Recently, this column has taken on the idea of silly season, and has tried to make the many changes that have taken place prior to the 2014 NASCAR season a bit easier to understand. When most people think of silly and NASCAR in the same vein, the first person who pops into their head is Kenny Wallace.
As a staple on SPEED for several years prior to and following races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Kenny has shown that he is just an average guy who happens to be on television. Some may argue that he is crazy, while most others will agree that he just might be brilliant.
On Saturday, Feb. 8, the West Palm Beach Motorsports Examiner was luck enough to get Kenny to take a few minutes out of his busy schedule to sit down and answer a few questions about racing, his new book, and the future of auto racing in general.
1. You recently published "Kenny's Garage." Can you briefly explain to my readers what the book is about, and why you decided to write it?
"Kenny’s Garage is an extension to your car owner’s manual; we all own a car and need to know how to work on them. Kenny Schrader wrote the Foreward and I have sprinkled funny stories throughout the book"
2. You have become a voice for the "every man" during the NASCAR pre and post race review shows. How do you feel about the series as a whole, and do you think you will ever return to driving in NASCAR?
"I have never announced my retirement from NASCAR, I did announce my retirement from finding sponsors/funding, I am at a very happy place in my life right now, and we are having fun. "
3. Fox Sports 1 seems to have moved further and further away from racing coverage, and other networks such as MAV TV appear to be picking up the slack. How do you feel about the death of SPEED TV and the refocusing of Fox Sports?
"I am very appreciative that FOX Sports 1 covers all NASCAR races just like they always have. They cover practice, qualifying and the race so nothing has changed. However what we did lose are every day automotive type shows which have caught people off guard. If you really study it and watch FOX Sports 1, we still cover all of the racing just as we always have."
4. As your career moves more towards dirt track racing, what are your feelings about the 2013 season as a whole, as well as your hopes for 2014?
"I am moving into a new phase of my life and I am really excited about the future."
5. How do you feel about the Gen 6 car, as opposed to the COT?
"The COT was built because of Dale Earnhardt’s death. It did not work very well but the safety worked great. Now the Gen 6 car looks like a race car, and of course that is a good thing!"
6. Do you feel that the new points structure will lead to increased viewership for NASCAR, or is it simply another marketing gimmick?
"I do not think that there are any gimmicks as I am inside the sport and it is all very real. However, we do have to do something to stop the decrease in viewership and keep the interest, this is why NASCAR is doing all that they can do to make our sport relevant and exciting. "
7. Who are the drivers to watch out for in 2014?
"The same ones as the last 5 years."
8. Do you follow the Grand Am series at all? If so, what is your opinion of the reunification of sportscar racing in 2014?
"No, I do not as I keep very busy with all of my obligations. "
9. What is your favorite racetrack?
"The next one!"
10. With NASCAR seeming to favor more strict enforcement of the rulebook, and imposing stricter penalties, do you think that this effort will stifle competition?
"NASCAR has worked very hard at transparency, they use to rule with a tape measure and now they rule with laser beams. Everything is measured by laser beams, if you are at the Daytona 500 and you are a fan, everyone can watch the cars go through the tech inspection, I think the process is very fair."
11. What is your average day like, both at and away from the track?
"I know that I catch a lot of people off guard, I am incredibly normal, I do everything myself. I pay all of my own bills, work on my own cars, I have 3 daughters, a beautiful wife, I am the same as everyone else. "
12. I recently completed the Competition 101 Racing School, driving 20 laps in a former NASCAR stockcar. Do you think that programs like this are important to help fans understand the sport more?
"It has saved our sport. There are a lot of people that use to make fun of drivers, and a lot of people out there would say “heck, I can drive a car like that”, the schools are great for those people that think driving a race car is a simple task. We put them in the car, they go 150 miles per hour then they get out of the car and say “wow, I can’t do that and I will never ever say that I can”! "
13. What is your opinion of the impact of money on racing; specifically the fact that racers seem to have to bring more money to the table in order to even compete at any level in many series?
"It has been like this forever, it is just that the economy is lopsided right now. I do like the fact that there are different divisions in racing to fit your pocketbook. This is why I race a dirt modified car, as a late model or a sprint car is way too expensive. This is also why I no longer look for $100,000.00 for 1 race for the NASCAR Nationwide series. At least we have choices."
14. With declining attendance at tracks all across the country, and around the world, do you feel that racing as a sport has a promising future? "
There is no doubt that the sport of racing has diminished. We have seen this in the US as well as around the world. Auto racing as a whole is up against a new evolved world. The main reason I believe is that there are so many gadgets and electronics that are at the fingertips of consumers in this day and time. Kids will stay at home and play video games, you can watch TV shows and races on your computer. Going to a car race use to be an exciting activity, one of the only in-person exciting activities back in the day, nowadays there are so many choices. NASCAR is doing a brilliant job at trying to reinvent themselves right now to keep racing exciting and I think that all types of racing will follow suit."
15. What are your plans, on and off the track, for 2014?
"The same as last year. I have been asked to race a few races for the number 29 NASCAR Nationwide series car, “Robby Benton”, same car as I ran last year. I will continue to work for FOX Sports 1, and I will continue to run my dirt car and represent all of my sponsors, Toyota, JEGS, American Ethanol and University of Northwestern Ohio."
16. Is anything else you’d like to share with the readers of the West Palm Beach Motorsports Examiner?
"Kenny’s Garage is a great read for all, you can pick up the paperback version on Amazon and the eBook version on Kindle, Nook and iBook. We are donating 10% of the proceeds to the Greg Biffle Foundation for Animals. Follow me on Twitter @Kenny_Wallace and @KennysGarage as well as on my new Youtube Channel."
Kenny was nice enough to donate one of his new books, Kenny's Garage, to the West Palm Beach Motorsports Examiner. Be the 36th person to tweet the following statement, and you'll be rewarded with a copy of one of the finest NASCAR related pieces of literature since "In the blink of an eye."
The West Palm Beach Motorsports Examiner would like to thank Kenny Wallace and the good people at Driver's Seat Media for helping to make this interview possible. Over the next couple weeks, this column will strive to provide full coverage of the events leading up to the Great American Race at the end of February, including an interview with perennial contender David Ragan.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season opens with the Daytona 500 in Daytona Beach, Fla., on Feb. 23. The race will be televised live on FOX at 1 p.m. ET. The cars will also be on track throughout the "SpeedWeeks" leading up to the "Great American Race," including the Budweiser Duels qualifying races, which will be televised live on Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.
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