Wallace ready for “celebration of racing” as Lucas Oil Speedway plays host to Camping World SRX Thursday Night Thunder
|WHEATLAND, MO. (Aug. 14, 2023) – Kenny Wallace is arguably the most-enthusiastic advocate of motorsports on the planet. The St. Louis native and former NASCAR racer has a massive social media following and continues to visit victory lane in numerous disciplines of dirt-track racing.The opportunity to participate in the Camping World SRX Series this summer in two events – particularly the one in his home state at Lucas Oil Speedway – was a no-brainer. No matter who wins or how he does, Wallace said it’s a celebration of the sport and its fans.
“It’s big and it’s exciting. I’m smiling ear to ear,” Wallace said of coming to Wheatland. “I’ll tell you what, the Casey’s (General Store) better get that pizza ready.”
Wallace is one of 12 drivers set to compete in the Camping World SRX Thursday Night Thunder at Lucas Oil Speedway, the finale of the six-race SRX 2023 series. In its third season, created by two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart, 2008 Daytona 500 winner Ryan Newman leads the series points.
The series pits the 12 drivers against one another in identically prepared cars. Joining Wallace, Newman and Stewart will be former champions Brad Keselowski and Bobby Labonte, along with former NASCAR drivers Ken Schrader and Clint Bowyer plus NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Hailie Deegan. Also on hand will be four-time Indy 500 winer Helio Castroneves, reigning SRX Champion Marco Andretti and Trans-Am champion Ernie Franics Jr.
Jonathan Davenport, one of the Dirt Late Model racing’s stars, was added to the lineup last week. Davenport is a three-time Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champion and five-time World 100 winner.
For Wallace, getting the invitation to participate in the SRX Series in two events, is a big deal. The Lucas Oil Speedway event will be the first trip to a race track for his one-month-old granddaughter, Lilah, the fifth grandchild for he and wife Kim.
“It’s an honor for me to even be considered, because the SRX Series is made up of drivers and people that have made an impact on auto racing,” Wallace said. “Just to even be asked is a big deal. It’s a nice honor.
“it’s in my home state of Missouri. I was born in St. Louis and raised in Rolla. We lived in Rolla from 1963-1970. It’s very close to my stomping grounds. My dad, Russ, we grew up racing in the Ozarks. Right there in Rolla and then Ozark Empire Fairgrounds in Springfield, West Plains, Fort Leonard Wood. It just makes me smile.”
Wallace’s other SRX race came at Stafford Speedway in Connecticut last month. He finished eighth, battling a mechanical issue.
Wallace said the cars are definitely unique and unlike anything he’s driven before. He compares them a bit to the NASCAR Busch Grand National ones he drove back in the 1980s and ‘90s and definitely are different from modern low-slung, dirt-hugging dirt Super Late Models.
“They’re basically an asphalt car, no doubt. They run more asphalt than dirt,” Wallace said. “But we’ve watched them race at Kenny Schrader’s I-55 Speedway last year and Eldora (last week). They get the job done. They’re more of a stock-car feeling.
“When we watch our Super Late Models nowadays, these cars are the newest invention. It’s a unique design we’ve grown used to watching. The SRX car is more of an older design that’s been around a long time.”
That likely takes away any advantage that Davenport, who’s won four times in five attempts at Lucas Oil Speedway in 2023, might have. Drivers have limited practice time on the day of the race and series regulars like Stewart, Deegan and Keselowski will have a better feel for driving them.
“It’s gonna be work for him and me,” Wallace said. “I did race at Stafford and run 8th. I think Jonathan, it’ll be hard on him. When you look at what Hailie Deegan did, she out-run Ryan Newman at Eldora. The more you run these cars, it falls under that deal where practice makes perfect. I don’t think any dirt Super Late Model driver can just jump in these things and go. It’s a deal where they need a little practice.”
Then again, winning is not the key element to SRX. Wallace pointed out the difference in SRX and the old IROC series, which also pitted stars of the sport, with a major difference. In IROC, all the races were held on big NASCAR ovals while SRX brings the stars to the grassroots of weekly short tracks.
Even though the local drivers won’t be a part of the SRX event, Wallace said his friend, the great Dale Earnhardt Jr., often reminded him that “there are thousands of great race-car drivers” all over the world. Bringing SRX to a local level also is a way to bring them and their home tracks some deserved notoriety.
“Thursday night, SRX, is 100 percent about the celebration of auto racing,” Wallace said. “It’s a fun time to shine the light on our sport. On national TV, you’re going to have arguably the world’s greatest drivers from their disciplines. Every driver there has done something on a huge level.
“I’ve loved this idea from the time it started. The race-car drivers have to put their ego aside. It’s good for the sport of racing.”
All 21 suites for the event are sold out. Another portable bleacher section will be added in turn one to allow for more seating. Once the seating capacity is reached, it will be standing-room-only with blankets and lawn chairs allowed in the grass area above turns one and two.
For fans who have not been to Lucas Oil Speedway before, there is grandstand seating overlooking the backstretch along with the main one on the front straightaway. There’s also a standing area on the catwalk about the backstretch grandstands.
General admission tickets are $35 in advance online and $40 at the gate (ages 16 and over). Kids (ages 6-15) will be $20 with ages 5-and-under free. Pit passes are $50 and must be purchased the day of the event at the pit gate. Fans who have general admission tickets can purchase an upgrade to a pit pass, which can be purchased at front and pit gate. The SRX cars will be in the pits until called to the infield at 2 p.m. to prepare for 3 p.m. practice and return to the pit area after practice until pre-race ceremonies.
Grand Marshal for the event will be Brandon Bernstein, Director of Partnership Marketing for Lucas Oil. Singing the National Anthem will be Taylor Malonson.
The support class will be the Cedar Creek Beef Jerky USRA Modifieds in a non-points invitational format. Drivers accepting invites include track points leader Ryan Middaugh, former track champions Robbie Reed and Jeff Cutshaw, Greg Scheffler, Lucas Dobbs, Dylan Hoover, Nic Bidinger, Paden Phillips, Reggie Jackson, Tyler Grooms, Kenton Allen, Chad Staus, Lewis Jackson, Chad Smith, Lucas Gibbs, Chad Wheeler, Joe Duvall, Shad Badder, Tad Davis and Peyton Taylor.
Tentative Lucas Oil Speedway Camping World SRX schedule:
(Thursday, August 17th)
11 a.m. – SRX Garage Opens
Noon – Crew lunch
1 p.m. – Main grandstand gates open
2-2:15 pm. – SRX cars and toolboxes to infield/pit lane for practice
2:30-3 p.m. – Modified practice
3-4 p.m. – SRX on-track practice
4-4:30 p.m. – SRX drivers’ meeting and track prep
4:45-5:15 p.m. – Modified heat races
5:30-6:15 p.m. – SRX drivers Q&A sessions (4 group sessions)
6 p.m. – Crew dinner
6:15 p.m. – Modified Feature (20 laps)
6:45-7:15 p.m. – Track prep and intermission break
7:15 p.m – SRX cars to grid
7:35 p.m. – SRX driver introductions
7:45 p.m. – Opening ceremonies and National Anthem
7:50 p.m. – SRX drivers to cars
8 p.m. – ESPN live
8:02 p.m. – Drivers start engines
8:12pm – SRX green flag
10 p.m. – Victory Lane set up and top 3 driver interviews for ESPN
410 Sprints headline Aug. 19 racing: Just two nights after the Camping World SRX action, a special Saturday night program will feature the POWRi 410 Sprint Cars along with the Hermitage Lumber Late Models and O’Reilly Auto Parts USRA Stock Cars. Pit gates will open at 4 p.m. with grandstands at 5, hot laps at 6:30 and racing at 7:05 p.m.
For information on any event at Lucas Oil Speedway in 2023 contact admissions director Nichole McMillan at (417) 282-5984 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.