Kenny Wallace never was a NASCAR champion, but during his long career, he was one of the series’ most popular drivers.
Born in a racing family
Kenneth Wallace, which is his full name, was born in St.Louis, Missouri, on 23rd of August, 1963. His NASCAR career lasted for 27 years and during that time, Kenny has won many races, but never managed to take a championship title. Wallace started his career as a mechanic for his father’s race cars and brother's racing team. When he was 19, Kenny had a racing debut at the Illinois Street Stock State Championship and he'd won the race! That victory was a dashboard for his racing career, so he entered the American Speed Association, becoming the 1986 Rookie of the Year.
Kenny Wallace debuted in NASCAR in 1988
NASCAR debut in 1988
The youngest of three Wallace brothers had to wait for a debut in NASCAR until 1988, when Dale Earnhardt gave him a chance to drive the #8 Goodwrench Chevrolet at the Martinsville Speedway. Kenny did well on his debut and finished 11th in the race. The following year, Kenny became a full-time driver, racing in his brother’s car in the Busch Series. He did an excellent job and deserved his Rookie of the Year award after finishing sixth overall.
Video : Kenny Wallace remembers his beginnings, and is grateful to the world of motorsport
Kenny Wallace - 1991 Busch Series runner-up
At North Wilkesboro Speedway in 1990, Kenny Wallace competed in Winston Cup for the first time driving a Pontiac, but the debut wasn’t memorable as he finished 26th after a crash in the late stage of the race. Meanwhile, in the Busch Series, Wallace again did well and finished 7th in the Drivers’ championship. The following year was even better and probably the best in Kenny’s career. He was the 1991 Busch Series runner-up losing to Bobby Labonte by 74 points. For the first time, he won the race that year and finally, he was voted the NASCAR Busch Series Most Popular driver. In 1992, Wallace scored his third career win but failed to repeat the success from the previous year, as he was sixth at the end of the season.
Kenny Wallace was the 1991 Busch Series runner-up
Most popular driver in the Series
In 1993, Herman, which is the nickname Wallace earned early in his career, for the first time drove the Sprint Cup Series for the full-time. Despite doing relatively well, finishing three times in Top 10, Wallace lost the place for the following season and returned to the Busch Series, driving a Ford for FILMAR Racing. At the end of the year, Kenny was fourth overall after scoring three race wins. In 1994, for the second time in his career, Wallace was voted the most popular driver in the series.
Until the end of the century, Wallace’s career was marked with many ups and downs. He scored several wins and Top 10 finishes, but never was close to the top of the Drivers’ championship. In 1999, he left FILMAR Racing to join Andy Petree Racing, but after two pretty disappointing seasons, they parted ways.
The first win after seven years
For the 2001 campaign, Wallace signed with Eel River Racing to drive their Chevy in the Cup Series, while in the Busch, he became a full-time driver of Innovative Motorsport. Again, results in the Cup weren’t good, so he decided to leave the team and to concentrate on driving in the Busch Series. After seven years, Kenny Wallace managed to win a race at the North Carolina Speedway. That was his last victory, but again, it wasn’t enough for something better than the 10th place at the end of the season.
Kenny Wallace, 2009 Nationwide car at Milwaukee
In the following year, he moved up to the 7th place even though he hadn’t won a race. Wallace managed to achieve the same result in 2005 and 2011. The year of 2005 was probably his last good season in NASCAR as he had scored five Top 5 finishes and 11 Top 10 places. That year was also financially most successful in Kenny’s career as he earned $1,275,584 and for the third time, he was the Most popular driver in the Series.
Kenny's last days in NASCAR
Wallace’s career was declining and he rarely was in the Top 10. In 2008, he drove his last races in the Sprint Cup but continued to compete in the Xfinity Series. His last noteworthy year was 2011 when he clinched one finish in Top 5, adding 11 places in Top 10 to secure the 7th place at the end of the season.
Finally, in 2015, Kenny Wallace decided to retire from NASCAR. His last NASCAR race was at Iowa with Joe Gibbs Racing. During his long career, Kenny competed in more than 900 NASCAR races, scoring a total of nine wins, 204 Top 10 finishes, and 13 pole positions. After retiring from NASCAR, Wallace remained active in racing, competing in dirt races.
Kenny Wallace lives in Concord, North Carolina, with his wife Kim and three daughters.