News & Media


Year in Review: Louder than his words, Wallace's actions on track prove successful

December 23, 2011, Mark Aumann, NASCAR.com

Year in Review: Wallace's top-10 finishes in 2011 yields best year in six seasons

Never shy about giving his opinion on any topic, Kenny Wallace is easily one of the chattiest drivers in the garage area. With thousands of followers on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter -- plus the fans who watch his antics on television -- Wallace's boisterous personality is well-known and well-loved.

But in 2011, Wallace's actions on the track spoke louder than his words. With 11 top-10 finishes, including a season-best fifth at Richmond, Wallace finished seventh in the Nationwide Series points -- his best points finish in six seasons.

2011 statistics

Wins 0
Top-fives 1
Top-10s 11
Poles 0
DNFs 4
Laps Led 9
Avg. Start 16.1
Avg. Finish 15.8

Oh, and not only that, but with his 13th-place finish at Texas, Wallace set a series record with his 520th career start, eclipsing the mark previously held by Jason Keller.

And what made this season more impressive -- and definitely satisfying from a personal standpoint -- was that Wallace achieved it all with a one-car operation.

"It was important for me to get back to being competitive," Wallace said.

Things to smile about

Wallace bounced back from a 28th-place finish to record back-to-back top-10s at Phoenix and Las Vegas, propelling him into the top 10 in the points, where he remained for the rest of the season.

The team hit its stride at the midway point of the year. Wallace finished seventh at Daytona in July, followed by a pair of sixth-place finishes at Kentucky and New Hampshire, a 10th at Nashville, 12th at Indianapolis and then another seventh at Iowa.

But his best finish of the year came in September at Richmond. Wallace qualified fifth and was running lap times quicker than the rest of the field for much of the first half of the race. However, Wallace got caught behind slower traffic after a green-flag pit stop and was able to rally back for his first top-five finish since 2008.

Reasons to frown

After his seventh-place run at Iowa, Wallace was just three points behind sixth-place Jason Leffler. But the next four races would thwart any momentum Wallace had hoped to carry from that point.

He retired with overheating issues at Watkins Glen, resulting in a 32nd-place finish. He survived a crazy day at Montreal, recording a 16th-place finish. But he wound up running over a piece of debris and crashing into the wall at Bristol, which left him 36th. And his bad luck continued with a transmission failure three laps from the finish and a 19th at Atlanta.

Wallace clinched no worse than seventh in the points after Phoenix, but hoped to finish out the year with a strong run at Homestead. Instead, Wallace wrecked on the frontstretch with 10 laps remaining and wound up 33rd.

On a personal note, Wallace's father Russ -- not only Kenny's mentor but his inspiration -- died in November.

"Let me be very clear when I say this: When I was growing up, all I wanted to be was a superstar race car driver. I wanted to be like my dad," Kenny Wallace said.

Looking into the crystal ball

Wallace enters 2012 with the same team and sponsors. The question is whether next season will be his last as a full-time driver. He hinted about that this fall.

Wallace admits the idea of retiring used to bother him, particularly when many people admire him more for his abilities behind the camera than behind the wheel.

"It really bothered me that people thought of me just as a TV guy," Wallace said. "I've had literally not hundreds but thousands of people tell me how good I am on TV, and I've struggled with it my whole life. I'm good at something I don't care about being good at.

"And now, at 48 years old, I'm very grateful. Now I know my place in life. It doesn't bother me like it used to. It used to tear me up, but now I'm almost there. I would say I'm 90 percent OK with it and I've come a long way -- because I used to be 100 percent not OK with it."