a good career, he's won some Busch races and stuff like that. But it definitely helps, you know, for example we were at Martinsville this weekend and I've never been there before as far as actually driving on the racetrack.
Going there, started about when I was four years old I guess. Dad got in the race car first and like he made some laps and got a handle real good and then I got in it. Those are just characteristics and benefits of like having a racing family. When my dad is not there and I have a question, I'll go to Kenny or Mike or whoever, you know.
Q. Steven, we all hear about baseball Dads and what have you. Could you give us the good of having your dad involved in racing and then the bad of having him involved with your racing?
STEVE WALLACE: Well, I tell you what, I would say it's more good than bad. I've had a very good season so far. The finishes haven't been good, but we've led laps and we've ran up front and we've proved to people like we are fast. But I was talking to Ken Harvick the other day and when he debuted in his Busch race career, you race 14 cars straight in a row, like Richard Childers stayed with him. But I think if I wasn't driving for my dad, I might be fired by now. So it's definitely good -- it's definitely good to have your dad as a boss and as a driving coach and all that stuff.
But like he's definitely helped me out. You know, hopefully we can get our finishes on track. You know, Martinsville, we were second quick in all three practice sessions. And the overall outcome of like the race wasn't that good, we got wrecked on lap two and just went downhill from there but he definitely helped me a bunch.
Q. What's it like going home and living with the boss?
STEVE WALLACE: Well, when you run bad or when you run good it just all depends. Like mom is real big on cooking. We have dinner every night. We sit down at the table and talk about stuff. So if I run bad and look like an idiot he makes me feel like one. But if I run good, I'll kind of the superstar at the house. So it's definitely a real mood-setting type deal.
Q. And if I could, a question for Kenny. When you see Steven race and you think about the history of the family in NASCAR, what are your emotions?
KENNY WALLACE: Well, it's very important for me to make sure Steve knows everything he needs to know because, you know, in August, I'll be 43. And I know for a fact that you know, my career when I reach around 47 years old, I'm looking at NASCAR, my NASCAR career coming down to an ending. So it's in my best interests for Steven to outrun me or compete against me.
I like to challenge Steven, because just like the Andrettis, Michael and Mario, it's not going to do me or the family any good if Steven doesn't run good. He's the last of the Mohicans, and my brother Mike's son, Matt, he's very young. He's only single-digit age, or nine, ten years old, something like that. So I really, really want to make sure that Steve knows everything that he needs to know. I don't want him to go, oh, I didn't know I need to do this on a restart or I didn't know this.
If it were not for Rusty I would not be where I'm at because Rusty gave me all the shortcuts, and that's what I want to do with Steve. Any time he's around I want him to come down and talk to me and ask me things because I want to make sure that and it's my job -- I've told Rusty if there's anything in my power, and one day if I quit racing, I want to go to work for Steven.
STEVE WALLACE: You can drive my motorhome.
KENNY WALLACE: No, I'm not going to work. (Laughter).
Q. What have you learned most from moving up to the Busch Series?
STEVE WALLACE: I've learned a lot. Surely I come from racing short tracks like around the southeast, and I won a lot of big races and I kind of stepped up to this season where I'm returning mostly the shorter tracks like occasionally there's Kentucky and stuff like that but like short track racing is short track racing. I went to Martinsville and just drove like I usually do on all of short tracks. But definitely you learn a lot from like guys like Kevin Harvick, Kenny Wallace; the man is a legend, Clint Bowyer, all of those guys really help you out a lot.
The Busch Series is like for surely not like -- not like it has been in the past. There's a lot more competition. It's all NEXTEL Cup teams and stuff like that. It's definitely hard and when you're running up front and running good with those guys, you're surely showing something.
Q. Kenny, what about your job as driver, if any, is stressful to you?
KENNY WALLACE: Well, it's always stressful when you go through that pit bay; it's all business. I have a couple different faces I put on. You've got Kenny Wallace, who is the personality, the TV guy. And then you have Herminator, who is my nickname which has been my whole life; that's the racing end of me.
We built all our own race cars our whole careers and I think the most stressful thing about racing is, and I learned it from my brother Rusty and he's right; and the most stressful thing is making sure you have the setup right so the car will handle. As we've seen with Dale Junior; if the car doesn't handle, you can look like a hobo. Anybody can drive a fast race car, anybody. We seen it this week at Martinsville where Denny Hamlin's car was the fastest and we see Brandon John get in, and a kid named Kevin Hamlin got in Reed Sorenson's car. So it's a fact that anybody can drive a fast race car. The most stressful thing for me is to make sure that I do everything in my talent to help the team get the car set up to it competes.
Q. Both of you consider Gateway your home track, and does that make it different running here than any other place you run? And for Steven, are you going to both races this week or just Saturday?
STEVE WALLACE: I'm running both races, the Arc race and the Busch race. I went up there and tested two weeks ago and we were the fastest car in Arc test about by half a second so I'm looking real forward to -- real forward to the Arco race and the Busch race. I think we can put a good show on in front of St. Louis natives.
KENNY WALLACE: St. Louis is definitely our home track. As Rusty would say: "No doubt about that." We were born and raised in the city and we're St. Louis boys. I think that what I try to do is act like it's not our home track, just so I don't feel the pressure. I enjoy, but I enjoy going and racing there. I know that Kenny Schrader doesn't like the pressure of coming to the home track but I do. I like to -- I just dream one day of winning here, just in front of all my high school buddies, that's pretty cool.
Q. Kenny, you finished in the Top-10 in the championship point standings in the NASCAR Busch Series in the nine seasons you've competed full-time in the series. What exactly can you contribute that consistency to over the long haul, and especially as Steve talked about, the fact that the Busch Series as it is today, it's never been more competitive.
KENNY WALLACE: Well, I would say a mixture of things. The first thing was when I was Steven's age and I started -- Steven was racing earlier than I did, but I started racing at 22 because I was busy helping Rusty build his race cars.
The very first thing when I started was Dick Trickle told me one day and it hit me like a ton of bricks, that you must first finish to finish first. So in other words, if it's a 250-lap race at Martinsville, you can't be tearing your fenders off because you're going to need those at the end of the race. I've wrecked plenty of times on lap 50 and looked up and the guy I was racing with leading the race and it really pissed me off, you know. So that's biggest thing that has helped me.
And then the other thing I've learned is that if your car is not good that day, don't get into beating matches with people. Take the best finish you can get, and I learned that from the late great Dale Earnhardt. The reason Earnhardt was a 7-time champ was when his car was good, he would race you and, when his car was bad, he took the best finish he could get. I'm the same way. If I've got a really good car, I'm going to fight you for the lead. If I've got a really bad car, I'm going to get the best finish I can get without tearing my race car up.
THE MODERATOR: You're in the Top-10 again, have been for the last few weeks moving your way up from the start of the season. And working your way up there now, talk about the guys that are in the Top-10, we have three NASCAR Busch Series regular drivers in that group, Paul Menard, Johnny Sauter and yourself; talk about the overall competition and what it's taken to get it to the Top-10 in this 2006 season.
KENNY WALLACE: Well, the Busch Series is really exciting right now. It's the biggest and the best it's ever been. We go to Kentucky on a stand-alone event and sell out 70,000 people. So that's really inspiring. But then we just went to Bristol and there wasn't that many people there, so that was kind of confusing. I don't know what that was all about but I do know that everywhere we go, we've got a hell of a crowd.
Of course I've got as many Cup starts as do I Busch starts so I consider myself just an overall race car driver, and the Busch Series is where everybody wants to be right now. If they don't want to be there, I don't know why, but there's so many Cup teams, you know, it's not about the drivers. You know when you've got Roger Penske and Richard Childers and Roberts Yates and Rick Hendricks, every top-notch Cup team is the Busch Series now, and I just basically think that pretty much says it all.
THE MODERATOR: Steve, what does the rest of the 2006 season hold for you as far as running in the Busch Series and getting yourself prepared for next year?
STEVE WALLACE: Well, it holds, I've got about eight more races or so in the Busch Series, St. Louis to IRP and then we run Michigan and on and on. We run about four or five Arc races, left, too, in preparation for next year so. We're going to run Talladega either right at the end of the year in Arc until I get approved to go to Daytona during the Busch race. It's not full-time but I am going to run full-time for next year so real excited about that.
Q. There's been a lot of talk lately about a lack of give and take particularly on the Cup side, is it the same way in the Busch Series?
KENNY WALLACE: Yeah, there is, but the difference is that in the Busch Series, everybody is just trying to be a hero. I would say once you get from 15th, 18th on back, you know, you've got guys trying to fight for superiority, trying to get recognized.
And then in the Cup series you've got guys that are really hard headed and they want their space and they want respect. And that's the difference. In the Cup series, everybody wants respect because they are big-time. And the Busch Series, everybody just wants to be noticed because their careers are starting out. I understand what you're talking about. You know, you're talking probably about the turn four at Pocono.
Q. Talking about that, that and the incident with Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart in New Hampshire, what's your take on his behavior and his comments the last couple of week's?
KENNY WALLACE: Tony's?
KENNY WALLACE: I'll be straight up with you as I always am with everybody. Tony is a good friend of mine, you know, off of the racetrack, but there's no doubt that there's two Tony Stewarts. When he gets into a wreck, I'm like, oh, no, you know, because it's not the Tony I know. The Tony I know is the guy that is given $1 million to Victory Junction Camp and holding races at his dirt track and we drink a beer with at Paducah, Kentucky. The Tony I don't know is why he gets so damn mad. That's the Tony I don't know. Some people squeeze you up on the wall. It happens to me every other lap.
Clint Bowyer, you know, kind of -- Tony laid on his right rear quarter panel, that makes you loose as it is, and you know, then I just don't know why he reacts so harsh. That part I don't know -- I don't know why he is like that. I do know he's a super nice guy, though. But when he puts that helmet on, he's -- and I am, too. I'm a complete different person when I put my helmet on, but Tony is way different.
Q. When I talked to Steve last week, he said out of all his racing relatives, he thought personality-wise he's most like you. Do you agree with that and is that accurate?
KENNY WALLACE: Absolutely.
STEVE WALLACE: I told them I was your kid.
KENNY WALLACE: That's awesome, dude. (Laughter), it's too bad Steven has got to hear this, but I must tell the truth. I have a great deal of love for Steven. We're nephews and that's as close as you can get. He's just incredibly -- he's full of love and he is hyperactive, he has Tourettes; he's got all the stuff that I got that pisses people off right away. So people can't stand to be around both of us for very long at a time because I wore Kenny Schrader out my whole career, and then you know Steven could wear you out.
But he's just a sweetheart of a kid. I just enjoy having him around me. We just had him here at my house in St. Louis for about a week and a half. He went dirt racing with me. He's seen a side of me that he's never seen me before, going to dirt tracks. Whenever anybody has something not nice to say about Steven, I have to remind them that he's 18 years old and that he's a kid still and, you know, he's a lot like his father, too, though. And Charlie Chase, who was Rusty's best man at his wedding. Charlie Chase had to remind people in NASCAR Rusty's first year that Rusty was a diamond in the rough. And Steven is the same thing. Steven is a hell of a race car driver. But everything is all new, you know. He didn't know everything and a lot of the things Steven has got to find out on his own.
So I'm there for him and his dad is, too. It's easier for Steve to talk to me. Nobody can talk to their dad like they can their friends or their uncle. The end. (Laughing).
Q. Just wondered if Gateway favors any particular kind of driver and what do you need to do there to be successful?
KENNY WALLACE: I'll answer first because what you have to do to be successful; and favoring, Steve will run his first time there so he'll learn what needs to be successful. I don't think it does favor a particular driver but it does favor particular cars, though. Turns one and two are very tight corners, so you've got to have a lot of torque in your motor so. When you press on the gas, the car moves fast right away. You have to turn the wheel left. It's hard to run the car loose through one and two because the corner is so sharp.
So you know, you've got to have a lot of horsepower at this particular track because you lug the motor down so low. When you get down to turns three and four, it's like turns three and four at Phoenix where it's real wide, sweeping corners. Matter of fact, my brother, Rusty, used to test here at Gateway to get ready to go to Phoenix with his Cup car. What it takes to be successful is you've got to have good brakes on the car because you go flying down that front straightaway and because the corner is so sharp, you have to slow the car down. You've got to have good brakes and you've got to have a good handling car. Keep yourself clean and be there at the end.
Q. Steve, I was wondering last year you came up here and dad wrecked, and I know that was kind of a bummer with you guys there together man, what your thoughts were on that and really again going back to what your thoughts are oncoming here to Gateway and racing here, I don't know if you feel like it's home like maybe your dad and your uncles do?
STEVE WALLACE: Yeah I'm real excited about it. Gateway is definitely a cool racetrack. I was up there testing a couple weeks ago for it two days in preparation or the Arco race and for the Busch race. Our Arco car was real good I think we'll have a good shot to win that race. I definitely have a lot of fun going to St. Louis. I feeling like you know -- I was born in like Greensboro, North Carolina, so I never really went to St. Louis a bunch. But the past couple years I've been coming to town about five or six times a year, so I'm having a lot of fun going to St. Louis.
But yeah, definitely last year was definitely tough. You know, it was the Wallace family tribute down the 250 or whatever and dad got wrecked, and it was definitely kind of weird. But Mike finished second and Kenny ran good and it was overall a good weekend. But I'm real excited to come back and do some short track racing.
Q. Mike had a really good run last year and like you say, dad God wrecked and that was a bummer, man. Ken was talking about Tourettes and that's something that's got to be -- but it's got to be awesome, man, to be able to get out there and do this; give me background and thoughts on that because that's pretty cool, man.
STEVE WALLACE: I started racing when I was about 7 years old, go-karts, legend cars, Bendallaras (ph), late models, hooters Cup, Arco, Busch, you name, it I've done it. But we won a lot of big races, Snowball Derby, Bristol, we won all kinds of stuff and had a lot of fun so far.
But I've had Tourettes since, heck, I don't know, since I was about seven or eight years old. Like a lot of people where they have verbal Tourettes where they freak out and yell stuff and all I do is twitch my head and eyes a little bit. So it's not Tourettes like it is -- by like any means because when people say Tourettes, you know, people like think you're going to freak out and bite their arm or something.
KENNY WALLACE: (Laughing).
STEVE WALLACE: But definitely it ain't nothing like that.
Q. That's what's cool about it, man, and big props to you, man, absolutely awesome man, and Kenny like you say, man, being you're a TV personality man, and coming over to Browns town and running and Highland and running and coming back here, it's just been so cool to have you in this area, man, you've got to be proud of that, too, dude.
KENNY WALLACE: I just love racing. I'm not the type of guy that races one form of car. I like to do it all. I'm an All-American boy. I'll be on the lake with Steven in his boat and I'll go run my dirt car and then I'll go race NASCAR. I do it all.
Q. How cool is it going to be, the possibility that Gateway will do a little modification and possibly some day down the road a Cup race, man?
KENNY WALLACE: Well, you know, I always told them the racetrack was too long. And the reason it's too long is because they don't have enough land, so if they would make that racetrack like Richmond, they would really open up a lot of parking space and they would get everybody across the proper street bridge and it would be funner. I don't know why the straightaways are so long. When a straightaway is long, you just drive right down it, you know.
Q. Like a drag strip.
KENNY WALLACE: When you go to the Brickyard 400 you go, okay, I'm going down a long straightaway.
Q. I'm still going.
KENNY WALLACE: I'm still going and that's like Gateway, the straightaways are too long. If they make the track more like Rusty configured his new track at Newton, Iowa, it would probably give us probably 5,000 more acres and they could have more Arc parking and that would be a better chance for a Cup race.
Q. How is dad doing, man, doing a lot on air, how is he doing?
KENNY WALLACE: Steven or me?
Q. Either one.
KENNY WALLACE: Steven, you answer that.
Q. How is the dad doing this year, man? I've caught him on TV a little bit, man, being out of the circuit this year, how is he doing, man?
STEVE WALLACE: He's doing good, really annoying this year for some reason but other than that he's loving the TV deal, he's got a six-year contract so he'd better like it. He's got five more years to go. He's been trying out a lot with the NASCAR stuff and everything but he's really enjoying that.
Q. How weird is it to not have Rusty racing this year and how much has he changed since his retirement?
STEVE WALLACE: Answer, Herm.
KENNY WALLACE: Well, it's really odd not having him there and what's really strange about him is he really doesn't talk chassis any more. He's so used to talking like shops and springs, and I think it's really funny because he tells me all the time, he says it feels so good to not have to think about shocks and springs. You.
Know, he talks about his team all the time now. Keep thinking he's talking about his Busch team with Steven driving and here he is talking about his damn announcing team on him at ESPN up in the booth. He's still the same Rusty I know. He's still competitive. He'll make them jaws -- he bites down hard on his teeth and when his jaw starts twitching, that means he's pissed. He still does that.
But he just, man, he proved to everybody that he's not -- I can promise you Rusty is not going to be Terry Labonte or Bill Elliott. He's having a good time doing what he's doing. So that makes me happy for him.
Q. What are the expectations for this weekend? I know Kenny, you're raking for the points, Steven raking for the experience, what are the expectations this weekend for both of you?
STEVE WALLACE: My expectations are to win the Arco race, 100 percent. I found a lucky penny last night; and I went over to my Buddy's race shop, and he had one of those 8-balls where you shake it and you ask it a question and I asked if I was going to win the Arc race and it said yes.
I've been running good. I've been leading lapse, I've been qualifying good, and my goals are I'd like to win both races just like anybody other guy. So I don't care if you asked Brett Bodine or whoever, they want to win all the races. But like my expectations are so for surely dominate the Arco race and have good Top-5, Top-10 in the Arco race, or like in the Busch race for sure.
Q. Let Kenny borrow that 8-ball there.
KENNY WALLACE: I'd love to. My goals this week are to start out on Friday and go to victory lane with Steven. I'll be there right next to him because --
STEVE WALLACE: That would be fun.
KENNY WALLACE: Steven does a lot of things that are first and me and Rusty never won the Snowball Derby; Steven did. So Rusty and I and Mike have not won at Gateway, period. So we need to get a Wallace in victory lane there and Steven can do that. That's my first goal.
Of course my major goal is to have a chance to win. You know Mark Martin always said that; damn it, just give me a chance to win. It's going to be hard but really a Top-10 would be good for us right now where we're at in the points.
THE MODERATOR: Kenny and Steve, thank for taking the time to join us today. We appreciate it. We'll see you out at Gateway later this week. Best of luck to you guys on Saturday.
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