By Dan Stillwell
Register-Herald Sports Writer
Beckley Motorsports Park didn’t have to twist Kenny Wallace’s arm to get him to return this season.
Sure, he gets paid. But he loves the place.
“I’ve raced in hundreds of dirt tracks, and this is the most different track I’ve seen,” he said Friday during a meet and greet prior to the races. “I’m excited to be here.”
He saluted both the track and its fans.
“It’s a lot of fun to drive. The track is chiseled out of the side of a mountain, which is rare. It has high-banked corners, real wide; there’s lots of room to pass.
“And the fans love their racing here. They have good crowds. Any race car driver would like to race here.”
Wallace was visibly tired. He had raced on a dirt track in Charleston, Ill., Thursday night, and had driven on to Beckley. There wasn’t a lot of sleep to be had.
Yet he warmly greeted each fan at the meet and greet as if they were old friends.
No fake smiles here. Wallace loves his fans.
“Fans are people, like me and you, and I’ve raced for so long I’ve learned that without them, we can’t do this,” he said. “So I take the Richard Petty approach: Sign as many autographs as I can and be appreciative.
“There are a lot of dirt tracks that are suffering now. But Beckley is doing good. So when the fans come out, I’m appreciative.”
Wallace, 49, grew up in a racing family. His brother Rusty became one of NASCAR’s biggest names. Another older brother, Mike, still races in the Camping World Truck division.
Kenny has nearly 1,000 starts in NASCAR’S various divisions, and he’ll race a Nationwide Series car next Saturday in Charlotte.
But he truly enjoys dirt tracks. He’s already appeared at 10 different locations, and he’ll run around 55 races this year.
“We keep on running. We start the season in Florida, then we go into Illinois and Indiana and then into (the Virginias),” Wallace said. “We’ll run in Macon, Ill., on Memorial Day on a track that Tony Stewart, Kenny Shrader and I own.
“We put our money where our mouths are. We own a dirt track, and we’ll race at a lot of different tracks.”
Wallace finished fourth Thursday night in Charleston, Ill.
“We obviously weren’t good enough to win. We were too loose,” he said. “But I’m proud of my team. We won the UMP (United Midwestern Promoters) Summer National championship last year. We won 12 races.”
After Friday’s race, Wallace was to fly to Charlotte, where he is a commentator on the Speed Network. His crew will carry on back to Macon, Ill.
Racing the past two days was good for him. The death by suicide of NASCAR driver Dick Trickle is weighing heavily on him.
“He was my best friend. (Thursday) was a horrible, horrible day for me,” Wallace said. “I’m just pushing through today and last night.
“Dick taught me how to race... It’s just an incredibly tough situation for all of us.”
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Feature results from last night’s race were not available at press time, but will be published in Sunday’s Register-Herald.
— E-mail: dstillwell@