Kenny Wallace won the first race he ever entered. It was 1982, and the youngest member of the racing Wallace family, a longtime mechanic and crew member for his brothers Rusty and Mike, had a shot at driving a racecar of his own in the Illinois Street Stock State Championship. Kenny’s win in that race would be the first of many in his racing career. About 31 years later, Kenny joined an elite group of drivers when he made his historic 900th start at Chicagoland Speedway.
Born in St. Louis, Missouri on August 23, 1963, Kenny is the youngest of three boys, and racing was a household reality before any of the boys could wheel a car. Dad Russ Wallace was a winning race car driver on dirt and asphalt, and in part it was Russ’s early success that earned Kenny his familiar nickname, “Herman.” Russ won over 400 races in those days, and as often is the case in racing, winning a lot made him unpopular among a number of fans. When people would talk bad about his dad, Kenny would retaliate. Lake Hill Speedway track promoter Bob Miller noticed Kenny’s boisterous behavior and started calling him “Herman,” after a mischievous cartoon character named Herman the German. The nickname has stuck through Kenny’s rise through the racing ranks.
That rise began as a mechanic for oldest brother Rusty’s homegrown race team. They raced across the Midwest on the local circuits and in the ASA ranks, sometimes arriving late for practice on Friday nights because Kenny had to finish high school for the day before the team could leave for the races.
After winning that first race in 1982, Kenny decided that his place in racing was in the driver’s seat. That day was a preview of things to come. In 1986, Kenny joined the ASA ranks winning Rookie of the Year honors.
In September of 1988, Dale Earnhardt gave Kenny the seat for his first-ever NASCAR start. He finished seventh in his first Nationwide Series start at Martinsville, Virginia. The following year, Kenny raced the full Nationwide Series schedule in a car owned by brother Rusty, earning the 1989 Rookie of the Year award and finishing sixth in driver point standings. Kenny’s Nationwide Series accomplishments include nine wins, ten poles, and nine seasons in the top ten in driver points.
Kenny has over 425 Nationwide starts, making him only the second driver with this distinction. Kenny is the only driver to have won the Nationwide Series Most Popular Driver Award three times, in 1991, 1994 and 2006.
Kenny also has over 340 starts in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He has grabbed three poles, six top-five, and 27 top-ten finishes, including three career high second-place runs. Kenny’s most well known finish probably came when he pushed the late great Dale Earnhardt to his final Cup victory at Talladega in 2000 in a thrilling last lap shootout. Kenny also has two Budweiser Shootouts to his credit. In 1998, Kenny and his brother Rusty Wallace staged a thrilling one-two finish on the last lap with Kenny pushing Rusty across the checkers for the win. In 2002 Kenny finished ninth in the Shootout.
Kenny has also found success in the world of television. He is the co-host of two programs for SPEED TV each week; NASCAR RaceDay, which airs before the Sprint Cup race each week, and NASCAR Victory Lane, which extends post-race coverage. With Kenny’s competitive battles on the racetrack and popularity on television, he has become one of the most sought after drivers in NASCAR racing today for sponsor endorsements and speaking engagements.
Kenny Wallace is a driver that is well respected by owners, drivers and sponsors throughout the garage area. In 2008 Kenny Wallace drove for Jay Robinson Racing in the #28 U.S. Border Patrol Chevrolet Monte Carlo. The highlight of the year was a last lap battle for the win in Memphis, TN with Carl Edwards and David Reutimann, with Kenny finishing third. The team ended the year on a strong upswing. In 2009, Kenny was back in familiar colors of the #28 U.S. Border Patrol Chevrolet Impala for Jay Robinson Racing as he competed for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Championship. In 2010, Kenny continued to run a full schedule with Jay Robinson before making a switch to RAB racing in 2011. RAB racing put Kenny in the driver’s seat of the #29 in 2011. Kenny proved to be a good choice and he brought home 11 top-ten finishes that year. His best finish being 5th at Richmond. In 2012 and 2013, Kenny continued to drive for RAB racing and in 2013 he achieved his 900th career start at the Nationwide Chicagoland race. (Click here for more on this accomplishment!) Today, Kenny is still with RAB racing’s #29 in the Nationwide series and absolutely loves it when he has the opportunity to get out on that track. But, Kenny is not the only one who loves it. His legions of loyal fans love to see him out on the track just as much!
Kenny is not only an asphalt race car driver. He is the winner of the Tony Stewart 2005 Super Late Model Charity Race “Prelude To The Dream” at the Eldora Speedway “on dirt”. On almost any weekend, you can find Kenny getting back to the roots of short track racing in his #36 Jegs dirt modified. He just may be tearing it up at a local dirt track near you! Check out his dirt track racing schedule!
Kenny Wallace Fast Facts
Date of Birth: August 23, 1963
Height: 5’ 11” Weight: 172
Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri
Resides: Concord, North Carolina
Wife: Kim Wallace (high-school sweetheart) Kenny and Kim will celebrate their 30th Wedding Anniversary on June 23, 2014
Children: Brooke (27), Brandy (25), Brittany (23)
Parents: Russ and Judy Wallace
Brothers: Rusty and Mike Wallace
Favorite food: pork chops, Oriental chicken salad
Favorite sports team: St. Louis Cardinals
Favorite band(s)/music: Aerosmith, Nelly, Patsy Cline
Favorite movie: The Green Mile
Hobbies: Spending time with family, racing dirt cars
Number of years racing (professional): 28 years
Racing role-model: Dick Trickle
Track you most want to win at: the next one
Favorite track: the next one
Most memorable racing experience: 2001 Talladega race, pushing Dale Earnhardt to his final win
What do you like most about racing? Chance of winning each weekend