Kenny Wallace is a NASCAR Nextel Cup Series and Busch Series driver who currently drives the number 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet in Nextel Cup, and the number 22 AutoZone Ford Taurus for PPC Racing in the Busch Series.
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.
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 formidable racer on the local dirt tracks, and it was in part Russ’s early success that earned Kenny his familiar nickname, “Herman.” Russ won over 400 races in those days, and is often the case in racing, winning a lot made him unpopular among a number of fans. Young Kenny took exception to the unkind words said about his dad, and often took matters into his own hands with whatever means were available, meaning, on at least one occasion, snowcones. 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. Kenny joined the ASA ranks in 1986, winning Rookie of the Year honors that year.
In September of 1988, Dale Earnhardt gave Kenny the seat for his first-ever NASCAR start. He finished seventh in his first Busch Series start at Martinsville, Virginia. The following year, Kenny raced the full Busch 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 Busch Series accomplishments include nine wins, ten poles, and eight seasons in the top ten in driver points. In fact, Kenny has finished in the top ten in every full Busch Series season he has ever run, including a second-place run in 1991 that ended just 74 points shy of the championship in what is still one of the closest points battles in series history. In addition to his wins, Kenny boasted 58 top-five finishes and 141 top-ten runs prior to the 2005 season. In 312 starts, that’s a top ten finish in more than 45% of his races! Kenny has also been voted Busch Series Most Popular Driver twice by the fans, in 1991 and 1994, making him one of only four drivers to have won the award multiple times.
Kenny also has over 300 starts in the NASCAR Nextel 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 Channel each week; NASCAR This Morning, which airs before the Nextel Cup race each week, and NASCAR Victory Lane, which extends post-race coverage. Kenny and his family are also fixtures on FX’s hit show NASCAR Drivers: 360. 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, speaking engagements, and autograph sessions.