By Don Ward
SPARTA, Ky. (May 2006) Steve Wallace knows the pressure is on whenever he gets behind the wheel of a race car. Its all because of his name.
Steve Wallace, right, gets racing advice
from his father, Rusty (left), who
recently retired from NASCAR.
As the 18-year-old son of recently retired NASCAR Nextel Cup veteran Rusty Wallace and nephew of driver Kenny Wallace, Steve must live up to both the challenges on the race track and race fans expectations of him.
But he doesnt mind. He just loves racing.
Its all Ive ever done, and all I really want to do, Wallace said during a late April telephone interview from his race shop in Charlotte, N.C.
The recent high school graduate may seem young, but he has already competed in ARCA RE/MAX Series and NASCAR Busch Series races. Kentucky Speedway race fans will have two opportunities to see him in action during the 2006 season. Wallace will drive the No. 61 Nu South Lemonade/Hantz Group Dodge in the May 13 ARCA RE/MAX Series Harley-Davidson of Cincinnati 150 and take the wheel of the No. 64 Top Flite Golf Dodge for the June 17 Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo NASCAR Busch Series event.
Earlier this season in ARCA racing, Wallace won the pole at Nashville and finished 10th. He is scheduled to compete in a total of seven ARCA RE/MAX Series and 12 NASCAR Busch Series races this season. He will share the No. 64 Top Flite Dodge with NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series regular Jamie McMurray.
Im excited to have the chance to compete in both series, Wallace said. There will be pressures because of my dad, and Ill be expected to run well all the time.
Im not too worried about that though, I know what I am capable of doing, and I am sure Ill do well. People scrutinize you more because your last name is Wallace or Earnhardt or Petty, you are always in the spotlight. I cant let that get to me, I just have to focus on racing and do the best I can.
Wallace made his NASCAR Busch Series debut on Oct. 25, 2005, with a 15th-place finish at Memphis Motorsports Park. He became the youngest race winner in Michigan International Speedway history earlier that year on Aug. 19 when he claimed his first ARCA RE/MAX Series victory. Overall, he registered one win, two top-five and three top-10 finishes through four ARCA RE/MAX Series starts.
He made his first NASCAR Busch Series start of 2006 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 25 and finished 33rd after qualifying third.
On April 15, he competed in two events on the same day the NASCAR Busch and ARCA RE/MAX series at Nashville Superspeedway. After qualifying first in the ARCA event, he finished 10th early in the afternoon. He followed that with a 12th-place finished later that day in the Busch Series race.
debut last year, posting three top-10 finishes in four career starts. That included one victory at Michigan in August, just a day after his 18th birthday.
His next race is the ARCA event at Sparta, Ky. He is familiar with the Kentucky Speedway course after having tested here numerous times. Ive had 200 or 300 laps there in a Busch car. Its got good speed; real fast, Wallace recalled.
As for preparation, he admits that his father has been his biggest advisor. Dad helped me a lot. I dont really hang around with other drivers. We sort of keep it all in the family.
The younger Wallace grew up in Greensboro, N.C., and began racing as a youth in Legends Cars, taking the usual route up through late model stock cars. Now that hes out of high school, he says hes ready for more.
This is the next step for me; this is the big boy series, he said, referring to the Busch races he will enter.
He says running a few Busch races alone doesnt provide enough seat time to develop as a driver, so thats why he and other up-and-coming drivers like to run ARCA. Its a great series, and its been around a long time. Theres some great competition there, especially with Frank Kimmel. But usually there are only three or four fast cars to beat in ARCA, where in Busch, you have 43 cars, with any one of them capable of winning on any given day.
Wallace says his long range goal is to make it to Nextel Cup in a couple of years. Ive got to win a couple of Busch Series races to do it, he said.
Steve is one of three children in the Wallace family but the only one with the auto racing bug. His 27-year-old brother, Greg, is in law school at Wake Forest University, and he has a 21-year-old sister, Katie.
I love racing, he said. I guess I get it honest.
Supplemented by Kentucky Speedway reports.