Monday, February 6, 2012

Kenny Wallace Sees Flaws With NASCAR Nationwide Series

Kenny Wallace heads to Daytona set to begin his 23rd year in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. His illustrious career dates back to 1988 when he made his first start for Dale Earnhardt Inc. at Martinsville, at the age of 24.

Now, Wallace is a series veteran and scheduled to make his 523rd career start in Daytona. Through his years in the sport, he has seen and learned a lot as the Nationwide Series has grown, contracted and morphed into the series it is today.

Always outspoken and never one to hold his tongue, Wallace sees a major flaw in the make up of the Nationwide Series - and it is not the Sprint Cup Series drivers.

While the 2011 season was dominated by Sprint Cup Series drivers - only five Nationwide Series regulars scored wins (one of which being Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne) - Wallace believes there is a high level of talent among the Nationwide Series drivers.

By eliminating Sprint Cup drivers from competing for the title, it has allowed the Nationwide Series drivers to thrive and make a name for themselves, away from the spotlight of the double-duty drivers. He said NASCAR's decision last year to limit each driver to competing for the championship in one series was a positive step to fixing a mistake NASCAR made "a long time ago."

"When you have Sam Hornish Jr. going against Justin Allgaier and Elliott Sadler and Danica Patrick, it's a star-studded cast," he said. "You're starting to see a good mixture of drivers that maybe weren't ready for Sprint Cup, maybe didn't make it. You look at Sam Hornish, he was a good Sprint Cup driver, but he lost his sponsorship. Here he has an opportunity to come down and get more time before he goes back up. You look at Elliott Sadler, who is a Sprint Cup winner - this is a really good mixture of drivers going for the championship.

"You have an Indianapolis 500 winner (Hornish) going for the championship. It's going to be a pretty exciting year when you look at the people running for the championship."

So what is the major flaw Wallace sees in the Nationwide Series if it is not the Sprint Cup Series drivers?

"One thing that keeps getting under my skin is that people keep saying Cup drivers come in and take everything, well that's not true," he said. "The Cup drivers do not come in and take everything, it's the Cup car owners. Roger Penske, Jack Roush, Rick Hendrick. That's one thing that I don't know if we're ever going to fix.

"It never was the Cup drivers. It's the Cup car owners," he went on to say. "These guys are coming in with a massive amount of money and research. They're just bringing their Cup teams, their Cup know-how and they're just tearing up the Nationwide Series."

While he is not a fan of the Sprint Cup Series owners dominating the Nationwide Series, he is not in favor of NASCAR stepping in and placing a limit on the amount of money a team can spend in the series, explaining that would be "getting into communism."

That being said, Wallace would like to see NASCAR move towards a spec motor and spec tires for the series, thus lowering the costs associated with not only running, but competing for wins. With the way things work now, independent car owners are incapable of keeping up with the Cup car owners in terms of research and development, engines, technology, tires and manpower.

"We have got to get these costs down where Robbie Benton (Wallace's current team owner) can compete. We've seen too many independent car owners fail in the Nationwide Series," he said. "They've all failed. All of them. You look at BACE Motorsports. You look at Greg Pollax's PPC. All of the original Nationwide car owners have failed because they're trying to keep up with the Cup car owners.

"The key to it is to bring in the cost of that car down so low so that the normal millionaire can compete," Wallace said. "If you tell Roger Penske that you can't buy any more than six tires and they're only going to cost this much, the motors are going to cost this much. Where the normal car owner gets beat is these great Cup car owners spend more money on their motors, they bring in their Cup teams for pit stops, they bring in their engineering."

Despite his team's disadvantages, Wallace was still able to have one of his best seasons in recent memory in 2011. Returning to RAB Racing in 2012, the veteran is optimistic about his chances at an even better season this year.

In addition, Wallace and RAB Racing will attempt to make the Daytona 500, using the equipment acquired from the now-defunct Red Bull Racing - the same car Brian Vickers qualified ninth with at Talladega, to be exact.

Through his long career in the Nationwide Series, Wallace has become a student of the sport. Often criticized for his wild and often eccentric actions off the track, he is as serious as he is zany when it comes to his views on the future of the sport. And perhaps it is time to take him seriously.

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