‘This one’s for you, Dad’ — Kenny Wallace wins 3rd annual Russ Wallace Memorial event

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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.”

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. will race IndyCar stars in iRacing at Michigan

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The invite has been received, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. has another iRacing event on his schedule.

The NASCAR on NBC analyst tweeted Wednesday that he will make his debut in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge with Saturday’s race at Michigan Speedway. The race will be shown live on NBCSN at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

The 2-mile oval was chosen by IndyCar drivers as the third track in the six-race series. Earnhardt heartily endorsed Michigan as a potential iRacing venue Monday along with Daytona and Talladega. Michigan nearly was selected by fans as the opener in the iRacing Challenge.

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Earnhardt, a longtime avid iRacing fan, had been lobbying since last Thursday that he was interested in racing with IndyCar drivers.

He has driven in the first three races of the eNASCAR Pro Invitational, finishing second to Denny Hamlin in the opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Last year, he attended his first Indianapolis 500, working as an analyst as part of NBC Sports’ inaugural broadcast of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

“I’d love to do it,” Earnhardt said Monday about joining the IndyCar iRacing Challenge. “I think I’d love to get to know those guys.

“I had such a great time at the Indy 500 last year, and the reception that I received from other drivers there really meant a lot to me. So I know they’re all a lot of great dudes in that series that I already know that I’d love to get to know some of them even better.”

It already has been quite the week for Earnhardt, who was announced Monday as one of 15 nominees for the 2021 NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The field for Saturday’s race at Michigan should include another  NASCAR driver in Jimmie Johnson. The seven-time Cup champion has driven the first two races of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge (and has plans to race IndyCar part time in the future).