TOLEDO, Ohio — Matt Wallace, part of the third generation in the family of famous Wallace racers, is scheduled to make his second career ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards start in the upcoming Sioux Chief PowerPEX® 200 at Lucas Oil Raceway (LOR) Friday, July 24.
Wallace, the son of NASCAR/ARCA veteran driver Mike Wallace and nephew of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Rusty Wallace, finished 10th in his ARCA debut at Toledo Speedway back in mid-May.
“I’m definitely learning,” Wallace said. “The way these ARCA cars handle is so much different than the straight-rail, late model cars I’m used to. When you’re driving a car that’s a thousand pounds heavier, it almost feels like you’re driving a truck with a trailer behind you when you get in the corners. I learned that you really have to manage your brakes. I’m got ’em too hot at Toledo and I found myself having to pump the brakes down the straightaways toward the end of the race. I thought we raced respectable. We’ll improve on it from here.”
As he did at Toledo, Wallace is scheduled to drive a Kimmel Racing Ford at LOR.
“We want to get approved to potentially run some races in the NASCAR Xfinity Series…in the event an opportunity should develop for us.
“My dad is friends with Bill Kimmel. They got together and discussed what it’d take to run a few ARCA races and sprung a deal. I’m very excited to drive for Kimmel Racing again; it’s quite an honor for me.”
As it was at Toledo, LOR will be a new experience for Wallace.
“I’ve never been there. I finally got the iRacing game at home so I can get close to what it’s going to be like. I go on what my dad tells me and the advice I can get from some of the veterans who have been there and done it.”
Wallace is also coming off a solid performance at Lebanon I-44 Speedway in Lebanon, Missouri where he finished second to John Hunter Nemechek in the Mercy “Masters of the Pros” 144 this past Saturday night, an event sanctioned by the ARCA/CRA Super Series.
“We had a good night. We have some momentum going to LOR. The two practice sessions will be key…to try and figure out what the track’s going to do…what the car’s going to do.”
Wallace says running with the ARCA Racing Series requires a level of respect.
“I think anytime you come into a new series, you have to give the veterans the respect they deserve, on and off the track. You gotta give ’em some room while you learn to hold your own. It’s a careful balance. I need to learn from the veterans on the ARCA tour. Frank Kimmel is the Dale Earnhardt of the ARCA series, and he has a lot to teach all of us. Ultimately, you race someone the way they race you, which depends on how they race you.
“I need the experience in these big heavy ARCA cars to get to that next level. The ARCA cars have a lot more role through the corners. I’d like to run as much as I can with ARCA.”
While Wallace is a rookie among the ARCA ranks, the 19-year-old racer has already been behind the wheel for years.
“I started racing at eight years old in the Bandoleros,” continued Wallace. “Then we moved into the Legend cars…won a championship at 12 or 13 down at Orlando Speedworld. I remember Chase Elliott running down there at the same time.
“Then we moved up into the Pro Late Model division…drove for a gentleman by the name of Mike Scott…won five races at I-44 Speedway and finished runner-up in championship points. They were on a decimal system there, and we lost by .043 points.
“In 2014, we started our own late model team under Mike Wallace Racing…raced at Hickory, Nashville…all those famous short tracks. We won a Pro Late Model race at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway.”
The third-generation Wallace racer says he doesn’t take on the pressure of racing with a famous last name.
“As far as that goes, my family never pressured me to continue the family tradition. This is something that I want to do, but they always left it completely up to me. I’ve been going with Steven (Wallace) to help him on his late models…just trying to take in as much as I can and learn as much as I can. It’s a process.”
His father Mike Wallace made 21 ARCA starts over the years before moving into the NASCAR ranks. Wallace won six ARCA races over a three-year span – at Daytona, Talladega, Atlanta, and three times at Pocono.
“But I don’t hang the Wallace name over my head. I’m grateful for it…I’m proud of my last name and what it’s meant to racing. Maybe one day it can help me in the door, but I don’t expect it to pay my future.”
Speaking of futures, Wallace is certainly planning for his.
“Right now I’m attending Rowan-Cabarrus Community College; it’s about a half-mile from the shop. I’m studying business administration. I’ll be a sophomore. I’ve got a lot on my plate, but I’ve got to have a back-up plan if the racing thing doesn’t turn out. After two years at Rowan-Cabarrus, my plan is to transfer to UNC Charlotte.”
-ARCA Racing Series Press Release. Photo credit: Speed51.com