Kenny Wallace stepping in as spotter for nephew Steve
Steve Wallace isn't off to the kind of start he hoped in his rookie Busch Series campaign. But with uncle Kenny on the way to serve as his spotter, things could be looking up, writes Mark Ashenfelter.
After an off weekend in which he took time to work on the landscaping of his new home's backyard, Steve Wallace would like nothing better than to tear up some grass at Lowe's Motor Speedway late Saturday evening.
It'll be cool to have his perspective on things; as a driver, I think you probably look at what's happening on the racetrack a little bit differently than other people.
If the off-track excursion were to take place once the checkered flag drops on the Carquest Auto Parts 300, it would mean Wallace had just pulled a stunning upset. But considering 27 Nextel Cup Series regulars will be attempting to make the race when qualifying is held earlier Saturday, such an upset would truly be shocking.
After all, Wallace, just 19, has struggled with his consistency this year, which is why the team owned by father Rusty has turned to a familiar face, and voice, to start serving as Steve's spotter during Busch Series companion events such as this one. Kenny Wallace, who isn't running the Busch schedule this year in order to focus on helping fledgling Furniture Row Racing establish itself in Cup, will be the one talking to his nephew from high atop the spotter's stand when the race begins.
Kenny and Steve both know just one speed, and that's all-out, but Steve's inexperience sometimes leads to problems on the rack. It's hoped that Kenny's veteran presence will help temper Steve's enthusiasm and channel his boundless energy in the right direction.
That's the plan, at least.
"Steve is incredibly fast; there's no doubt in my mind that he's going to be one of the best out there," the understandably biased Kenny Wallace said. "We're a lot alike and we really get along. I totally think that having another racer on the radio with Steve is going to help him a ton and I'm excited about the chance to help him earn his first Busch Series win."
Of course, Steve Wallace's best chance for a win right now probably will be in the weeks the Busch Series isn't running in conjunction with Cup, meaning someone else will likely be guiding the way from the spotter's stand. But if Kenny's presence at places like Lowe's Motor Speedway pays off, it might just shorten the younger driver's learning curve.
Steve certainly doesn't think the change will hurt anything. And after having a week off, he's anxious for his first race at the sport's "hometown track."
"It was nice to have the week off, but I'm ready to get back after it. We've got a lot of exciting stuff going on around this weekend and I'm looking forward to getting on the track," Steve Wallace said of a schedule in which the Busch teams will practice on Thursday and then qualify and race on Saturday. " I'm really excited about the chance to work with [Kenny].
"It'll be cool to have his perspective on things; as a driver, I think you probably look at what's happening on the racetrack a little bit differently than other people. We're bringing one of my favorite cars to Charlotte; it's the one I ran at Vegas and Texas earlier this year, so it should be a good one for us.
"Our team has had some good cars at Charlotte in the past, but just haven't been able to close the deal. I'm looking forward to doing that this weekend."
While Kenny Wallace is known as much these days for his broadcasting as his racing, he has finished in the top 10 in Busch Series points in nine of his 10 full-time seasons in the series. He finished 11th in points last season.
Now, though, he's focusing on helping a Wallace he hopes can eventually accomplish even more in the Busch Series before pursuing a Cup championship, like the one Rusty owns.
If so, it's a good bet that Steve Wallace will thank Kenny if their time spent working together helps Steve turn a corner in his career.
"[We] like to have fun together, but we're both really serious about racing. He has gotten the job done for a long time in the Busch Series and knows better than almost anyone what it takes to get good finishes in these races," Steve Wallace said. "I'm really excited about having him on the radio with me for the rest of the year and can't wait to see how we do together."
Mark Ashenfelter is an associate editor at ESPN.
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