Kenny Wallace looked up to the skies and thought to himself, “This one’s for you, Dad.”
It was quite the appropriate reaction – and also quite the emotional moment – as Wallace won the third-annual Russ Wallace Memorial Friday night at Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Illinois.
The race is named in honor of the father of brothers Kenny, Mike and NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace.
Russ Wallace was legendary on dirt tracks across the Midwest as a racer, crew chief and team owner. Sadly, the patriarch of the racing Wallace family passed away in 2011 at the age of 77 after a short illness.
Russ Wallace spent his life racing at nights and weekends while working a variety of jobs to support his family, including a car dealership mechanic, newspaper deliverer (which his three sons all helped out while growing up) and co-owned a vacuum and janitorial supply business in the St. Louis area.
Kenny Wallace had a stellar field of competitors in Friday night’s race, including Austin and Ty Dillon, Ken Schrader, Justin Allgaier and more than two dozen other racers on the dirt short track. Here’s a few tweets about Wallace after his emotional victory:
In a story on NASCAR.com that reported the elder Wallace’s death on Nov. 3, 2011, Kenny Wallace waxed eloquently on his father’s passing and what he meant to both himself and his brothers growing up as sons of a true racer.
“Let me be very clear when I say this: when I was growing up, all I wanted to be was a superstar race car driver. I wanted to be like my dad, Russ Wallace,” Kenny Wallace told NASCAR.com. “My dad — you can ask anybody in St. Louis — was the best. Dad won 12 weeks in a row one time. He set that record in Granite City, Ill., at Tri-City Speedway.
“I fought my way out of those race tracks, along with my mom [Judy]. … But my dad was good, and all I ever dreamed of becoming was a really, really good race car driver just like him.”
Follow me @JerryBonkowski