Over the years, Kenny Wallace has become pretty well known for speaking his mind on a number of NASCAR-related topics and offering up some pretty hot takes on the sport he's loved for more than half his life. Not surprisingly, the 59-year-old St. Louis, Missouri native has a lot to say about the state of the sport today.
Sadly, Wallace fears that NASCAR won't be safe for much longer, as the future doesn't look as bright as it did when he or his brother Rusty were racing. He said as much recently while serving as a marshal at the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival in Winchester, Virginia.
"First of all, we need all hands on deck because our sport has been in trouble for quite a while," Wallace said. "I don't want NASCAR's job right now because we are in a big societal shift. The whole world is changing and not just the sport."
Wallace said there are more questions rather than answers about the sport, which has seen a decline in attendance and TV viewing in the last few years.
"What are they going to do?" Wallace said. "Are they going to be able to weather the storm? Is somebody going to buy them out and do new ideas? Is the sport going to be unrecognizable?"
Wallace raises plenty of concern for the sport, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary season. Wallace, a former nine-time winner in the Xfinity Series and a long-time Cup Series driver, believes the sport might be spiraling out of control.
"I think right now we are at a pivotal point in NASCAR history — whether our sport is going to survive or not," Wallace said. "Right now, how much money are they going to get with the TV negotiations? Are Fox and NBC going to step up and give them the same money?"
NASCAR depends on money and revenue, and sponsors that have been in the sport for years have been leaving in just the last five years alone. A perfect example was when Mars Inc. left following the 2022 season; M&M's had been a partner in NASCAR for well over 30 years.
Attracting viewers has become a big problem for the sport in recent years. Denny Hamlin, one of the sport's top drivers, recently pointed out how much NASCAR has been affected by the big names retiring. Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Tony Stewart are just some of the big names who always drew viewers and who have hung up the wheel in the last decade.
Wallace offered a good example of how much the sport is hurting in terms of current drivers who don't pack the same punch as those of the past.
"After Kyle Larson won the NASCAR Championship a couple of years ago, they asked him, 'What was the biggest surprise? Was it everything you thought it was going to be?' He said, 'No, I can still walk down the street and nobody knows who I am.' That hit a big thud over everybody," Wallace said
Wallace thinks it is more than the lack of superstars that is affecting the sport — and that it once again tracks back to money. Wallace said the cost of putting a race team together has led to the demise of the iconic cars that fans loved.
"The Blue Deuce is gone. The Man in Black, these cars, and these paint jobs were so famous," Wallace said. "They were as big as the drivers. They helped make superstars."
The famous paint schemes are what sometimes made a driver. There aren't the rainbow warriors or the Dupont Flames from Jeff Gordon on the track. There isn't a black No. 3. Clearly, the best they got is only a handful of races where Busch Light is able to appear on Kevin Harvick's No 4. car. That isn't lasting for much longer, though, with him retiring at the end of the season.
It must be difficult for someone to see the sport they love and spent so many years competing in fall to such a low place. But, Kenny Wallace is hoping that things turn around for NASCAR before it's too late.
"Listen, I love NASCAR," Wallace said. "It made me who I am and made me a lot of money. ... I've told them, I'll do anything I can to help. But, I'm worried about them like everybody else is."
MORE: Tony Stewart Slams Current Generation of NASCAR Drivers for Being "Vanilla and Wimpy"
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