MOORESVILLE, N.C., (Nov. 29, 2000) - "A million and one times." That's how many times Kenny Wallace has been asked why he left a veteran operation to join the Eel River Racing team, who is still searching for a primary sponsor for its...
MOORESVILLE, N.C., (Nov. 29, 2000) - "A million and one times."
That's how many times Kenny Wallace has been asked why he left a veteran operation to join the Eel River Racing team, who is still searching for a primary sponsor for its sophomore campaign in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.
"I went to a team who clearly wanted me to drive their race cars," said Wallace, who signed a three-year agreement to drive the No. 27 Eel River Racing Pontiacs beginning in 2001. "I took that chance because I feel that I will run better with (crew chief/co-owner) Barry Dodson and the Eel River team. I made the change knowing that we were looking for a sponsor, and to this day I'm not concerned about that.
"A lot of people get wrapped up in money and let it hinder their performance," he continued. "Money isn't everything. It comes down to performance. I'm 37 years old and I feel a certain urgency to do more with the time I have left as a Winston Cup driver. Eel River Racing is the best place for me to do what I want to do in Winston Cup - and that's win races.
"Eel River Racing made a commitment to me," explained the veteran driver. "To not honor that commitment they would have to completely shut down and lay off more than 50 people. That's not going to happen.
"When I was younger, I probably would have lost some sleep over it, but now that I'm older I'm more worried about performing. I know now that Eel River Racing has an entire staff of business people who will find sponsorship, so I leave that worry to them.
Wallace, known for his outgoing personality and characteristic laugh, views himself an asset in the boardroom as well as on the race track. "I like to take care of people. I can make sure my sponsor and their customers have a good time at the race track and feel like they're a special part of the team. I can sell a product."
"Probably the most difficult part (about not having secured a sponsor) is the fact that society wants brand recognition. Even my wife, who runs my fan club, wants to know who our sponsor's going to be so that she can get working on items for the 2001 fan club package. Everybody just wants something to identify with."
"Look at Johnny Benson. He left one of the biggest names in NASCAR to go to an unsponsored team that was about 40th in points. Here he is one year later, 13th in the points and ready to run 2001 with one of the biggest sponsors in the sport. I'm willing to take that gamble."
Wallace, 37, brings ten years of NASCAR Winston Cup experience to Eel River Racing. He has five top-five finishes and 22 top-10 performances in 219 career starts.
Eel River Racing is headquartered in Mooresville, N.C., located just 30 miles north of Charlotte.