To say that racing legend Rusty Wallace is a fan of short-track racing is something of an understatement. On Friday night under the lights of the Grundy County Speedway, the NASCAR Hall of Famer was back to help promote ARCA’s day on the 1/3-mile paved oval and the 100-lap Wayne Carter Classic feature race.
“He loves this series (ARCA) and wants to be helpful to short-track racing,” ARCA vice-president Steve Einhaus said. “He’s also got a love for the Midwest, so that’s why he’s coming out tonight to give us a hand.”
Wallace is one in a long line of racing greats who has run Grundy.
“I was telling people earlier that I was going to have a great opportunity to see a lot of people that I haven’t seen in a long time,” Wallace said prior to Friday’s meet and greet with the fans. “This is the place where I got going. It’s hard to believe that I started here and I won the last race back in 1983 and now I’m here and my career is over. Time flies, it’s amazing.”
Wallace won the ARTGO Fall Nationals that year at the Grundy Speedway, narrowly defeating Tracy Schuler for the win. While Wallace has since retired, Schuler is still plugging away and he can be regularly seen here running in town.
“I was talking to Tracy Schueler on the way down here about that race back in 1983,” Einhaus said. “He (Schuler) led the majority of the race but Rusty passed him with just a few laps to go and won the race. They’re kind of excited to see each other.”
Wallace said that he remembers the Grundy Speedway and the area surrounding the Grundy County Fairgrounds well.
“It’s a typical, great short track. It’s where I cut my teeth and got going,” he said. “It’s was really, really great for me. It’s been such a long time since I’ve been here. I knew there was something unique about this place because I was driving through the corn fields to get here.”
Wallace said that fans associate so well with short track racing for a couple of reasons.
“It’s the close proximity of the cars and the bumping and the banging, the excitement of that and the passing,” he said. “The super-speedways are fantastic, but this is grass roots racing and more people get to attend at an affordable price.”
Wallace won 55 races in his NASCAR career, including 34 of them on the circuit’s short tracks. He retired in 2005 as a driver to become a national broadcaster. All while getting the chance to watch his son Stephen.
“I’m here to see some great fans and sign some autographs and to watch my son race,” Wallace said.
Einhaus said that Wallace is the kind of racing icons that people can really get behind.
“Obviously, Rusty is so personable,” Einhaus said. “The fans love him because he’s a good person and he’s so friendly.”
Wallace did come out of racing retirement for one race last year at the Milwaukee Mile before settling back into the broadcast booth again.
He said that, for him, finding success on the short tracks of America has a tried and true formula.
“You’ve got to know your car. That’s No. 1. You have to know all about that car,” Wallace said. “Also, don’t be afraid to jump around and run a lot of different tracks. If you stay at one track it’s hard for people to see you. I just ran all over the place.”