On Oct. 9, 1983, a young driver by the name of Rusty Wallace scored a victory over Frank Gawlinski and Tracy Schuler at the Grundy County Speedway in an event known as the ARTGO Fall Nationals. That same year he was the ASA Champion and six short years later he was the 1989 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion (formerly Winston Cup).
This Friday night the NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee will return to Grundy County Speedway as an honorary guest for the ARCA Midwest Tour, presented by Lester Buildings and Scag Power Equipment, Wayne Carter Classic Calypso Lemonade 100.
300 lucky fans will be a part of a meet and greet including autographs with Rusty Wallace. Tickets go on sale at 3:30 p.m. Friday and all tickets are first come, first serve. Tickets will be in no particular order and fans will be randomly notified of their winning ticket and the opportunity to meet Rusty.
Wallace’s achievements in racing are almost too numerous to count, but one thing is for sure, he will never forget where it all started.
“One thing that always sticks in my mind is how tough it was up in the Midwest. I really had to work so hard on my cars. I asked so many questions. I was always getting guys like (Dick) Trickle to help me and even the locals. When I finally got good, I’d head down south and start winning everything. But then I’d come back north and get my butt kicked,” Wallace said.
When Rusty would return to the Midwest he realized how much all the guys had learned while he was gone.
“The guys running ARTGO and ASA at the time were at the top of their game,” Wallace said. “They were the smartest guys and had the most common sense. So I had to be good.”
When Wallace started winning more and more in the Midwest, he realized that in order to get noticed he couldn’t stay at one track. As he started to move around he started winning almost everywhere he went.
“That’s what got me noticed. Racing with the guys in the Midwest got me to where I was,” Wallace said.
The ARCA Midwest Tour is still full of the best in the Midwest. Dan Fredrickson, the i-gogs Sunglasses Touring Star and current point leader, is one of the first to admit that it takes a lot of hours of hard work to keep up with all of the Midwest Tour competitors. But he also thinks living in the Midwest has its benefits.
“I think that having an actual off season can sometimes be a big help because it gives us time to improve and think things through instead of just being in the grind of racing all the time,” he said. “Our tracks are more wore out and rough. I think that makes us work a little harder to make them handle better.”
The competitiveness in the Midwest Tour still helps drivers prepare for events all over the nation. In 2011 DOC 360 Touring Star, Chris Wimmer went down south and won one of the most prestigious events, the World Crown 300.
Rusty’s son, Stephen, is getting his own taste of running with the best drivers in the Midwest as well, as he joins the field of drivers this Friday night. Stephen is coming off a 19th place finish after starting 43rd in the Howie Lettow Memorial 150 at the Milwaukee Mile last Tuesday.
“I am so pumped to be running with these guys again. All the drivers are so tough in this series. They are definitely on their game up here,” Stephen Wallace said. “Milwaukee was a lot of fun and running a track like Grundy is going to be a whole different ball game from what I hear. I can’t wait! Steve (Einhaus) and Tim (Olson) have really put together a great series and have been great to work with.”
Rusty was blown away by the number of cars competing at the Milwaukee Mile last Tuesday. It reminded him of what it used to be.
“I hope the ARCA Midwest Tour stays strong because it’s such an iconic brand. I hope they can continue to grow because it’s where we all grew up. The way the cars look, it’s starting to remind me of what they used to be,” Rusty Wallace said. “Now everything is comparable. The series taught so many people so many things. We see a lot of guys come out of there. I’m appreciative of what it taught me. My championship (ASA) trophy is front and center.”
Rusty is looking forward to seeing how his son runs.
“You know, after Milwaukee my brain kicked in and I remembered how tough it was up here,” he said. “To show up and just think you are going to win isn’t really realistic.”
But seeing Stephen compete is not the only thing Rusty is excited about.
“If I remember correctly, there was a cornfield in Morris and a race track just popped up,” Wallace joked. “I am really looking forward to going back there. That style of racing is where I cut my teeth and some of the same guys I raced against are still hanging out there.”
It is always fun to be there to sign autographs and see the fans. Being a Hall of Famer, people ask a lot of questions and I really appreciate that. I think when I get there I’ll be really happy to get back to my roots.”
ARCA Midwest Tour Vice President, Steve Einhaus knows exactly what it means to get back to his roots. Growing up in the area, it means a lot for him to come back to promote and be a part of the historic event alongside guys like Rusty Wallace.
“There is nothing like coming back home each year to promote this event. It’s where I grew up and I have so many friends locally that support the show,” Einhaus said. “We are proud of the ARCA Midwest Tour and what we have to offer local racing fans, and to bring Rusty Wallace back to such an iconic event will be very special to all of us that watched him race at Grundy for so many years.
“I personally look forward to getting a group picture with many of the guys he competed with at Grundy over the years. I hope that everyone will come on out and help us fill the place to show support for the competitors at such a great event honoring Wayne Carter.”
The Wayne Carter Classic has a rich history. Art Frigo started the ARTGO series in 1975. The very first ARTGO event was held at Grundy County Speedway won by Wisconsin Rapids, WI driver Tom Reffner. As the year’s went on, the late John McKarn’s took over the ARTGO series and carried on the tradition. Past winners include the likes of greats like Larry Phillips, Dick Trickle, Joe Shear, Larry Schuler, Steve Carlson and many more.
Ticket prices for Friday’s event is $20 for adults 12-and-older with 11-and-under are FREE! An All Driver Autograph Session will begin at 6 p.m. and the first green flag will drop at an early start time of 7 p.m. Qualifying is at 5 p.m.