Inside Herman's World






















































Racing Commentary

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Photo by New Images

August 6, 2008


Mid-afternoon on July 23, a non-descript tow vehicle and an unlettered trailer pulled into Murray County Speedway, a 3/8 mile fairgrounds dirt track in Slayton, Minnesota. The rig had obviously seen some miles. It was far less plush than the grand haulers of USMTS stars such as Al Hejna, Scott Green, and Jason Hughes.

When the car was rolled out, it was a black and yellow #36 with “JEGS” splashed boldly down the sides. Its driver, Kenny Wallace. That’s right – the guy with the laugh.

At 44, Kenny Wallace (a.k.a. “Herman the German” and “the Hermanator”) is an enormously popular NASCAR figure. Though overshadowed in victories by his older brothers Rusty and Mike, Kenny has been a consistent force in Nationwide/Busch and Cup racing for nearly 20 years. His stature in the racing community is obvious. He is one of the most frequently requested “utility” drivers, filling the seat when the regular chauffeur is doing sheet time in the hospital or waiting out a suspension. This season, he is full-time for veteran car owner Jay Robinson in the Border Patrol Nationwide entry.

The Hermanator is also a television staple in just about every racing household in the country. He appears Sunday with John Roberts and Jimmy Spencer on SPEED TV doing Cup commentary, dispensing his loud and cheerful antics. A skilled public speaker, he’s frequently bouncing around the country to various charitable and corporate events. When he’s not on the road, he’s often home in Concord, NC. He’s old-fashioned dedicated to his wife Kim and their three daughters.

It all sounds pretty cushy. And with all the pomp and circumstance around big-time racing these days, you have to wonder what in the world Kenny was doing on a Wednesday night in rural Minnesota. It certainly isn’t the money. Short-track sponsorships are skinny these days, even for a national parts company like JEGS. The fact is that Kenny joined the church of the clay a few years back because he just plain loves it.

In his autobiography, Inside Herman’s World, he writes: “I believe in my soul I would never be a complete driver unless I ran dirt. I am running dirt races today because I need to feel like a real race driver...At first, I sucked. And here was maybe the hardest part – I had to totally park my ego and put on blinders. Because when I went on the track people would rush up to the fence – not to watch me race, but to see how bad I was going to wreck….Guess what? I’m going to keep doing this until I can do a clean slide job on Schrader at Pevely. I don’t know exactly what the last laugh is, but I’m at least at the chuckle stage.”

At Slayton, Kenny, in a tee-shirt and jeans with a 9/16 wrench, was all over the #36. He was changing tires from the night before at distant Corning, Iowa, joking with other competitors, and attacking the tacky black gumbo track surface. He was fast, but his car broke in the main. Just minutes later he was smilingly tackling a huge queue of autograph seekers.

About 1:00 a.m. that night, the unremarkable hauler pulled out. As it did, a caffeinated Kenny rolled down the passenger side window and shouted joyfully, “We’re off to Kasson!” – the Thursday night show three hours down the road. Friday night, he was back at the helm of Jay Robinson’s Nationwide car on the asphalt of O’Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis. Saturday and Sunday he had TV duties at the Brickyard 400.

Is he cool or what?

© 2008 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181

Photo by Lew Boyd

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.: Previous Tearoffs :.

7/19/08 - Star(ter) of the Show

7/7/08 - McUnderdog

6/18/08 - The Night Buzz Was Worried

6/5/08 - John Richards - Boomer Role Model

5/20/08 - The Spirit of a Racer

5/1/08 - Bobby's Blues

4/15/08 - Thinking About Rene Charland

3/26/08 - Carl and Corey

3/4/08 - A Cool Track with Cool Racers

2/14/08 - Doug Wolfgang

1/25/08 - Frankie Schneider

1/7/08 - When Drivers Can't See

12/21/07 - When Starters Couldn't See

12/1/07 - Ride Along with Erica Santos

11/15/07 - Tough Drivers

11/1/07 - Cockpit Safety

10/15/07 - That First Race

10/1/07 - Racing Nicknames

9/15/07 - Too Many Officials

9/1/07 - The Look of a Real Driver

8/15/07 - Being Dale Junior

8/1/07 - Armond Holley

7/15/07  -  Red Farmer