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“I feel like I’ve started a new lease on life,” said Wallace. “I’m very excited about this new deal, but at the same time I'm staying humble. Probably 10 years ago I'd be jumping up and down over this. But I’m at a point right now in my career where I feel like I’m on a mission. There's a sense of urgency. I feel like I’ve got to get a win in the next year or two.” A win in the ultra-competitive NASCAR Winston Cup Series is the number one priority on Wallace’s list, because the youngest of three Wallace brothers is used to winning.
His father, Russ, was one of the Midwest’s most successful short track drivers, and his two older brothers, Rusty and Mike, are also prolific racers. Winning races is a Wallace tradition, and Kenny has certainly carried on the family heritage.
In his first stint ever behind the wheel of a race car in 1982, Kenny Wallace won the Street Stock State Championship in Illinois. After turning wrenches on older brother Rusty’s race cars for a few years, Kenny returned to driving by competing in the American Speed Association (ASA) in 1986. He immediately found success by garnering Rookie of the Year honors and finishing 11th in points.
Kenny Wallace spent two more years in the ASA ranks operating on a shoe-string budget, as his wife Kim worked two jobs just to pay the bills.
“Those were some tough times,” recalls Kenny Wallace. “Kim was working and I was traveling and racing. Sometimes I would sleep in the car just to save a few dollars.”
By 1989, Wallace’s perseverance and hard work began to pay off, as Rusty picked Kenny to drive for his newly formed NASCAR Busch Series, Grand National Division team. Together, they won two races in three seasons.
With his eyes set on Winston Cup, Wallace joined Team SABCO in 1992. They competed in the Busch Series for one year, collecting one win and two poles before moving up to the Winston Cup level in 1993 in search of rookie accolades. Success was tough to find however, and Kenny Wallaceleft the team at season’s end.
“I learned a valuable lesson there,” said Kenny Wallace. “This is a team sport and we just weren’t a team. Everyone needs to work together in order to be successful.”
Kenny Wallace returned to the Busch Series in 1994 with FILMAR Racing. Over the next three years, they tallied five wins, 19 top-five finishes and 26 top-10 finishes in the Busch Series. In 1995, the team ran a 15-race Busch Series schedule and a limited Winston Cup effort in preparation for a full assault on the Winston Cup circuit in 1996 with backing from Square D.
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