Kenny Wallace proud of ‘B driver’ career entering final NASCAR race

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Kenny Wallace is the first to admit it.

He was a punchline.

“There was an old joke one time, ‘He’s back,'” Wallace said Friday at Iowa Speedway, the day before his 904th and final NASCAR start.

That was when he was a “B driver,” called upon when an “A” driver was out of commission.

He replaced Steve Park for 12 races in 2001, which included a pole and second-place run at Rockingham. There were the seven races as Ernie Irvan’s substitute in 1994, when he qualified second at Atlanta and finished fourth at Martinsville.

The latter came during Wallace’s “sweet spot” from 1991 and 2000, the 10 seasons when the youngest of the Wallace brothers could be found competing full time in either the Sprint Cup or Xfinity Series.

Except when he wasn’t.

“I’m probably a driver that if other drivers wouldn’t have got hurt, I’d probably have been done,” Wallace says. “Every time I got in a good car, I performed. I’ve always been that ‘B’ driver and I’m proud of that.”

There were a “couple of hard spots” during his 903 starts across NASCAR’s three national touring series and his record 546 Xfinity Series starts.

But there was that sweet spot.

“That’s when I won my nine Xfinity races,” Wallace said. “That was the time I earned (the right) to keep coming back.”

The 52-year-old driver and analyst for Fox Sports will be back one final time, in today’s Xfinity Series U.S. Cellular 250, driving the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Seven years after his last Sprint Cup start and four after his last full season on the Xfinity circuit, Wallace will make his final start in a NASCAR-sanctioned race.

Why now?

“That’s not all in one minute I can tell you that,” Wallace says, but then he does.

Hurting his back in a wreck while substituting for his brother Mike Wallace at JGL Racing in the Xfinity race at Talladega this year kicked the tires on the thought.

“I told my daughter driving home from Talladega, ‘Holy hell, what’s going on here?’”

Then came the year’s first race at Iowa, a stuck clutch and a head-on impact with the wall on the first lap.

When JGL Racing asked him to return for the July Daytona race, he surprised himself.

“I said no. It came out so fast. I was like, ‘wow,’” Wallace recalled.

But Wallace, who made his first NASCAR start in a 1988 Busch Grand National race at Martinsville Speedway for Dale Earnhardt Sr., recognizes he is one of the last “active” drivers from his generation.

“I’m looking around me and there’s nobody in this sport from my days. Jeff Gordon, that’s it,” Wallace says. Both Gordon and Wallace were Sprint Cup rookies in 1993. “There’s nobody else. They’re all gone. Mark Martin’s gone, Jeff Burton’s gone.

“All these guys are quitting in their 40s now. If you look at it, Burton just peeled out, never announced a retirement. He’s in his 40s and I’m like ‘are you going to say anything?’ I guess he’s not.

“Same thing with Bobby Labonte. Everybody’s just afraid to say they’re done. Hell, I’m just done. You know what I mean? I’m just done. It’s liking taking an orange and just squeezing it and there’s no more to come out.”

Wallace says he’s exhausted from trying to find the money to race. But his last squeeze comes with one of the winningest teams in Xfinity Series history and a national sponsor in U.S. Cellular.

“Pretty cool to run your last race with a national sponsor,” Wallace says. “It ain’t like I got Bubba’s Chicken on it.”

Results, points after Xfinity race at Road America

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Christopher Bell outran the field in a two-lap shootout to win Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Road America.

He beat Austin Cindric, Tyler Reddick, Noah Gragson and Kaz Grala.

It is Bell’s sixth win of the year and his first career win on a road course.

Click here for race results.

Points

Tyler Reddick retains a 45-point lead over Bell.

The top five is completed by Cole Custer (-135 points), Justin Allgaier (-162) and Cindric (-180).

Click here for the point standings.

Christopher Bell wins Xfinity race at Road America

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Christopher Bell won Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Road America in a two-lap shootout to earn his sixth win of the season.

Bell beat Austin Cindric, Tyler Reddick, Noah Gragson and Kaz Grala to earn his first career win on a road course.

Bell led 10 of the race’s 45 laps. He started the race in 12th and was in position to win in the final stage thanks a debris caution caused by his teammate Brandon Jones with 14 laps to go. Bell had pit from second place right before the caution and was able to stay out when the rest of the field pit.

“I’m honestly in shock,” Bell told NBCSN. “I really butchered qualifying, tore the crap out of that left-front (tire). I felt like once we got in the race there I’d be able to drive by those guys. And they dropped the green flag and they’re driving by me. That wasn’t very much fun. Then I told (crew chief) Jason (Ratcliff) ‘I’m just really, really tight.’ We got those tires off and he said that left front was hurt pretty bad. We got pretty good there whenever we got the fresh tires on. The strategy obviously worked out really good for us pitting there.”

The final restart was caused by Gray Gaulding spinning off course in Turn 1 with five laps to go.

Bell’s win snaps Cindric’s two-race win streak on road courses.

Matt DiBenedetto, who led the most laps with 18, had bounced back from going off track in the middle of the race and was second on the final lap before he spun in the final turn. He finished 27th.

“Just being stupid on my part,” DiBenedetto told NBCSN. “Was looking in my mirror and got too high and barely got up in the marbles and made the most rookie mistake of my life. It was dumb. Uncalled for. We had the fastest car on track and nothing to show for it. … I drove stupid. I’m pretty pissed off at myself. Nothing else. Won’t sleep all week. This isn’t exactly a good run when I’m trying to make my career.”

STAGE 1 WINNER: AJ Allmendinger

STAGE 2 WINNER: Chase Briscoe

More: Race results, points

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Tyler Reddick finished in the top five in all three road course races this year and is on a seven race top-five streak … Kaz Grala finished fifth in his last scheduled race of the year. It’s his third career top-five finish … Chase Briscoe (seventh) has finished in the top 10 in the last seven races .. Jeremy Clements (eighth) earned his third top 10 of the season.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Justin Allgaier, the defending race winner, finished ninth after he locked his brakes up entering Turn 1 on the last lap of Stage 1 and became buried in the gravel … Cole Custer finished 10th after he went off course on the Stage 2 restart and suffered damage to his grille and had to make multiple pit stops for repairs.

WHAT’S NEXT: VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway at 4 p.m. ET Aug. 31 on NBC

 

AJ Allmendinger wins pole for Road America Xfinity race

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AJ Allmendinger has claimed the pole for today’s Xfinity Series race at Road America (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

The NASCAR on NBC analyst posted a top speed of 109.792 mph around the road course. It is his second career Xfinity pole, with both coming at Road America. He started from the pole in 2013 on his way to winning the race.

“I’m very satisfied, first of all,” Allmendinger told NBC Sports. “I feel like our chances (of winning) are better than the first two weeks and that’s what we’re trying to do here at Kaulig Racing. Of course you want to go out and win every race and I put all the pressure on my shoulders to go make it happen. … We know the Gibbs cars are going to be fast. (Austin) Cindric’s the man to beat. He’s got two in a row on these road courses.”

Allmendinger will be joined on the front row by Matt DiBenedetto (109.792 mph). Making his first Xfinity start since 2016, DiBenedetto is driving Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota.

The top five is complete by Austin Cindric, Cole Custer and Noah Gragson. Cindric is seeking to win his third straight road-course race and complete a sweep of this month’s road course events.

Christopher Bell locked up his brakes twice on his run and qualified 12th in the final round.

Click here for the starting lineup.

Today’s Xfinity race at Road America: Start time, lineup and more

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The Xfinity Series’ month of road-course racing comes to an end today as the series competes at Road America, the longest track on the NASCAR circuit.

Austin Cindric will seek to complete a sweep of the month’s three Xfinity Series races while Matt DiBenedetto hopes to grab his first career NASCAR win competing for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Here’s all the info you need ahead of today’s race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 3:07 p.m. by former NASCAR driver and Wisconsin native Matt Kenseth. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:21 p.m.

PRERACE: Garage opens at 8 a.m. Qualifying (multi-car/two rounds) is at 11:40 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 1:135 p.m. Driver introductions are at 2:30 p.m. The invocation will be given at 3 p.m. by Billy Mauldin of MRO. Milwaukee Deputy Fire Chief Chris Snyder will perform the National Anthem at 3:01 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 45 laps (182.16 miles) around the 4.048-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 10. Stage 2 ends on Lap 20.

TV/RADIO: NBCSN will televise the race. Coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. with Countdown to Green. The Motor Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 2:30 p.m and also can be heard on mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: Wunderground.com forecasts clear skies, a temperature of 70 degrees with no chance of precipitation at the race start time.

LAST TIME: Justin Allgaier won over Matt Tifft and Daniel Hemric.

TO THE REAR: Brandon Jones (backup car)

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup.