AP Photo/Tom Gannam
Mike Wallace plays with brothers Kenny, left, and Rusty during a Gateway grandstand dedication in '05.
With a pair of wins at Daytona on his résumé, Mike Wallace
knows what it's like to conquer NASCAR's highest peaks. Still, winning Saturday night's Nationwide Series race at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill., would be every bit as meaningful.
Just outside St. Louis, the 1.25-mile oval is Wallace's hometown track, and finally reaching Victory Lane there this year would be a huge highlight for the driver of the Germain Racing Toyota. Getting there in time for practice will be half the fun.
Wallace will be throwing out the first pitch before the St. Louis Cardinals' game Thursday, and on Friday, he'll be racing at Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon Beach, Ill.
Brother Kenny and nephew Steve Wallace
will be among the NASCAR drivers in action at the dirt track where Mike won a number of times early in his career.
A brewery tour and a visit to the Gateway Arch are also on his schedule, but Saturday's Missouri-Illinois Dodge Dealers 250 is still his focus.
"I ran second there [in 2005] driving for Evernham [Motorsports] and it was really rewarding," Wallace said. "The biggest thing is wanting to win that race. The track was nice enough to our family to run a race in our families' name and put our name on the grandstands there in Turns 1 and 2, the Wallace Family Grandstands.
"I think anybody that is from a hometown where there's a racetrack, to win a race there is huge because we have a lot of people we used to go to school with many, many years ago and followed our careers and it would be a special place to win. No one in our family has been able to win there; I've come the closest, finishing second."
Eighth in driver points and 11th in owners points, Wallace hasn't had a bad season in his first year with Germain Racing. He'd give the team a B to a B-minus if he were to assess a grade, saying a team has to win to merit an A in his eyes.
"We just need to finish better," Wallace said. "We've got our performance to where our cars are driving the way I like them to drive, and we're working to get our pit stop stuff squared away.
"You hear a lot of people always say this, but I don't know if it will happen, but we're going to [try to use] the second half of the season to excel."
And a strong finish at his hometown track would be the perfect place to start as far as Wallace is concerned.
New Crew Chief for KHI
Rick Ren served as Kevin Harvick
's crew chief on the Kevin Harvick Inc. No. 33 entry at Chicagoland, but Ren's commitment is in trying to defend his Craftsman Truck Series title with KHI driver Ron Hornaday Jr.
Ren was replacing Wally Rogers, whom Harvick let go in his search of more consistency within the team.
With Ren and Hornaday at Kentucky Speedway this weekend, Jason Meeks will make the decisions for driver Cale Gale
Mark Ashenfelter is an associate editor at ESPN. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.