PORTLAND — Many years ago, Dale Earnhardt told Kenny Wallace that there are great race car drivers all over the United States.

Sunday, Wallace and his nephew, Steve, will get to see just what kind of talent exists in Maine. Wallace made an appearance at Wednesday’s T.D. Banknorth press conference via phone from Canada and told the media just how excited he is to compete at Oxford Plains Speedway again.

“I know I’ve got my work cut out for me, but I know I’ve got one of Ricky Rolfe’s race cars,” he said. “So I’ve got a good start on it.”

Kenny is just part of a Wallace trio appearing at the region’s richest single-day short track race Sunday. Rusty Wallace will be the grand marshall. He competed in the NASCAR Busch North Series in 1987. Two years later, he qualified 25th and finished 10th in the 250. Rusty’s son, Steve, has never competed in the 250, but won the Snowball Derby in Pensacola, Florida in 2004 at age 17.

“To me, there’s two great short track races, the Oxford 250 in the Northeast and the Snowball Derby in Florida,” said Kenny Wallace. 

Kenny Wallace recounted his introduction to the 250 in the 1990s. He had become fast friends with Ricky Craven many years ago. Wallace was looking for a place to work on his car. Craven invited him to utilize his father-in-law’s garage.

“We took our car and parked it in his stall, and we went to Oxford and we were so jealous because Ricky won the race,” Wallace recalled. “I ran like fourth and had a flat tire or whatever. The very next week, I won the Bud 300 at Loudon. So, me and Ricky Craven figured out that we won $110,000 out of his little shop in two weeks. So, the Oxford 250, from that point on, I realized it was like the Snowball Derby in the south.”

Kenny Wallace competed in three straight 250s when it was the NASCAR Nationwide Series in the early 1990s. He finished 20th, eighth and 34th. He recalls the year when a flat tire hindered his cause but the other finishes are lost to time.

“I do remember the track and remember it perfectly,” he said. “I had one in which I had a shot at winning, and I had a flat tire. The other ones, I can’t remember. I’m getting old. I’m 45 years old, and I’ve hit the wall a couple times. Maybe I take bad memories and get rid of them.”

Rusty Wallace won 55 races and 36 poles in his Sprint Cup career. He won the 1989 NASCAR all-star race and was the 1991 IROC champion and was named one of NASCAR’s 50 greatest drivers in 1998. He also won the inaugural Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 1993.

His son, Steve, is only 21 but has been an up-and-coming racer on the Nationwide Series. He has wins in ARCA competition and a win in the first-ever Late Model stock car race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Kenny Wallace is a veteran of more than 750 starts in NASCAR’s two top series. He has nine wins, 10 poles and 157 top-10 results in the Nationwide Series, in which he’ll race Saturday before flying to Maine. He finished second in the Nationwide point standings in 1991. He has won the pole three times and posted 27 top-20 finishes, most notably a second at Talladega in 2000.

He is also one of racings most popular television personalities. He is co-host of “NASCAR RaceDay” and NASCAR Victory Lane” on SPEED.

Kenny Wallace hasn’t raced a Late Model since winning in Bristol in 2001. He says he is anxious to get into Rolfe’s car and see how he matches up Sunday. He was supposed to test at OPS last month but weather nixed those plans.

“I really wish I’d been able to test in Ricky Rolfe’s car because it takes a little bit to get the feel back,” said Wallace.

Wallace’s car will be provided by Brackett Motorsports and Rolfe. The Albany Township native is one of Maine’s most successful racers and car builders. When track owner Bill Ryan called to ask if they could provide a car, they were glad to supply one.

“It’s a car we already had,” said Rolfe. “It was a backup car for the tour anyway. We haven’t run it all year because we’ve been kind of saving it for Kenny. I’ve tested it a couple of times.”

Rolfe got measurements for Wallace and have tried to adjust the seat and the weight of the car. When Wallace couldn’t make the test a month ago, Rolfe took it for some spins. He admits the car is running better than his own.

“It’s fast, it really is,” said Rolfe. “It’s better than the one I’ve been racing weekly. We’ve been saving it for Kenny. After this weekend, we can start racing it ourselves.”

Steve Wallace will have his car provided by the American-CanadianTour team of Kendall Roberts of Vermont.


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