CONCORD, N.C. – NASCAR Champion and Hall-of-Famer Rusty Wallace will serve as the featured speaker at the inaugural Kulwicki Driver Development Program (KDDP) banquet on Dec. 14. The first-year organization’s celebration event will be held in the Speedway Club at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“We are thrilled to have Rusty as our featured speaker at the inaugural KDDP banquet,” said KDDP executive director Tom Roberts. “His close friendship with Alan back in the day and his connection with what our program is all about made him such a perfect fit for our occasion. We are so appreciative that he was able to work it into his busy schedule and join us there for our special occasion.”
“When I learned all the background about the KDDP and what the organization does for young racers out there, I said I’d be thrilled to be there,” said Wallace, who won 55 NASCAR Sprint Cup races and claimed the 1989 premier series points championship during his illustrious racing career. “It will be a fun night at the Speedway Club meeting and chatting with the class of seven drivers who represented the KDDP this season.
“There’s sure to be a lot of old friends in attendance there that night and a lot of old bench-racing stories that will be told,” Wallace added. “It’ll be a real treat to spend time with those young drivers and hear how they did on and off the track out there this season.
“Alan was a great friend of mine and we grew up in an era where there was so much respect for one another,” Wallace said. “Guys like Alan, Mark Martin and Dick Trickle – we battled each other like crazy on the short tracks of the Midwest. It was really cool for all of us to be able to grow up through the ranks together like we did. I’m sure I’ll be doing a lot of reflecting on that when I speak to them that night.”
Wallace’s racing career began on the short tracks around his St. Louis home. He won the 1979 USAC Stock Car Series Rookie-of-the-Year. By the early 1980’s he was winning races on short tracks all across the nation and surprisingly finished second in his first-ever NASCAR Cup race at Atlanta in 1980 in a car owned by Roger Penske. He adopted a goal-oriented strategy with his racing and successfully focused on winning the 1983 American Speed Association championship.
His success on the short tracks opened the door for a full-time Cup ride with Cliff Stewart Racing during the 1984 season. He won the rookie title that year and finished 14th in the final points. Wallace moved on to Blue Max Racing for the 1986 season and won his first Cup race that April in Bristol. The close-knit team achieved the pinnacle of success by winning the 1989 NASCAR Winston Cup Championship.
Wallace teamed up again with Penske beginning in the 1991 season. Driving cars sponsored by the Miller Brewing Co., he recorded an impressive 37 wins before officially retiring at the conclusion of the 2005 season. Appropriately, he was inducted into the 2013 NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Today, Wallace is still involved in the broadcasting end of NASCAR Racing, working with the Motor Racing Network crew. His position in the automotive industry has grown over the years. The Rusty Wallace Automotive Group now consists of six automotive dealerships located throughout Eastern Tennessee representing seven different makes (Buick, Cadillac, Ford, GMC, Honda, Kia and Toyota). An avid golfer, Wallace spends time on the courses near a home he owns in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
“I was blessed to get to work with both Alan and Rusty,” Roberts said. “They were cut out of the same mold. Rusty would never boast about it and shuns taking any credit for helping Alan along during his career. But I was there to witness it first-hand. Rusty was directly responsible for Paul Andrews becoming Alan’s crew chief and he paved the way for Alan landing the Zerex sponsorship deal back in 1987. I plan on publicly thanking him for that for the first time there that night.
“It’s so appropriate to have Rusty speak at our inaugural banquet,” Roberts added. “The 14th would have been Alan’s 61st birthday and I know he certainly would appreciate Rusty being there. Alan would get a huge kick out of hearing him speak at his birthday party. I can guarantee that it will be a fun and entertaining evening having Rusty as a major part of the program for sure.”
The KDDP banquet is set for Dec. 14 (Alan Kulwicki’s birthday) in The Speedway Club at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The event will feature a live online broadcast by Speed51 TV. A limited number of seats are available to the general public by contacting the KDDP via e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (256) 508-2595.
-Kulwicki Driver Development Program Press Release. Photo credit: Getty Images for NASCAR