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Kenny Wallace's first car owner? Dale Earnhardt

Kenny Wallace
Kenny Wallace

By Lee Montgomery

Kenny Wallace began his racing career as a crew member on older brother Rusty's team, helping Rusty get to the NASCAR Sprint Cup level.

Kenny then turned to driving himself, becoming immersed in ASA out of his hometown of St. Louis.

One day in 1988, Rusty called with an offer.

"Hey, Herm, I want to pay you back for helping me all those years," Rusty told Kenny.

How? By starting a NASCAR Busch Series team for Kenny.

"What is that?" Kenny said.

Kenny was so focused on ASA that he didn't know much outside of the series. But he soon learned, of course.
Wallace would run the full 1988 season in NASCAR, starting at Daytona International Speedway. But in order to get approval for Daytona, he'd need to run somewhere else.

Rusty arranged for Kenny to drive a Dale Earnhardt-owned Chevrolet at Martinsville.

"Earnhardt thought it was awesome," Kenny says now. "That was the most memorable week of my career. We blew a motor, and Dale Earnhardt's in his cowboy boots helping change the motor. I'm changing the motor, Rusty's helping change the motor."

During the race, the engine started to smoke from an oil leak. Earnhardt came on the radio to tell Wallace to keep pushing, but Rusty had another opinion.

"No, don't blow it up!" Rusty said. "I've got to pay for it!"

Kenny soldiered on and finished 11th, one lap down. He earned $650.


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