News & Media


Six Pack: Wallace's victory reaffirms driver's popularity

October 30, 2011, Joe Menzer, NASCAR.com

Wallace glad his Talladega Truck victory was more well-liked than his burnout

Mike Wallace, who won last Saturday's Coca-Cola 250 at Talladega Superspeedway in his first Camping World Truck Series start since 2009, answers this week's six questions.

1. How did it come about that you got this substitute ride in the No. 2 Chevrolet for Kevin Harvick Inc.?

"When I left the race track on Saturday night and turned my phone on as I was walking to my car, it was funny because the text message thing just kept going off and off and off. Finally when it quit, there were 168 text messages and there were 30 voicemail messages."

--MIKE WALLACE

Wallace: I was in the Toledo airport with my daughter, Chrissy, and [team co-owner] Kevin Harvick called. He said [scheduled driver] Elliott Sadler's wife was about to have a baby and that Elliott wanted to stick around [his Virginia home], so he wanted to know if I would be interested and available to drive one of his trucks at Talladega. I thought about it for about half a second and said yes.

He said, 'Well, let me check with all our sponsors and make sure they're OK with it. But it shouldn't be a problem and we'd love to have you drive the truck for us at Talladega.' I told him I appreciated that, and I really am thankful to Kevin and [KHI co-owner] DeLana [Harvick] for the opportunity.

2. How did it make you feel that they thought so highly of you at your age [52] when you hadn't won in any of NASCAR's top three national touring series since getting to Victory Lane in a Nationwide race in July of 2004?

Wallace: One thing that made me feel really good was just that his organization chose and called me. There is a long list of other drivers they could have asked. People would be standing in line who would love to drive for them.

I knew Bruce Cook [KHI crew chief on the No. 2 truck], whom I had worked with at Germain Racing. We were on a charter out of Concord [N.C.] and I had joked with him. [Ron] Hornaday had just won Kentucky and I told Bruce, 'Man, I would love to run in one of those trucks just one time.' I knew it was great equipment, and that it would be a great shot to prove that I can still drive these race cars. Unfortunately, people doubt your ability if you aren't winning -- and I hadn't won in a while.

This was such a big opportunity. It almost reminds me of the big break I got from Roger Penske back in 2001 when I got to drive the Mobil 1 car [in the Cup Series] for the last eight races of the season. Even though I didn't win a race, I finished second once and led laps -- and it helped prolong my career, I believe. I hope this turns out to be the same deal.

3. How many congratulatory texts and phone calls did you receive?

Wallace: I know when I turned my phone off for the start of the race, I had 14 text messages and my voicemail, which holds 30 [messages] was open. There was nobody on it. When I left the race track on Saturday night and turned my phone on as I was walking to my car, it was funny because the text message thing just kept going off and off and off. Finally when it quit, there were 168 text messages and there were 30 voicemail messages.

And the messages, who they came from, awed me probably more than anything. I mean, there was a message on there from Jimmie Johnson -- five-time champion Jimmie Johnson. There were messages from Tony Stewart, Eddie Wood, Ray Evernham, my brother [Kenny Wallace], of course, along with people from NASCAR like [senior vice president of racing operations] Steve O'Donnell. It was cool that those people would take the time, whether it took them one minute or five minutes, to type a text message. It meant a lot to me.

4. You mentioned one brother. How about both of your brothers?

Wallace: Yeah, well, one brother left me a text message and the other one called me. Kenny left me a text message and we also talked Saturday night. Rusty called me [Sunday] and talked to me for quite some time about how proud he was of me, how happy he was for me that we won, and how he knows how much it means.

5. It's one of those stories where you couldn't write a script any better, right?

Wallace: My daughters Lindsey and Chrissy and my son Matt, all three of our kids, they orchestrated a deal where when we [him and wife Carla, who were celebrating their wedding anniversary] landed back in Concord on Saturday night, they had a group of our closest friends there and they already had put together a video montage of what happened in the race. I don't know where they got the clips so fast; I guess off the television. But they had that playing and then the whole race replaying. It was very emotional, to be very honest with you.

It seemed like there were a lot of people who enjoyed this win just as much or more than I did. Well, not more than I did -- that's just not going to happen. But just as much as I did, anyway.

6. Doesn't that just reaffirm how popular you are with the fans and in the garage?

Wallace: It sure seemed that way to me. My son Matt celebrated his 16th birthday [Monday] and we went to lunch and were talking about the race. And he was asking me, 'Why didn't you do this or that after the race?' I said, 'Matt, I was just so relieved. I spun around slow. I didn't know what I was supposed to do.'

I didn't want to do a big, smoky burnout because the truck gets lost in all the smoke. Nobody ever sees you. It's just a big cloud of smoke. Of course [former Cup champion Alan] Kulwicki got us thinking all those years ago about taking the backwards lap. So I took the checkered flag and was riding down the frontstretch backward -- and the fans were going wild. They were up on the fence. It was like they were enjoying it as much as I was. So I stopped on the tri-oval and got out and sort of did a salute to them to say thank you. I didn't know what to do and I guess it was pretty lame the way I did it, but I was just overwhelmed.

So I did a crappy burnout, but at least I didn't tear up the motor or any of the tires or anything like that. I didn't celebrate that much. And when I turned around and started to go down pit road toward Victory Lane, Hornaday ran out there and I about ran over him. I was waving to him out the window and let go of the steering wheel, and when I looked at it on television later, I about clipped him off at the left leg. That wouldn't have been too cool. So instead I grabbed him later in Victory Lane and said, 'I know guys aren't supposed to do this, but I'm going to give you a hug.'