It's been a magnificent career of 23 years and there are no signs of slowing down. For Wendell Wallace, 42, retirement from driving is not even a remote thought at this time

These days, he is always mentioned when the kings of the Dirt Late Model sport are listed. He's done especially well in the big-money classic events that dot the landscape for the top class of the dirt stock cars.

For example, he's won the Dirt Track World Championship (DTWC), the Topless 100, the Show-Me 100 (three times), the Magnolia State 100 (twice), the Bill Willard Memorial, the Hav-A-Tampa Shootout, and the list goes on. He's also come close to winning numerous others. Guess you get the idea that W.W. always has to be considered a threat to win whenever he's in the starting field.

Wallace has been known for his association with car builder Joe Garrison and his GRT car-building operation for much of his career, including this season. From 1997 through 2003, when the two were previously together, the team was on fire.

Garrison is excited with the return this season of Wallace and crew chief Todd Moser.

"Having them here is great for everybody concerned," Garrison says. "We will provide him with the cars he needs, and he will provide direct feedback on the performance of our cars."


The Start
It all began for Wallace when he was 13 and tried Go-Karts for about four years.

"I did pretty well and won my share of races," he recalls. "It was during that time that I knew racing was going to be a part of me. I had tried sports in school but I was just too short and fat."

In about 1986, Wallace, with the help of his uncle, Bill Jones, bought a turnkey Dirt Late Model and a trailer for $15,000.

"Boy, I sure wish that things were like that today," Wallace says. "That situation went on for a couple years before we ran out of money. The engine kept breaking, and with my job in an engine shop, I was able to keep getting it put back together."

All this took place in his hometown of Batesville, Arkansas, the same home of NASCAR's Mark Martin and Dirt Late Model star Billy Moyer.

"Someday, I hope that my name can be added to those Batesville guys," he says.

He earned the "Batesville Bullet" nickname in about 2000, and it has stuck.

Wallace raised some eyebrows in 1988 by winning the track championship for car owner Danny Abernathy at Memphis Motorsports Park. That was followed by a year competing with the NCRA group and car owner Ivy Harron. "That was pretty tough competition and those guys really taught me some lessons on the racetrack," recalls Wallace. "I did, though, get a couple wins."

Next came five years with legendary owner Mooney Starr, an association that brought about 40 victories. Included in those wins were the Magnolia State and Southern Shoals 100 races which provided a total of $20,000 in winnings. During that period, Wallace was driving Larry Shaw racecars.

Next came a six-year tenure with owner O.J. Monday, a period that brought wins in a number of the sport's biggest races. Wallace says that about four dozen wins came during that period, including wins in four big-money races that added $177,000 to his till. The wins included the Dixie Shootout ($36,000), the Topless 100 ($40,000), the Masters ($51,000) and the DTWC ($50,000).

But nothing lasts forever in the volatile dirt game. In 2004, Wallace found himself back doing it on his own. That makes his return deal with GRT even more important.

During the early-to-mid 2000s years, the success continued unabated, and there was a change in emphasis by racing with a series. He ran the brutal month-long UMP Summernationals event, finishing an impressive third in points in 2006.

He will tell you that he hopes for better performances in two of the sport's biggest races-the World 100 and The Dream at Eldora. To date, he's made the World seven times with best finishes of Seventh in 2001 and Eighth in 2007. "Winning the World 100 is the ultimate goal of my racing career," he says.

In the $100,000-to-win Dream, there have been better results in the seven races he's made. He shows Third in 2000, Fourth in 2002, and Eighth in 1997.

In 2001, he finished a close Third in the Eldora Million. "I kept waiting for something bad to happen to the guys ahead of me, but nothing ever happened," he says. "Winning a million dollars would really have been something."

One of the low points in the Wallace career took place at Twin Cities Raceway Park (Indiana) in 2002. "We were pumping fuel with an electric pump and there was a spark that ignited a heck of a fire," he recalls. "Fortunately, we had taken our two cars out earlier, but it burned up about four dozen tires and a bunch of tools. It also completely burned up the trailer. It was a tough situation, but I got a lot of help from the other teams which I really appreciated."

What Wallace also appreciates are a number of sponsors that have been with him for several years. They include Sunoco Racing Fuels, Johnny Johnson (J&J Steel), JFR Graphics, Gaerte Engines, C.W. Culvert (the family business) and Wayne Crest Farms.

For this season, he's running a hit-and-miss schedule, showing up at all the big races. "I plan to keep traveling to a minimum, as I think a lot of drivers will be doing this season," he explains. "With diesel fuel costing about four dollars a gallon, it is really going to make it tough on the Dirt Late Model teams. I am just going to see how things go during the year."


Dirt Late Model Advice From Wendell Wallace

Driving
You know, if I was thinking about getting into a Dirt Late Model, the best selection is a Crate Late Model. That way, you are actually driving a Dirt Late Model car and you can get the feel of a full-sized car. You learn to know where the front and rear and sides are. Many start their dirt racing career with a Modified, but I wouldn't recommend one since they drive differently from a Late Model and you could develop some bad habits


Technology
It is so important to understand the workings of the racecar you drive. I think the best way to do that is to volunteer to work on a team. You will be surprised how much you can learn doing that. I really believe that knowing how to set up one of these cars is more difficult than driving it. No matter how good a driver you are, if the car's setup is not right, you aren't going anywhere.As told to Bill Holder

  • «
  • |
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • View Full Article