Kenny Wallace

NEW STRIPES: Wallace Begins Final Season of Full-Time Racing with Retro Colors at DIRTcar Nationals

1991 NASCAR win on Volusia asphalt commemorated with special black-green wrap

From competing at the highest ranks of NASCAR to racing at dirt tracks across the country all season long, Kenny Wallace amassed a fanbase larger than he could’ve imagined. And this year, while he’s not saying goodbye, he’s giving them a final full-time tour with a hint of nostalgia.

Wallace will be scaling back his racing a bit in 2023, after a 38-year professional career in the sport. To celebrate his career accomplishments, he plans on running special designs on his DIRTcar UMP Modified throughout 2022, starting with the track he holds a special merit at – Volusia Speedway Park.

Wallace, of Arnold, MO, holds what is one of the most unique accolades in Volusia’s 50-plus-year history as the only driver to win on the track in both its dirt and asphalt configurations. Volusia spent eight years (1989-1996) as a paved half-mile oval before being converted back to dirt in 1997.

Wallace at Volusia in 1991 (via Instagram @kennywallace36)

In its time as an asphalt track, Volusia hosted several NASCAR-sanctioned events – including the Busch Grand National Series (present-day Xfinity Series). That’s when Wallace found his way into NASCAR Victory Lane for the first time in his career on March 24, 1991.

“As a competitor, that win at Volusia was everything to me,” he said.

A simple black and green scheme with white accents and yellow trim wrapped his Pontiac Grand Prix that day. Those colors will come to life again during DIRTcar Nationals (Feb. 7-12) when Wallace returns to the Florida track with the rest of the UMP Modified field for the first of six straights nights of racing to decide who takes home the iconic Big Gator trophy.

Wallace will have his Elite Chassis #36 wrapped in those 1991 colors for the entire week, commemorating a day that first sparked his next-level success on the big stage.

“I’m a kid who comes out of St. Louis, living in a single-wide mobile home, making like $20,000 a year, and we go to Volusia,” Wallace said. “We went there and put it all together. I remember qualifying 13th, and we won the race. We were good, and it was a major accomplishment in my life.”

The new wrap for Wallace’s UMP Modified run at Volusia (via Instagram @kennywallace36)

The next time he came back to Volusia, the track was entering its ninth year back on dirt in 2005. Wallace had only started dipping his feet into dirt racing, but it didn’t take long before Volusia felt his impact, winning the second UMP Modified Feature of the 2007 DIRTcar Nationals.

“It’s crazy, we come back in 2005 and we’re like ‘Holy moly, they put dirt on it. What’s going on here?’” Wallace said. “So, I started learning how to race dirt; I just wanted to try it. We come back in 2007, and there’s like 80 cars there, and I won.”

Last year, fellow NASCAR driver and DIRTcar Nationals regular Justin Allgaier captured his first career Big Gator trophy as winner of the Gator Championship race. He previously won a little gator in 2016, and said to this day, the trophy still means more than any other win. Wallace echoed that same sentiment.

“There’s not that many gator trophies out there – they’re very rare,” he said. “There’s 365 days in a year. The gator – there’s only six possible tries.”

READ ALSO – Winning a Big Gator meant ‘more than you’ll know’ to Justin Allgaier

Since 2007, Wallace has added another three gators to his collection. Despite the unique trophy, however, that’s not what keeps him coming back every February.

“Volusia is a place for us all to gather,” Wallace said. “It’s snowing and the weather’s bad [at home]. It’s about going down there, the comradery, it’s live on DIRTVision, everybody around the United States is watching the races.”

After his run at the 51st DIRTcar Nationals, Wallace will return home to his native Missouri and prepare for one last hammer-down, go-all-out season as a full-time race car driver. The million-dollar question asks – why now? His answer is quite simple.

Wallace has four DIRTcar Nationals Feature wins since his debut in 2005 (Luis Torres Photo)

“It is true that I’m a hardcore racer, but I don’t think that I need to race the entirety of my life ‘til death – that’s not important to me,” Wallace said. “I’ll be 59 in August. It just seemed like it was the right time to slow down.”

Though he’s never been known as a “Sprint Car guy,” Wallace has looked-up to many of the greats with The Greatest Show on Dirt. He took many of their teachings into his own career, including his decision to scale-back.

“I studied the king, Steve Kinser,” Wallace said. “His last year with the World of Outlaws was at 60 years old.”

Like so many other motorsports greats have done before, Wallace is also getting the urge to dive into his post-racing career plans.

“Even Tony Stewart races when he wants to; he doesn’t run a full open-wheel series,” he said. “I felt like I needed to do that. I felt like I needed to give myself an opportunity to… get a motorhome, take my grandbabies around, and do what I wanna do.”

But until he decides to hang up the helmet for good, his legions of fans can still catch him at several dirt tracks around the nation. Wallace said he expects to race around 50 nights in 2022, including a few on the DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals trail. After that, he’s taking his daily driver pickup truck, his 28-foot trailer, and going racing when and where he feels like it.

As always, his signature, nonstop social media presence will remain as active as it ever has been – with or without racing. He’s never been shy about sharing advice on racing or life with his followers and took a moment to offer-up something he’d tell that teenage version of himself, now an accomplished superstar, heading south to Volusia before that victorious day in 1991.

Wallace after a Summit Modified victory at Terre Haute Action Track in 2018 (Jim DenHamer Photo)

“People will tell you that you have time, and you don’t. Start going after what you want right now,” Wallace said. “I’m not saying go running around with your tail on fire, I’m saying do it now and go after it.”

Don’t miss Kenny Wallace and the rest of the DIRTcar UMP Modified field take on six-straight nights in the 51st DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park, Feb. 7-12. Buy a ticket, stream live on DIRTVision, and keep up with all the latest DIRTcar Racing news and content by following on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Volusia Speedway Park will host the UMP Modifieds, DIRTcar Pro Late Models and World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars in the kickoff to the 51st DIRTcar Nationals on Monday, Feb. 7. All 12 nights of the event, which also features the World of Outlaws Late Models, All-Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Cars, Xtreme Outlaw Sprint Cars and Super DIRTcar Series Big Block Modifieds, can be streamed live on DIRTVision.

DIRTcar NATIONALS TICKETS

WAY 2 FAST: Hoffman Dominates at Volusia, Wins Eighth Annual Reutimann Memorial

Strickler and Nicely drop out early, Stewart hard charges 25th-to-6th

Nick Hoffman has won a lot of races at Volusia Speedway Park in his career. Just consult the golden gator farm at his home in Mooresville, NC, reflecting his unprecedented six-straight DIRTcar Nationals championships.

However, entering Saturday night, there remained one prestigious DIRTcar UMP Modified race he’d yet to win at the venue – the Emil & Dale Reutimann Memorial.

With some speed on the bottom and a good line in Turns 3-4, Hoffman was able to swipe the lead away from defending race winner Tyler Nicely in the early going and hold the field off the rest of the way for his first career triumph in Florida’s most prestigious Dirt Modified race.

“Everything they do – the Reutimann family, Volusia Speedway Park, everybody that puts this deal on – I can’t thank them enough,” Hoffman said. “This race has kind of eluded me. I’ve ran second, I’ve ran third… I’ve been close, just not close enough to win.”

“Tyler [Nicely] beat us up pretty good last year, but this year I was just a little bit more on top of my game.”

Starting fourth after a Showdown Feature win Friday night, Hoffman didn’t have to wait long for his shot at the lead. Nicely jumped to the early lead from the pole and led the opening circuits before the first caution was displayed with four laps complete. But Hoffman was all over him on the restart and drove it deep into Turn 3 with speed and completed the pass coming out of Turn 4.

“[Nicely] was pretty good there at the beginning, and then I just kinda bided my time to get to second,” Hoffman said. “I was all over him on that restart, so I just figured I’d try and get the lead and control the pace.”

Hoffman collected his first career Reutimann Memorial win Saturday night (Jacy Norgaard Photo)

By this time, Strickler had cracked the whip on his #00EH, normally piloted by Longhorn by Loenbro head and former DIRTcar Nationals champion Steve Arpin, and followed Hoffman around Nicely to take second. Now only a second behind Hoffman, Strickler pinned the throttle.

Through lapped traffic the two raced, weaving inside-and-outside in an exciting chase around the half-mile oval with a blistering pace.

“This place – when it widens out like that, you can pretty much go anywhere,” Hoffman said. “It was actually really fun to maneuver through lapped traffic. I was having a pretty good time just picking lanes and trying to carry as much speed [as possible].”

The chase soon reached a fever pitch, bringing spectators to the edge of their seats, until Strickler lost the handle on his car in Turns 3-4 and looped it by himself to bring out the yellow.

He had just tapped the inside retaining wall, which sent him around in a spin and left him with nose damage. He took it to pit road in an attempt to make repairs but retired to the pits after the restart from the persistent damage.

One lap later, Nicely – who inherited Strickler’s runner-up spot – slowed suddenly on the backstretch and brought out caution again. He took his #25 to pit road with an apparent air cleaner issue and was back out for the restart, but dropped out one lap later, done for the night.

“Strickler just pushed the issue really hard, really early,” Hoffman said. “I was running way harder than I wanted to be at that point in time. Once he had his issue, I was able to cruise.”

And cruise he did. Hoffman drove the remaining 26 laps unchallenged and led the field back to the checkers to collect the $7,000 check and his first tractor trophy as winner of the eighth annual Emil & Dale Reutimann Memorial.

“This is pretty unbelievable, the whole year we had,” Hoffman said. “From Summer Nationals, DIRTcar Nationals, everything we’ve done to get the DIRTcar national championship again… To get that ride with Scott [Bloomquist] and learn from him and run really well in the Late Model, that’s gonna catapult my career, I feel.”

Hoffman on the farm tractor trophy (Jacy Norgaard Photo)

Though he hadn’t raced at Volusia in 20 years, Victor Lee was thrilled to bag $3,000 for a runner-up finish to the #1-ranked driver in the country.

“We’ll take that as a win, for us,” Lee said. “There haven’t been too many people to beat Nick this year. He’s been phenomenal, he’s on his game, so hats off to him and his crew.”

The Danville, KY-native started third and kept his #4L inside the top-five the entire race while fighting mechanical issues throughout the night.

“At the end there, I was really hanging on,” Lee said. “I don’t know if I overheated the brakes and one started sticking on it or what. But when I rolled off the throttle, it wanted to turn dead-right without touching the brakes.”

Kenny Wallace crossed the line in third, improving on his best finish of 10th from his debut in the event last year.

“It was a great race for us,” Wallace said. “We started ninth and really didn’t know what to expect. This is my first year with an Elite Chassis, and I feel like I’ve been getting better all year long.”

Wallace, of Arnold, MO, steadily climbed through the top-10 over 50 laps and was battling for third with Chris Arnold before the final caution with 4-to-go. He hammered the throttle on the restart and powered around Arnold on the bottom to grab the spot, which he held for the final laps to bag a $2,000 check.

Lee (4) racing with Wallace (36) in the final laps (Jacy Norgaard Photo)

“I was really strong on the bottom,” Wallace said. “My car surprised me. I could really drive in hard on the bottom and I had to get used to that. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to drive in that hard on the bottom.”

2021 UMP Modified track champion Garret Stewart found himself in a challenging situation Saturday night after getting into a wreck the night before. He finished repairs on Saturday afternoon and arrived back at the track just in time, scooping a transfer spot from 12th in the first Last Chance Showdown. But he didn’t stop there – the Leesburg, FL-native climbed nineteen positions over 50 laps to finish the Feature 6th from 25th on the starting grid.

Reutimann Memorial Feature (50 Laps) 1. 2-Nick Hoffman[4]; 2. 4L-Victor Lee[3]; 3. 36-Kenny Wallace[9]; 4. 99W-Chris Arnold[7]; 5. 72-Todd Neiheiser[12]; 6. 67- Garret Stewart[25]; 7. 7G-Seth Geary[8]; 8. 99-Justin Haley[17]; 9. 00D-David Reutimann[20]; 10. 13P-Rich Pratt[11]; 11. 80D-Rich Dawson[1]; 12. 24B-Dillon Buhr[16]; 13. 8A-Austin Holcombe[27]; 14. 205-Travis Varnadore[15]; 15. 18-Eric Moon[23]; 16. 44-Jeff Parsons[26]; 17. 16C-John Clippinger[18]; 18. 00-Buzzie Reutimann[21]; 19. (DNF) 33C-Cody Overton[14]; 20. (DNF) 1A-Steve Meyer Jr[19]; 21. (DNF) 33M-Jeff Mathews[13]; 22. (DNF) 2J-Troy Johnson[22]; 23. (DNF) 25-Tyler Nicely[2]; 24. (DNF) 11Z-Zane Oedewaldt[28]; 25. (DNF) 00EH-Kyle Strickler[5]; 26. (DNF) 39W-Brandon Wells[6]; 27. (DNF) 84-Ryan Toole[10]; 28. (DNF) 88-Cody Thornhill[24]

Last Chance Showdown 1 (12 Laps, top-3 transfer) 1. 00-Buzzie Reutimann[1]; 2. 18-Eric Moon[3]; 3. 67-Garret Stewart[12]; 4. 10-Dustin Thayer[6]; 5. 80-Paul Shead[5]; 6. 2L-Jake Leitzman[4]; 7. 78-Troy Loomis[7]; 8. 17-Patrick Vareika[9]; 9. 7-Jason Fitzgerald[2]; 10. 96-Matt Johnson[14]; 11. 1P-Mike Phillips[11]; 12. 11P-Charlie Phillips[13]; 13. (DNF) 27S-Paul Schloss[15]; 14. (DNF) 57P-Zach Permann[8]; 15. (DNF) 17P-Robert Pitcher[10]

Last Chance Showdown 2 (12 Laps, top-3 transfer) 1. 2J-Troy Johnson[1]; 2. 88-Cody Thornhill[4]; 3. 44-Jeff Parsons[3]; 4. 8A-Austin Holcombe[11]; 5. 11Z-Zane Oedewaldt[6]; 6. 54-Jason Jack[5]; 7. 51-Dalton Lanich[7]; 8. 22-David Daughtery[8]; 9. 7+7-Jeff Solinger[10]; 10. 33-Kenny Mihalik[13]; 11. 192-Tim McLeod[9]; 12. (DNF) M41-Steve Maisel[2]; 13. (DNF) 34P-Jim Passino[12]; 14. (DNF) 96S-Slade Parsons[14]; 15. (DNF) 4-Doug Penny[15]; 16. (DNF) 6-Ryan Ayers[16]

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: UMP Modifieds Take on Volusia for Eighth Annual Reutimann Memorial

Hoffman, Nicely, Wallace and more battle Stewart and the local field in $7K-to-win spectacle

BARBERVILLE, FL – The biggest DIRTcar UMP Modified brawl on the fall calendar is finally here. The eighth annual Emil & Dale Reutimann Memorial race boasts a bigger $7,000-to-win purse this year, and the stars will be out to come and chase it.

Thursday night kicks things off with a practice session for all divisions. Hot Lap/Qualifying and Showdown Features for the UMP Modifieds highlight Friday’s program alongside a full show for 602 Late Models and Thunder Stocks. Modified Last Chance Showdowns and the 50-lap Feature are on-tap for Saturday, while DIRTcar Pro (604) Late Models and Street Stocks support the show.

Driver pre-registration is still open at the link below, but will be closed on Wednesday evening. Upon arrival, teams are reminded that all upper pit parking spaces have been booked, but plenty of room is still available around the Gator Pond.

DRIVER PRE-REGISTRATION

All tickets will be sold at the gate on race day – $20 for single-day admission, $30 for both days. Kids 12-and-under are free. If you can’t be at the track, watch every lap of Friday and Saturday live with a FAST PASS subscription to DIRTVision presented by Drydene.

Here are the drivers to watch and storylines to follow this weekend…

TRACTOR HUNTING – The champ is here, and gunning for the gold. Or, in this case, the farm tractor trophy.

Hoffman holding his sixth career Big Gator trophy (Josh James Artwork)

Defending DIRTcar UMP Modified national champion Nick Hoffman, of Mooresville, NC, just clinched his third consecutive DIRTcar national championship after another dominating season that saw him capture 26 Feature wins in 49 starts. In February, Hoffman also clinched a sixth consecutive DIRTcar Nationals Big Gator trophy as champion of the UMP Modified division – the most by any one driver in the event’s 50-year history.

However, there is one trophy he’s never hoisted in the Sunshine State. Hoffman will take his Elite Chassis #2 southbound one final time this year in search of his first win in the event, one year after coming up two spots short of victory in the Saturday finale.

HOME TURF – Over the last two seasons as a UMP Modified regular at Volusia, Garret Stewart has lost a total of four points Features.

The 2020 & 2021 track champion from Leesburg, FL, has since become the local favorite and will lead the charge into the Reutimann Memorial on the back of seven Feature wins in ten regular season starts at the track in 2021. Volusia underwent a resurfacing at the beginning of the year, which 100+ UMP Modified drivers raced on at the 50th DIRTcar Nationals in February. Stewart has now been racing on the new dirt all season, and says those laps on it are going to pay off come Saturday.

Stewart (67) racing with Hoffman (2) at Bristol Motor Speedway in April (Josh James Artwork)

“I think we’ve actually gained on our car when it’s not so slick,” Stewart said. “So, I actually do think this year we have a little bit of help on our side just being on the race track seven or eight times throughout the year.”

FRIENDS IN SOUTHERN PLACES – It’s been another successful year behind the wheel for Matoaca, VA-driver Chris Arnold, who locked-up his first regional UMP Modified championship last weekend with the Southeast Dirt Modified Series. This weekend, he’ll have an extra resource on hand with him in the pit area – his car builder, David Reutimann.

Reutimann is the owner, founder and builder of Beak Built Chassis, which Arnold has been piloting for the past few seasons. David and father Buzzie, 80, of Zephyrhills, FL, will both be on the roster for the event – which David won in 2015 and 2016, when the event was held at East Bay Raceway Park.

Arnold in his DAI Motorsports #99W Beak Built Chassis at Bristol in April, where he finished third on Saturday (Josh James Artwork)

NO MORE MR. NICE GUY – Tyler Nicely entered the Reutimann Memorial and came to Volusia last year, driving a brand-new Longhorn by Loenbro, with one goal in mind. Win.

When the weekend was over, he had done just that, defeating Hoffman and NASCAR star Justin Allgaier for his first career tractor trophy. This year, his goal is exactly the same – win in a brand-new car, in preparation for Florida in February.

“We’ve got a whole year under our belt and we ran solid during Speedweeks,” Nicely said. “I’m excited to get back. We’ll have a new car, and the car I started running at the end of the year. We’ll practice on both Thursday night, see which one I feel like I’ve got the best shot at and hopefully bring another one of them tractor trophies back to Owensboro.”

Nicely will defend his Reutimann crown from 2020 this weekend (Josh James Artwork)

WILDCARD WINNER – Kenny Wallace brought his Elite Chassis #36 to Volusia last Saturday night, in preparation for this weekend, and won, defeating David Reutimann and Garret Stewart in the Wildcard 25 main event.

Wallace, of Arnold, MO, made his Reutimann Memorial debut last year and had a strong run in Saturday’s finale, driving all the way from 21st to finish 10th. He’ll be back on the roster for another try at the coveted farm tractor trophy and a $7,000 check this weekend.

TOP 50 DRIVERS: 50 years of elite DIRTcar Nationals drivers

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park. In that time, hundreds of talented drivers have entered Volusia County, attempting to leave a winner. Many have. More are still trying.

From Sprint Cars to Late Models to Modifieds to Big Blocks, Volusia and the DIRTcar Nationals has served as one of the best time capsules for all of dirt racing. For the 50th year of the event, we went through the long list of drivers that have competed for the coveted DIRTcar Nationals championship title and picked 50 of the best to ever grace the clay surface.

These are the top-50 drivers of the DIRTcar Nationals in alphabetical order:

Steve Arpin

 

 

Dave Blaney

Scott Bloomquist

 

 

Kenny Brightbill

 

 

Clint Bowyer

 

 

Shane Clanton

 

 

Austin Dillon

 

Ty Dillon

 

 

Craig Dollansky

 

 

Rick Eckert

Steve Francis

 

Stewart Friesen

 

 

Tim Fuller

 

 

David Gravel

 

Brett Hearn

 

Doug Hoffman

 

 

Nick Hoffman

 

 

Jimmy Horton

 

 

Kenny Jacobs

 

Alan Johnson

 

Danny Johnson

 

 

Jack Johnson

 

 

Jared Landers

 

Steve Kinser

 

 

Darrell Lanigan

 

 

Danny Lasoski

 

 

Chris Madden

 

Tim McCreadie

 

Billy Moyer, Sr.

 

Don O’Neal

 

 

Jimmy Owens

 

Billy Pauch

 

 

Earl Pearson, Jr.

 

Daryn Pittman

 

Josh Richards

 

Brian Ruhlman

 

Joey Saldana

 

Donny Schatz

 

Kenny Schrader

 

Jeff Shepard

 

Brandon Sheppard

 

 

Matt Sheppard

 

David Stremme

 

Kyle Strickler

 

Brad Sweet

 

Sammy Swindell

 

Kenny Wallace

 

Pat Ward

 

 

Larry Wight

 

 

Doug Wolfgang