ST. LOUIS– St. Louis has produced some great race car drivers, but only one Cup Champion. That was Rusty Wallace in 1989. The Wallace family (Rusty, Mike, Kenny) has been involved in NASCAR for decades as both drivers and broadcasters.
FOX2’s Sports Director Martin Kilcoyne talked with brothers Rusty and Kenny about their relationship, biggest rivals they faced on the track, and their scariest moments behind the wheel.
Rusty said he started driving around age 14 or 15 and his very first race was the day he turned 16. He was supposed to be 18 to race.
“My dad and mom had to go to court and get a court order waiving all the… making sure the race track was clear of anything that may have gone wrong if I had a wreck or anything,” said Rusty.
Rusty’s brothers Mike and Kenny followed in his footsteps. Kenny said he’s proud of Rusty and called him a risk-taker.
“I tagged Rusty’s coat tails my whole early life and it turned out really good,” said Kenny.
Over the years, the Wallace brothers have had many rivals and some of the biggest have actually turned into friendships.
Rusty said Dale Earnhardt Sr. was a rival but also a great friend. Their families spent some vacations together, but when they hit the racetrack, you couldn’t tell they were friends.
Rusty also said Jeff Gordon was a real thorn in his side. He recalled a big All-Star race in Charlotte.
“Eight laps to go, I’m leading the race, and I did right-side tires. I should have done four, he did four and drove right past and passed me. And I was like, ‘Can you believe it? This kid has my money again,'” recalled Rusty.
He said it was always for big money, too. Rusty said Gordon was a big pain for a long time, but now they get along fine because they aren’t racing against each other.
The brothers both recalled their scariest moments behind the wheel. For Rusty, it was 1993 in Talladega.
He said it was the last lap and he was trying to inch ahead of Dale Earnhardt. Rusty said he was in third or fourth place and ended up flipping his car more than 20 times. He said the crash ripped the motor out of his car, and he broke his left wrist.
“When you look at the safety stuff we had back then, I shouldn’t have survived that race,” said Rusty.
Rusty wasn’t afraid to say what he thought. Where Kenny got a little of who he was, Rusty spoke his mind and so did Tony Stewart and Dale Sr. They had characters back then and people liked it.
The wreck that changed Kenny’s life was in 1991 in New Hampshire. He said he even needed therapy after the traumatic crash.
He said his rear end broke and his car went flying as he headed into turn three. He said he hit his head close to the wall and remembers someone helping him get out of the car.
“Next thing I knew, I thought I was at home sleeping. I heard ‘Kenny, Kenny,’ and I am lying on the race track in the middle of turns 3 and 4,” he recalled.
While Kenny said he always looked up to his brother during his career, Rusty said there are reasons people should look up to his younger brother.
“I think a lot of people misunderstand Kenny. He is so funny, but one thing you don’t understand is that he has a good business sense,” said Rusty.