Friday, October 14, 2011

In Praise Of Kenny Wallace

Veteran fans may remember Kenny Wallace from his early days on TV when SpeedVision started the little Monday night NASCAR program that lasted for over a decade. Wallace was not a regular, but rather someone who came in as needed and provided his opinion on, as host Allen Bestwick would say, topics of the day.

Wallace seemed right at home filling-in for Kenny Schrader, Johnny Benson or Michael Waltrip. His personality made him an instant hit on TV and his candid comments were often worth repeating. It seemed his star was on the rise.

Friday night, Wallace will start in Nationwide Series race number 519 as a driver. This start ties him for the most in that series with veteran Jason Keller. Wallace first raced in Charlotte in May of 1989, an event that he won. Those days are long gone.

This week in Charlotte, Wallace told the media he is tired of the sponsor grind and will probably race just one more year in the Nationwide Series. One last try to inch his way up and contend. The one-man band of Wallace will have to deal with the big dollar operations of Danica Patrick and Travis Pastrana, among others.

This weekend the Wallace Toyota Camry is a fan car. His supporters paid twenty dollars apiece to have their names on the race car. The primary sponsor is the University of Northwestern Ohio. In addition, Wallace is eligible for the $100 thousand cash bonus offered by the Nationwide Dash 4 Cash contest. It's going to be a big night.

Younger fans know Wallace in a different way. His weekly appearances on the RaceDay and Victory Lane programs on SPEED offer a very different TV personality than the one seen many years ago. Whether sitting next to Jimmy Spencer, Michael Waltrip or his current partner Kyle Petty, Wallace is over-the-top and has the volume button firmly on loud.

In the truest sense of the word, Wallace is a hustler. Whether doing a commercial to keep his family traveling in an RV or expounding on the virtues of ethanol, Wallace is always paying the bills. A search on Google of his pictures finds him posed endlessly with fans at functions large and small, but always working hard.

Wallace is only 48 years old, but this year he looks a lot older. Explaining that he took the advice of longtime friend Mark Martin to heart, Wallace dropped twenty pounds through diet and exercise before the season. It left him with a very different look on TV.

Like most NASCAR personalities who work both sides of the fence, Wallace has his critics for his unwavering support of everything NASCAR in his "TV mode." Perhaps that emotion is softened by recalling the RaceDay trio several years ago in white wigs and judge's robes holding racing court. Wallace also expertly table danced for fans during commercial breaks.

These days, it seems quite clear that Wallace intends to eventually move his family back to his beloved St. Louis area and effectively retire. He has commented on this topic many times over the last two years and seems to be at peace with his plans.

Most TDP readers know and TV viewers can see that SPEED is once again going through a wholesale change of programming, on-air personalities and direction. Shows like Trackside, The SPEED Report and Victory Lane have already been affected.

In some ways, the TV business is even more fickle than racing. Through it all, Wallace has quietly kept his RaceDay and Victory Lane franchise intact in much the same way that he has clawed and fought to keep himself on the track. For well over a decade, he has been successful at both.

Friday is a big day for the entire Wallace family. It just might be the final marquee moment on the track and on TV for this longtime racer, unabashed family man and proud St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan.

On this day, I rise in praise of Kenny Wallace. Your hard work and determination have not gone unnoticed.

We would appreciate your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.


Roland said...

Nice to see some praise for Herman. His TV work is worthy of criticism for sure. But of all the other opinionated nascar spokesmen on TV I respect him the most. He is not the voice of the fans like he thinks he is, but he sure is a fan like the rest of us. Ive been in the crowd for Raceday during some table dances. He brings energy that would otherwise be missing. The man can rally the troops. And while I dont agree with him on much, he does make it interesting and fun. I have a feeling after his racing days are done we still wont hear the last of Herman. He'll be on TV somewhere, or racing the dirt car. It has been so good to see him do well this year in Nationwide. If he could limit the goofiness on Raceday and be somewhat serious I wouldnt mind keeping him around.

Anonymous said...

Sorry JD. I will not say anything bad, but I am glad to see him go. Unfortunately, we will probably get someone even worse. MC

Anonymous said...

When I started watching NASCAR and affiliated programs, I looked forward to hearing Kenny's comments each week. His passion, knowledge and delight in all things NASCAR were contagious. He, Kyle and John Roberts have been interesting this year and I hope SPEED leaves this program alone.

Anonymous said...

Love Kenny Wallace; am not looking
forward to Cousin Carl, (eddie haskell) on tv, will be using the volume button to turn him down. Feel he is being rewarded for bad behavior; wonder what his "victims" think?Brad, Kenseth, Harvick, Junior. Shame on you

Anonymous said...

I refuse to listen to Kenny Wallace. I think he's a buffoon. I'll give him credit for being a hustler. 500+ starts in Busch/Nationwide with only several wins. He's never won a Cup race but will talk down to the viewers for hours with his opinions. We'd probably fall over if we knew how many millions this man pocketed in his career. My only desire is that the entire Wallace family (except Mike and his daughter) just go away. Nascar and the Networks can do so much better.

AncientRacer said...

Herm is a lot smarter than a lot of people give him credit for though he plays the Village Idiot role quite well. He is a journeyman driver who (and this is no small thing) though he does not win and usually leads a lap only if he stays out when others pit, usually finishes running, rarely gets in wrecks, brings his car back in one piece and promotes his sponsors nonstop with a personality that is always way out front. Of all the Wallaces he is my favorite and the only one I will miss when and if he does leave.

brad said...

Nice piece JD. Would have been cool if the commenters eased up on the KW bashing for 1 day. It is what it is folks. KW is a tv personality and does what he needs to do to pay the bills.

Garry said...

I like the "racer" Kenny Wallace, I abhorr the "Raceday Built by the Home Depot" Kenny Wallace.Sad to see a good driver call it a day, but I'm sorry JD, I cannot stand his erratic behavior, his halting speech, and whenever he feels he's losing the crowd, he constantly name drops "The Late Great Dale Earnhardt told me...." ad nauseum.But I guess he fell victim to David Hill's "How to dumb down a crowd in 5 seconds" class.

OrangeTom said...

Will gladly give him credit for his long racing career. Unfortunately, he has also made RaceDay unwatchable. In some ways, his t.v. presence makes DW seem calm and insular in comparison.

OSBORNK said...

To me, Kenny is the Barney Fife of racing. He is a loud over the top know it all whose act wears thin really fast. If he would retire and go back home and take all of the other Wallaces with him, it would be a positive for the sport.

Anonymous said...


Once again you have shown both the Class and Professionalism you have in writing this piece about Kenny. People may like or dislike the antics of the Kenny Wallace " TV Personality", but one thing is for sure, most people that follow NASCAR know who Kenny Wallace is. It would be hard to disagree that Kenny brings excitement and enthusiasm to a NASCAR TV program.

While some people think that he is a " Buffoon ", he is and has been on a number of TV programs for years now getting paid for it, at the same time his critics have not, sitting in their homes, thinking they are somehow elite, Go figure.

Although Kenny Wallace is not an elite driver, he has been a successful driver, attracting corporate sponsors, no easy feat,( In your Face his Detractors and Critics )

I salute both Kenny Wallace, the " TV Personality " and " NASCAR Driver ", which I think his detractors and critics should take one day and elevate themselves and show some Class themselves and acknowledge accomplishment of a Man, a real Racecar Driver, for something they have not accomplished themselves.

“ J.T. “ in L.A.

Anonymous said...

Kenny is entertaining at times but I did not watch for entertainment. I watched for information about NASCAR and the drivers. I certainly did not watch to hear them rip a driver. Speed channel has become an entertainment channel. Therefore I rarely watch anymore.

But I do credit Kenny for his hard work to be able to race. Sad it has become only about the few big teams. Will hurt NASCAR in the long run. LS

KoHoSo said...

I enjoyed this article and I have never had a doubt that, inside, Kenny Wallace is a good and hard working person. Still, just like Michael Waltrip, I will much prefer to remember his days on IWC/INC than what came after.

Anonymous said...

I lament the awful economy continuing to erode out good people; also the inevitable aging that makes people rethink priorities.

Thanks for writing this JD.

Good on ya, Kenny Wallace, hope next year will not be the last NASCAR sees of you.

Bill said...

Holy tamales JD, you scared me!

From the title of your piece and the great photo of the old Inside Winston Cup crew, I thought you were about to report that Kenny Wallace had passed away! Sheesh!

Once I realized that wasn't true, I read on, and I am more motivated to catch the race tonight, even though Herm will likely not contend for the race, especially if ol' Horse-tooth Backflip Boy is out there, ruining the race for everyone else.

Nice piece of writing JD.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy Kenny Wallace and hope to keep seeing him on TV. Was surprised with the difference the weight loss made in his looks - he is the most handsome of the Wallace brothers. I do not like the direction Speed is taking - Trackside was a favorite and I can no longer make it through one.

Gene B. said...

Not a big fan of his announcing work. His constant "shilling' for all things Nascar is just plain annoying. And when he tries to tell me, what as a fan I should think, I just change the channel. Heck of a racer tho.

sue said...

Kenny is a racer. My bet is that he will continue to race as long as Red Farmer has. He just won't be doing it in Nascar. He's got his dirt cars and his Macon Speedway that he co-owns with Kenny Schraeder and Tony Stewart. So many drivers in recent years have said that their stint in Nascar won't have longevity like those in years gone by due to pressure and the demands put upon them. Power to Kenny if he want to go out on his terms. Don't we all want it that way too?

Love him or hate him on Race Day or Victory Lane you've got to admit that he loves this sport. I have learned so much from him. His persona on Race Day is probably no more manufactured than the driver or owners that he interviews. I suspect that is you want to see the real Kenny you have to meet him on a dirt track. And from what I hear he knows how to pack a cooler.

glenc1 said...

I'll confess...for a second I had the same thought as Certainly glad it wasn't the case.

Kenny the driver...I agree with AR; he's one in a long line of those guys who've tried to make it big, but who managed to carve out a solid career anyways. Not as successful as some, but more successful than others, and I don't think anyone ever tried harder. I'd find myself rooting for him as an underdog. He has always done a lot with what he had, and he's been generous with others, both drivers and fans. Since his kids haven't gone into racing, I think he would be a good mentor to some up and coming kids out there (and I also agree he's smarter than how he comes off on Tv in recent years. He'd have to be to have gone on as long as he has.) I also have a feeling his wife would be happy to finally have him out of the spotlight & back at the homestead.

When Kenny first started broadcasting, he was fun & enthusiastic. But over time it just got too repetitive, too familiar, and then it just all went downhill....and the lowest point, in my mind, was during the Petty saga with him telling us (the fans) that we didn't know what was going on and he did. Telling your audience you know more than they do is never a good thing (although these TV talking heads do it all the time.)

So if next year is his last hurrah, I wish him success.

Buschseries61 said...

I agree with Bill, I thought something happened when I saw the title. I think your piece is very touching. I've always admired Kenny's efforts as a race car driver. He's driven many incredible races with amazing finishes in cars that should not be running inside the top 30.

I don't exactly understand the timing of this article, he said he still has another season left at the track. But you know more than I do on the tv side of things.

Sophia said...

Personally, I also don't understand praising KW in your title then allowing the typical bashing towards the man. Not right.
It comes off as passive aggressive or something. Is this a complimentary post/blog comments or what?

Good Luck, Kenny. Least you made a living at racing when many could not.

52 yr. fan said...

Kenny has been a good driver through the years, but I find
his antics as an announcer unbearable. No one likes to be
talked down to and his frantic
dialogue is absurd.

16 fan said...

Sophia, you'd prefer Daly only allow comments that agree with his own? The fact that he allows dissent is why many people read it. Sheesh.

Lisa Hogan said...

I have learned that networks, especially FOX and SPEED, assign their TV personalities a character to play. DW, Myers, Spencer, and Kenny Wallace are a few.

Whether I enjoy his TV character doesn't color my opinion of Kenny Wallace on the track. I've always enjoyed Kenny as a driver.

Anonymous said...

slowly but surely you have been brown nosed

Tom A. said...

I wanted to get Kennys autograph at Kentucky. The new up and coming drivers had the time to stop and sign but Kenny blew off everyone.Maybe the day will come when he hopes someone wants one.