Mike Wallace’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career ended after a near-death experience. Now, Wallace is back racing, preparing for the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) Commonwealth Classic at Richmond Raceway (VA).
The long-time veteran experienced a health scare in 2015, leading to a triple-bypass open-heart surgery. That operation shuttered Wallace’s career at the time, and a proactive concern for his health likely prevented the worst possible outcome.
“In 2015, when I ran the Daytona 500, went to Atlanta, went to Vegas, Matt [his son] and I were on the roof one day at the race shop cleaning the leaves out of the gutter,” Wallace told Speed51. “He told me I looked bad, and I had been having this little weird pain in my chest. I was really proactive on it. The year before, they told me I was perfect.
“Went to the hospital, fortunately I had a connection at Carolinas Medical Center, got us right in,” Wallace continued. “Come to find out, I had three arteries 95-percent clogged up. One of them is what people call ‘The Widowmaker.’ Basically, it will kill you really quickly. I was very fortunate. Got it caught right away, was in the hospital on a Friday afternoon, had open-heart surgery and three arteries replaced, gone home on Wednesday."
With the operation behind him and a clean bill of health, Wallace is looking forward to taking the track at Richmond.
“The doctor says I am the fastest person who has ever recovered from this,” Wallace said. “I feel great. Should be good to go.”
After years of racing for a living, Wallace is looking forward to embarking on the next chapter of his racing career, racing for the love of the sport.
“I still have the heart to race,” Wallace claimed. “Everybody says, ‘Well, you haven’t done it for a while.’ You’re right. The difference is, I don’t have to race anymore. I’m racing for fun. I’m the guy that’s going to go on a Saturday night, get something else. Racing had been pretty good to me up to that point, so I don’t have to worry about figuring out how I’m going to pay the bills at home anymore.”
Wallace climbed back into the car for his first race last fall at South Boston Speedway, driving for his – and competing against - his son Matt. However, the race didn’t go as planned.
“I had the incredible opportunity last year to race with Matt at South Boston in his car,” Wallace said. “He reminds me he had never wrecked the car and I was the first one to get it tore up. That kind of made me feel bad, but I know how that works.”
“We both raced against each other, which was pretty cool,” Matt Wallace said about the chance to race against his father. “That was definitely one for the memory books. He ran good, just can’t control what other people do. He had a good run going. We had a good run going, just riding and we got torn up.”
Mike Wallace was excited when he first heard about the Commonwealth Classic, initially scheduled for last fall at Richmond Raceway.
“When I heard the announcement last year that PASS was going to run at Richmond, it was like, heck, I’ve got more experience there than anybody that’s going to show up has,” Wallace stated. “I know how to get around the place. Of course, we’re talking totally different race cars. It’s kind of fun, bragging rights.”
Wallace has also put forth a ton of effort to ensure he is prepared for the event.
“Richmond, we were geared up, I was going to run that race last year,” Wallace said. “When I say geared up, it was a two-barrel rule up there at that time. I don’t know what the rules are this time. We got serious, went to the chassis dyno. We did all the stuff we never did with Matt for myself. It’s just fun.”
‘Fun’ is the word most often used by both father and son ahead of the event at the 0.750-mile facility.
“He’ll have fun,” Matt Wallace said. “As long as we have fun, run good, don’t get torn up, that’s all that matters.
“Once racing’s in your blood, it’s kind of hard to throw it away,” Matt added. “He turns 60 on Sunday. He just wants to have a little fun.”
It’s possible that Mike Wallace could be back on the big stage of the NASCAR Cup Series in the near future as well.
“Believe it or not, I’ve got a few Cup opportunities later in the year possibly that are going to materialize,” Wallace indicated. “The way the rules package is this year in the Cup series kind of fits me better than a lot of other people. At the same time, I’m doing it for fun. If you can still do something for fun, why not do it?”
The PASS Commonwealth Classic will take place March 30, 2019 at Richmond Raceway (VA). Entry forms, schedules and more information can be found by visiting www.proallstarsseries.com.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Matt Wallace photo