By Lee Montgomery
Special to Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service
Mike Wallace needed to be told a month ago a milestone was looming for him in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Most racers like Wallace are focused on the next race instead of adding up numbers.
But as Wallace thought about start No. 400, which he'll make in this Friday's Feed the Children 300 at Kentucky Speedway, he wondered if he was worthy of such a lofty number. After all, only three drivers have reached that plateau in the series, Jason Keller, younger brother Kenny Wallace and Tommy Houston.
"Do you deserve respect?" Wallace asked himself.
"After you lay down the checklist of what you've accomplished, yeah, we're OK," Wallace said modestly. "And I think most people who I know feel I've treated them fairly along the way. We all make our mistakes when we're young and think we're better than what we are, but I hope everybody thinks, 'He's a good guy. He treated us OK.' Heck, what more in life can you really ask for?"
Wallace made his series debut in 1990 for car owner Marc Reno, finishing a strong sixth at Martinsville Speedway. He made that start after winning a NASCAR track title at Lebanon I-44 Speedway in Lebanon, Mo. -- located 150 miles from his home near St. Louis.
"What's unique about it is my daughter Chrissy has been traveling back and forth every week to Lebanon I-44 Speedway to run a Super Late Model," Wallace said. "She's now won three out of seven feature events over there. They say what goes around comes around. Here's Chrissy, trying to get her career re-energized, and she's back to the place where I started."
Wallace is by no means finished, by the way. He has four victories, the last coming at Daytona in 2004, and has 22 top-five finishes and 63 top 10s in those 399 starts. But he was fifth two races ago at Road America and ran well at Daytona last weekend before getting caught up in an accident and finishing 15th. He sits 12th in series points.
Still, his one top-five and two top-10 finishes this season are something for which to be proud, especially considering his JD Motorsports team doesn't have the budget to regularly compete against the powerhouse teams in the series.
"I'm very, very happy about that in regards that I still drive for a very small race team," Wallace said. "We struggle for financing week in and week out. We work really hard and try to deliver for every sponsor. We try to over-deliver.
"It shows that I can get the job done still, the team can get the job done when it has the resources."
As for retirement, that's not even in his vocabulary. Sure, the 52-year-old knows there will come a day when he'll have to get out of the car, but not yet.
"I appreciate all the race fans who have supported our efforts for all these years, all the cars owners I've been involved with, all the media people who have written good and bad stories about us," Wallace said. "It's been great, and I hope I get to continue it for years to come."
What: Feed the Children 300
Where: Kentucky Speedway, Sparta, Ky.
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: ESPN, 7 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN/Sirius/XM Satellite Ch. 90
Track layout: 1.5-mile oval
Race distance: 200 laps/300 miles
Qualifying: Friday, 3:35 p.m. ET
2010 winner: Joey Logano
2010 polesitter: Joey Logano
Points standings: 1. Reed Sorenson, 610; 2. Elliott Sadler, 601; 3. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 579; 4. Justin Allgaier, 573; 5. Jason Leffler, 537; 6. Aric Almirola, 529; 7. Kenny Wallace, 494; 8. Steve Wallace, 467; 9. Brian Scott, 454; 10. Michael Annett, 446.