‘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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Danica says goodbye: ‘Definitely not a great ending’ but ‘I’m for sure grateful’

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INDIANAPOLIS – Danica Patrick’s final racing news conference didn’t go quite as planned, but at least she didn’t lose her sense of humor about it.

“Is that like the Oscars when they close the show out?” Patrick joked when her opening address was drowned out by the midrace broadcast of Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 in the media center. “Take my mic away. I’ll leave. I promise. I don’t really want to be here because I’m pretty sad, but all right. I guess I’ll stop there.”

That was about as lighthearted as it got, though, for the most accomplished female driver in racing history after the final start of her career. That naturally made for some reflection, too.

“I will say that I’m for sure very grateful for everybody,” she said. “It still was a lot of great moments this month. A lot of great moments this year.”

Patrick was the first woman to lead both the Indianapolis 500 (in her 2005 debut) and the Daytona 500 (in 2013 when she also was the first female to qualify on pole position in NACAR history).

But she couldn’t bookend that with similarly memorable finishes. After crashing out of her final two Cup races in the November 2017 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway and the 2018 Daytona 500, Indy concluded the same way.

“Definitely not a great ending,” she said. “But I kind of said before I came here that it could be a complete disaster, as in not in the ballpark at all. And look silly, then people may remember that. And if I win, people will remember that.

“Probably anything in between might just be a little part of the big story. So I kind of feel like that’s how it is. I’m appreciative for all the fans, for GoDaddy, for Ed Carpenter Racing, for IndyCar. Today was a tough day. A little bit of it was OK. A lot of it was just a typical drive.”

Beforehand, Patrick seemed relaxed while smiling and laughing outside her car with a tight circle of close friends and family that included her parents and boyfriend Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers quarterback.

“For sure, I was definitely nervous,” she said about her first Indy 500 start in seven years. “I found myself most of the time on the grid being confused what part of prerace we were in. I was like, ‘I remember this,’ and ‘Where are the Taps?’ and ‘When is the anthem?’ but I had all my people around me, so I was in good spirits.”

And with that, she bid adieu.

“Thank you guys,” she said. “Thank you for everything. I’ll miss you. Most of the time. Maybe you’ll miss me just a little. Thanks, guys.”