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If you go
What: Outlaw Super Late Models, Modifieds
Who: Featuring NASCAR drivers Kenny Wallace and David Stremme
Where: Baer Field Speedway
When: Today, 5:30 p.m. qualifying; 7:30 p.m. racing
Admission: $20 adults; $5 children 6-12; free 5 and under
Kenny Wallace signs autographs

Kenny Wallace signs autographs at Evans Toyota in Fort Wayne on Tuesday and will drive at Baer Field Speedway on Wednesday. Video by Greg Jones, The Journal Gazette.

Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
NASCAR driver and commentator Kenny Wallace greets Bart Frazier, left, and his father, Pat, on Tuesday at Evans Toyota.

NASCAR analyst nurtures dirt-racing roots

– Kenny Wallace, along with his wife, Kim, drove six hours Tuesday to help promote and drive in events today at Baer Field Speedway.

After tonight’s race, he will return to his home to St. Louis and compete in races Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Then on Sunday, he will get on a plane at 5 a.m. to get to his gig as a commentator on Fox Sports 1. And then it’s rinse and repeat next week for Wallace as he goes through a similar schedule.

“Everybody tunes in every Sunday and sees me on Fox Sports 1, and it’s a great show,” Wallace, 50, said between signing autographs Tuesday at Evans Toyota. “But it is a hidden deal that I probably run 50 dirt races a year. We run about three, four times a week. We are still not retired from NASCAR. We have backed off the NASCAR racing so much that people don’t know how much dirt racing I do. I got addicted to dirt racing. We raced a lot of dirt, especially this time of the year.”

Wallace will be the grand marshal for the Kenny Wallace 100 for Outlaw Super Late Models today at Baer Field and then climb into Jerry Brown’s car to compete in the Kenny Wallace 50 modified race around the three-eighths-mile short track. He will go door to door with drivers just as he would in a Sprint Cup or Nationwide race.

“We just race,” said Wallace, a former Nationwide Series’ rookie of the year and most popular driver. “What happens is, if you race NASCAR, you are on TV every week. These races aren’t on TV every week, but they are a lot of fun.

“I have probably raced 16 Daytona 500s and probably run 10 Brickyard 400s, and when we drop the green flag for any dirt race, I have those same butterflies, and I am like, ‘I have to win.’ I still get excited; I mean get really excited. When I don’t get excited racing, then I will quit.”

Wallace holds a special place in his heart for Baer Field after first coming to the Fort Wayne track in 1978 as a mechanic for his brother, NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty. Wallace got his first win in an American Speed Association event at Baer Field.

“I believe in paying it forward and giving back,” Wallace said for his reason to be in Fort Wayne. “The Baer Field Speedway was condemned and shut down for years, and John Raney is bringing it back to life. I love auto racing. The reason I am here is to run a race and let everybody know Baer Field is back, and it’s strong. That’s why I am here. It’s very important.”

Wallace co-owns a track in Macon, Illinois, with Tony Stewart and Kenny Schrader and knows the importance of the local racing scene.

“Grass-roots racing is the only thing,” he said.

“Without grass-roots racing, there’s no Tony Stewart, there’s no Jeff Gordon. When Tony Stewart comes back and runs the Rumble every year, that’s where he started. If you don’t have local short-track racing, you have no NASCAR because that’s where everybody learns to race. That’s how important it is.”

Fellow NASCAR driver David Stremme will compete in today’s Super Late Model portion of the program.