All-Star: Kenny Wallace Friday wake up call

Kenny Wallace, No. 78 Furniture Row Monte Carlo SS, was the guest of today's Nextel Wake-Up Call at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Wallace spoke with the media about campaigning for the Nextel fan vote for the All-Star Challenge, on what the All-Star race...

Kenny Wallace, No. 78 Furniture Row Monte Carlo SS, was the guest of today's Nextel Wake-Up Call at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Wallace spoke with the media about campaigning for the Nextel fan vote for the All-Star Challenge, on what the All-Star race means to drivers, on his focus on being a race car driver and other topics.

ON NEXTEL'S INVOLVEMENT IN THE SPORT: "Whenever I see yellow nowadays the first thing you think of is Nextel but it is just different. It doesn't bother any race car driver on the race track. There's no distraction but when you come in the tunnel it's a complete different look. As a race car driver you don't really notice it."

ON CAMPAIGNING FOR THE NEXTEL FAN VOTE FOR THE ALL-STAR CHALLENGE AND THE FAN RESPONSE FOR FAR: "First of all I will be extremely honest, that's the way I always am. This whole NASCAR fan vote thing is because of one and two people - I'm lucky that they're here and I'm going to embarrass them - my wife Kim and my business manager Alison Marshall. He has no idea this is totally by coincidence, J.R. has helped me. But the people that got it started are my wife and Alison. I want to race my way into the Open because I'm a racer. This is my 21st year in racing. I'm slightly embarrassed, completely humble and then I told Rusty I said 'Aw man, I'm embarrassed about this. They're trying to vote me in that darn thing.' Then Rusty straightened me out. He goes 'You crazy Herman? You know how much that darn thing pays to start?' I'm like 'Oh, oh yeah money.' I got a bill in the mail the other day for five hundred dollars. I'm like 'What's this for?' That's buttons. I'm like 'How come the darn fan club isn't paying for this?' (laughs) It's been really awesome. So I love my wife and I want to thank her. She's the one that got it started and Allison Marshall helped her, Brenda Hay, everybody at the fan club, of course SPEED TV, all my friends, John Roberts, Jimmy Spencer and that crazy guy from the west coast now Riki Rachtman. The biggest message I want to send out is I'm a racer and I'm humbled and quite thankful they all started this. It's like the greatest Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia, his music wasn't very good but they packed the darn stadium every concert. I don't win a lot of races but I do love racing and I am a race car driver."

ON WHAT THIS RACE MEANS TO DRIVERS: "This race is everything. This is the All-Star race. It's no different than Major League Baseball. It's a huge deal. I can only compare it to that because people want to be in anything that's an all star. For Nextel and everybody at NASCAR to agree on a popular fan vote that just reminds me of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is so popular. I hear people go 'Oh my gosh if he's not in the Daytona 500 next year we'll have to shut auto racing down, by popular demand by popular vote' so in my way that's the way I look at it. If NASCAR and Nextel want to have a popular vote for their all-star race then I think it's just incredibly awesome because we want our most popular driver in the Daytona 500 next year and hopefully he'll join a team that has points but I'm sure the story will be next year if Junior doesn't have a guaranteed number that will put him in the 500, I think all winter long all the writers will be going 'What happens if he blows a tire? What happens if his transmission breaks?' So that's a popular vote, right? The popular vote for the 500 is God we've got to have Junior in the race. So I compare it to the Nextel All-Star race. If they want a popular vote for somebody to be in it I think it's great, not because I'm running for it but it's good. We've been doing it for two years running, this is the third year. My other brother Kenny Schrader was the first one in and then of course Kyle Petty last year. It looks like it's a battle royale this year. The third year everybody had a wake up call (thinking) 'Oh popular vote.' So Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards, there's a lot of great car drivers (in the vote), Robby Gordon, we'll just have to wait and see. It'll be a barn burner there towards the end of the Open tomorrow night."

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT NEXTEL OPEN? "Well the Open is bumping the All-Star race right in the rear end because what's happening is now that we have this series that is incredibly crazily competitive - 49 to 51 cars showing up every week. I don't have it in front of me but if you look at who's in the Open it's a little silly, these are All-Star drivers they just haven't won enough races. It used to be where if you won one race a year ago you were in the challenge. Now you're not. So there's guys in the Open that you cannot believe are in the Open and that's just where our sport is headed. You got like one last week to get in the All-Star race and that might not even guarantee you."

ON REMINDING MEDIA THAT HE'S A RACE CAR DRIVER AND WHAT ELSE HE COULD BE: "(Laughs) A crazy son of a (expletive). That's about it. That's a joke around the SPEED TV set. That joke started at SPEED TV because I've done TV. I was interviewed on Wind Tunnel.really Dave Despain started it. About four years ago I was on Dave Despain's Wind Tunnel and there was a lot of people thinking should Kenny Wallace be on Wind Tunnel because Wind Tunnel is only reserved for people like Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi. So Dave Despain said to me 'Kenny Wallace, what are you? Are you a race car driver? Or do you do TV? What is it?' So that's where that started. Then everybody at SPEED would go 'Race car driver.' SPEED will give me these deals; these itineraries and I'd go 'Guys, I've got to practice at that time.' (And they would remember that) oh I'm a race car driver, so that's where the joke started."

IF YOU WERE A FAN AND HAD A VOTE, WHO WOULD YOU VOTE FOR? WHY HAVEN'T WE SEEN BETTER RESULTS FROM THE DRIVERS THAT DROVE IN THE OPEN? "It's getting better. Guys that win the Open are running in the top five in the All-Star race so the results are there. It's been more competitive.

"If I were to vote somebody in, it would probably be.Bobby Labonte is in the All-Star race because he's a champ. He's my closest comrade as far as racing goes. It'd probably be Carl Edwards or Clint Bowyer because they're both Missouri boys. They're both nice to me."

IF THIS RACE WERE TO EVER LEAVE CHARLOTTE HOW DIFFICULT WOULD IT BE FOR ALL THESE TEAMS TO GO TO A FAR AWAY TRACK? "I think there's a fine line that teams walk, a very fine line with today's money with Goodyear and how much the tires are a piece. The days are over where we go 'Hey, let's just go run that race.' Well hold on, how much will it cost us to go run that race, a quarter of a million dollars? Then you've got to start taking a look at it but if you have a budget you simply are a racer and you race wherever they hold a race. It's a fine like you walk nowadays because of the cost.'

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT TERRY LABONTE BEING CHOSEN TO TEST FOR THE BUSCH SERIES RACE IN MONTREAL IN A RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING CAR? WHAT DO YOU NEED FROM HIM IN ORDER TO GET READY FOR AUGUST? "I think it's interesting when we went to Mexico City Richard Childress Racing was picked with Jeff Burton and Richard Childress Racing was picked with Terry Labonte. This is news to me (about Terry Labonte testing) but obviously NASAR has a rapport with Childress to help find out new road course configurations. I think it's neat that NASCAR keeps some of the drivers that are just a little bit retired. I'm sure my brother Rusty could go up there and finish in the top 10 just a year or two after retirement. So Terry is a good choice. I'm hoping that they'll open up some of that information to the NASCAR Busch Series to keep it the Busch Series for some of the guys that don't know how to figure gears out so maybe NASCAR will think about something like that."

ON THE OPEN RACE: "I think what's interesting about the Open is I think of how our sport is. I think of Jeff Burton. He's really good now but for the last five years he's been in the Open and the story's been what's wrong with Jeff Burton he's struggling. In just months he's now a hero and in the All-Star race. I think he's been in the Open for the last four years because he hadn't won in five years. Is that right? That's pretty incredible that one year changes a driver's career and now he's back to being an All-Star."

IF YOU GOT IN THE NO.8 CAR COULD YOU BE IN THE ALL-STAR RACE NEXT YEAR? "I think all of us drivers are humble. Robby Gordon is full of confidence and so am I and Robby was one of my biggest supporters when I was in that Pennzoil car. Robby would come up and say 'Wow, equipment matters.' And I said yeah. The drivers that struggled with. are they getting the job done in 2001 when I was driving that Pennzoil car and I was qualifying in the top five or top 10 every week or sitting on the pole in Rockingham. They looked at a driver like me and they're like 'Holy crap, Kenny Wallace just jumped in that Pennzoil car and is running top 10 every week. That really helped me mentally and changed a lot of people's thoughts on me. When I got in that car I thought 'What in the heck have I been driving the last five years?' Man, you just never know. It's like why did Jack Roush ask me to drive the car at Phoenix and I'd start dead last and finish 16th. How good is my talent? I don't know. What does Teresa Earnhardt think of my talent? I know we're friends. I know I'm 43 years old. That doesn't matter to me. I'm 43 going on 33. So that's always a loaded question. There's just so many variables. I really appreciate you asking me something like that. That makes me feel good and I think I can get the job done in any car but when will I ever get an opportunity again like I did when Steve Park got hurt. It was incredible for me to run up front like that. I don't know. I read on Jayski they got Tim Andrews testing. I don't know what that was all about. Will DEI go the young route again (or) will they try to hire somebody nobody's ever heard of? We'll see."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Steve Park , Kyle Petty , Jimmy Spencer , Kenny Wallace , Robby Gordon , Carl Edwards , Clint Bowyer , Jack Roush , Roger Penske , Tim Andrews
Teams Richard Childress Racing