Kenny Wallace on making his final start in Iowa

KENNY WALLACE, No. 20 U.S. Cellular Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

How was your Camry in practice?

"No doubt, you get in a car like that and it's a little nervy because you're with obviously the winningest – I believe the winningest XFINITY team in history I would think, I'm not sure, you all can tell me that – so you get in it. I've been at the shop for three days trying to make everything right and then you get up to speed and you're like, 'Oh, man, my steering wheel is a little high and I'm a little loose,' but we did a really good job of working with it and I feel really good about the car right now. I'm getting in the groove and there's no doubt I'm a little bit rusty, but I'm warmed up and feel real good about it. We're close right now."

Are you excited to serve as the grand marshal for tonight's NASCAR K&N series race?

"Well, it's an honor. It's a little bit embarrassing in a good way. It's funny, but it's just an honor, right? I mean, the Thanks Kenny 150 and I was thinking about it – all those kids are so young. Man, I used to think these kids coming along 20 and 21, I thought that was the new generation and now we've got – it's like Ryan Blaney's of age now. Now you look at these kids and they're like 17 and 18 and now there's two or three groups of these young kids and it's really exciting to watch them come along in the K&N Series. Tonight I'm going to say, 'Drivers start your engines,' and I've got a little – I'm going to have fun with that and then going to go on up to the suite. I usually never bring an entourage with me, but my girls are awesome, my wife's mom – she drove all the way from Concord, North Carolina with some friends that just decided to make a trip out of it. We have about 20 people up in the suite, so I'm going to tell everybody to start their engines, go up to the suite and then come down and hand the trophy out. I'm proud. I think I'm more honored that I was asked to do it, so it's a pretty cool deal."

How do you control the emotions and distractions this weekend?

"That's a good question. I was worried about it. It hit me just a little bit. It's a great team – great question. I think, you know, it's something the great Dick Trickle taught me and years ago he said, 'Race the race track, not your competitors,' so I'm just trying to do this on Kenny time. Little disappointed that I didn't – the dream is to go out there and, boom, you're in the top-five. That didn't happen, so I was happy to regroup and the crew chief (Mike Wheeler) and them guys, they are so professional. They work with Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Kenny Habul, Erik Jones – that 20 car has done an incredible job keeping everybody employed over there, so I mean I couldn't have got in a better car because they're used to working with a different driver every week and I think that benefited me. They worked with me real well and so, yeah, like I said lower the steering wheel a little bit, worked on the chassis and I'd be lying to you if I wasn't just a little nervous, right? Because you're with – I want to perform, so I'm all focused right now."

Why are you retiring at Iowa Speedway this weekend?

"Yeah, that's not just all in one minute – I can tell you that. You know, when my brother, Mike (Wallace), had his triple bypass, the 26 – that JGL (Racing) team, good, really clean team – they asked me to drive the car in place of Mike and went down there and was rolling along and everything was going good. Hit the wall a ton. Got hit in the side by Ryan Reed, hit the wall, then hit Ryan Sieg and I told my daughter I'd drive home from Talladega with her and I was like, 'Holy hell, what's going on here?' My right back was hurt. That was a hard hit. Then I came up here and great sponsor, U.S. Cellular, great car, Robby Benton's car, went on the race track, went down the front straightaway the first lap and the throttle stuck and I drove right into the wall head on. Then the 26 asked me again – they said, 'Hey, would you run Daytona,' and I said no and it came out so fast I was like, 'Wow,' and I said they're going to wreck their ass off down there and they did. I thought, 'You know what? I'm going to be 52 years old (on) August 23,' and I'm looking around me and there's nobody in the sport from my days. I mean, Jeff Gordon, that's it. There's nobody else. They're all gone. Mark Martin is gone. Jeff Burton is gone. And then all these guys are quitting in their 40s now. If you look at it, Burton just kind of peeled out and never announced a retirement – he's in his 40s and I'm like, 'Are you going to say anything?' I guess he's not. Same thing with Bobby Labonte and I'm like, 'Everybody is just afraid to say they're done,' and I'm like, 'Hell, I'm just done.' You know what I mean? I'm just done. I just – it's like taking an orange and squeezing and there's no more to come out and I'm just real happy. I love this sport, but to be honest with you just all these things – I'm exhausted trying to find money. For me at my age to drive a car, you've got to bring money. It's just all these things collecting. It's just the right time. I watched Mark Martin – he rung it out. Fifty two is about it – 53, 54 was too old and I watched him. So I just think it's right, right? It's just right and being able to drive this car – that was really important. Pretty cool to run your last race with a national sponsor. It ain't like I've got Bubba's Chicken on it, you know? I mean, damn, I want to run my last race with U.S. Cellular and Joe Gibbs Racing. Are you kidding me? So that was a big deal."

What moment of you career do you cherish the most?

"There was sweet spot – when was that? Probably '89, '91 to 2000. There was hard spot in their – a couple hard spots – one with Felix (Sabates) and then – but, you know, that's when I won my nine XFINITY races. That was the time that I earned to keep coming back. There was an old joke one time, 'He's back.' Well, Steve Park got hurt. I got in the car and I sat on the pole and run second in the Cup race and Ernie Irvan got hurt (and) I got in the 28 and qualified second in Atlanta and then fourth. I kept getting these second chances and I kept – I'm probably a driver that if other drivers wouldn't have got, I'd have probably been done. But every time I got in a good car, I performed, so I've always been that 'B' driver and I'm proud of that. Yeah, from my first win through probably about 2000 – that was a sweet spot. The rest of it's been like being in the middle of a tornado."

Is it difficult to juggle everything this weekend?

"It's been a little difficult. If people aren't calling me for St. Louis Cardinal tickets, I've had 20 call me for tickets here and I'm like, 'Damn, man, y'all ain't got 50 dollars?' Everybody wants free stuff. I'm no different. I want everything free, but I've got people just yesterday, 'Can you get me in the Newton Club?' I'm like, 'Really?' I mean, this is the most important race of my life and you're calling me for damn tickets. It reminds me of when I watched the Super Bowl – the quarterback or the running back you asked them all the time and I know exactly what they're saying, 'What's been tough?' 'Just getting all my friends tickets,' so U.S. Cellular gave us a suite for tonight's race and we've used it up. I've got 20 people up there right now and I told my wife yesterday, I wasn't mean by any means, and I just looked her in the face and said, 'Now look, you've got to let me race now, okay?' 'I know. We're done. We're done,' so it's been a little difficult. I didn't think it was going to be, but my best friend from school, he's driving up in the morning. It's been hard, but once we got in the car everybody left me alone, so thanks."

Is it difficult getting back into the car?

"What caught me off guard the most is that – you know, it's like I tell everybody – my last full year was 2011 and I've been running three to five races a year. It's just you can't do that, you know what I mean? It's unfair to the team and everybody. I think the hardest thing for me to do was just get my rhythm. It's a good thing I picked this track because this is the track I've been running at every year. It starts from the crew chief emailing me notes and that's the way Joe Gibbs Racing – every driver gets, you know, emails pops up. It's when the track opens, your pit road speed already, diagram of your gauges – just so damn big time professional. It gives me for information for my TV job. These big time teams – they are on it. I walk up in my hauler, there's three engineers – they're digging and they're speaking my language. There's more to tell you, but you wouldn't understand it – the feel of the front end. They just know what the hell they're doing, you know? There's a reason Joe Gibbs won, what, three Super Bowls? He's into organization and they got it. I never had that much at my hands to work from."

Who taught you how to race?

"There's no doubt I'd be lying if I said anybody else – the great Dick Trickle. You know, we had three drivers back then, so I'm remember I'm born in '63, right? So you had Larry Philips out of Springfield, Missouri. You had Dick Trickle out of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. And you had Richard Evans from what, Rome, New York, of all different parts of the United States and I don't know if you can throw Cook in there of not – Jerry Cook. I know for a fact those three drivers did nobody could ever do back then and they raced for a living. Larry Phillips, (from) Springfield, Missouri, (and) Dick Trickle – no doubt, my heroes. Trickle was the one that – Rusty (Wallace) had already made it to NASCAR and Trickle was the one that taught me how to race and how to think and Dick taught me more about life. Dick's the one that said, 'Race the race track,' and what he means by that is you can get to battling with somebody and forget where you're at on the track and you can down in the corner and be listening to him and say, 'I'm not going to let off until he lets off,' and you both go into the wall, so Trickle taught me how to race. Larry Philips taught me about the perseverance and just digging and then we all learned so much from Richie Evans. It's easy, because my dad (Russ Wallace) and my brother (Rusty) taught me the most, but I think anybody knows that, but by far the great Dick Trickle me everything, everything about life. Trickle was cool. He'd say – Rusty get mad at me because I laugh too loud and I'm obnoxious. I know that, but Rusty say, 'Herman, quit that damn laughing,' and Dick would look at him and go, 'Leave him alone.' Trickle made me feel good about myself because there was times I was embarrassed and, 'Man, everybody is making fun of me. I'm too happy.' Hell, I've been beat up for being happy. I really have. Larry McReynolds when I drove that 20, 'You quit being so happy.' I'm like, 'Okay.' So Trickle – he was cool. He made me happy to be myself and I like that about him. Too bad he killed himself. That's a bad deal."

When are you going to run an IMCA car in Iowa?

"You know what, so my dirt racing is – I've been running dirt racing, but in 2012 when Robby Benton told me that some other driver had come up with money and bought my ride, it crushed me. That was just devastating in 2012 not long ago and I just said, 'Well, to hell with it then.' After I got done crying, I just said, 'We're going dirt racing,' and that dirt racing has saved my life. If anybody every gets first from a job and can't find a job, I wish everybody could have found what I found by mistake. So I had been racing dirt for a little bit, but 2012 – we won a huge, the Summer Nationals championship in the UMP division, but IMCA is a really cool division. It's the oldest series in the United States – it's older than NASCAR. But IMCA is just a little bit different of a car, so I don't have one of those cars. It's a different motor, different tire, different everything. I met a really good man down at Longdale, Oklahoma – very wealthy man, owns a big construction company – and I drove a pretty special car the other night and I've drove a lot of IMCA cars, but none is that fast. It's 'Shooty's' car with three races on it and then we won and we run second and (Ken) Schrader was at both of them. There's a lot of things on my bucket list. I want to run the Boone Nationals. I want to run the Duel in the Desert. Now he just texted me again – there's a real big race. It pays 20 grand a win up in Minnesota in September. The thing of it is, my number one thing is Fox Sports, so even though NBC is taking over the second half, I've got to be in Charlotte on Saturday nights and TV is most important. I told the guy, 'Hey man, if you've got an airplane, I'm all in, but I've got to get from Minnesota,' so that's holding me back a little bit. I told somebody the other day, 'Haven't you ever just – has anybody just wanted to take a year off, but you can't?' If you tried to take a year off – actors and singers, they can do that. I've dreamed of taking a year off from NASCAR and everything and just go do what I want to do. I know Tony Stewart's wanted to do it, but I've still got that in my craw. I really want to do it bad. I don't know if I've ever going to be (able to) pull it off, but I really just want to quit. You know, maybe I can do it before I'm 62, but I've got to do it before I get too old, so maybe in the 56, 57 I'm going to take a year off if I can do it. It's a big if."

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