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Nationwide Notes: Keller Says Keep It Real

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, October 23 2009
Steve Wallace lost his head and helmet last week at Lowe's Motor Speedway. (File photo courtesy of NASCAR)

Steve Wallace lost his head and helmet last week at Lowe's Motor Speedway. (File photo courtesy of NASCAR)

By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Millington, Tenn. – Steve Wallace created a buzz last weekend when he tossed his helmet in the garage at Lowe’s Motor Speedway following a wreck triggered by David Gilliland during Saturday night’s Dollar General 300.

Though Wallace later apologized for the helmet incident, Nationwide Series veteran driver Jason Keller believes it’s essential that the fan base see the emotional side of the sport.

“I think the fans definitely want to see that side,” said Keller, prior to practice for Saturday’s Kroger on Track for the Cure 250 at Memphis Motorsports Park.

“A good friend of mine is a track promoter in South Carolina. Every week in the driver’s meeting, he would tell the guys not to fight, not to get in trouble. But if they did fight, make sure they did it on the fronts traightaway so everybody could see it.

“I think in Steven’s situation, make sure the fans see it so they get to enjoy it.”

The Nationwide Series will get its first taste of double-file restarts at Memphis on Saturday.

Kenny Wallace recommends that there be plenty of give-and-take before the field rumbles into Turn 3 on restarts.

“We wreck the hell out of’em here,” Wallace said. “Turn 3 here is the most brutal corner. It’s a great race track, but Turn 3 here is like entering the first turn on any road course.

“Turn 3 is so sharp here. You go flying down the backstraightaway and it’s not a normal turn. It’s the sharpest corner in all of motorsports and all of the world.

“What is does on double-file restarts is it’s going to jack everybody up. So it’s going to be interesting to see us all get through there.”

Saturday’s 250-lap event in Memphis will pay a $25,000 bonus to the winner.

The extra payout will come from the Nationwide Insurance Dash 4 Cash program, which is intended to reward Nationwide Series competitors.

Matt Kenseth and David Reutimann, who will fly to Memphis from Martinsville, Va. on Saturday, aren’t eligible for the bonus because they have full-time Sprint Cup rides but don’t compete in the Nationwide Series on a regular basis.

Brad Keselowski pocketed $75,000 from the program at Iowa Speedway in August when he outran Kyle Busch in one of the most competitive races of the season.

Keselowski said the bonus money might create the same type of racing on the .75-mile Memphis oval on Saturday.

“I think it will add an extra element if somebody is up there and you get a late-race restart,” Keselowski said. “I’m sure that will go into their mind at some point.

“We’ll see. That’s why you’ve got to watch.”

Keselowski will go for a Sprint Cup season sweep next weekend at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.

He won the spring race at the 2.66-mile speedway in the No. 09 Chevrolet owned by James Finch in spectacular fashion as Carl Edwards’ Ford flew into the catch fence just shy of the start-finish line.

Keselowski likes his chances to duplicate the victory.

“Anything is possible at Talladega,” Keselowski said. “That certainly was an awesome race. I still have it saved on my TiVo. Every once in a while, I just rewind and watch it.

“It’s a cool race track. For every good race you have there, you’re probably going to have three bad ones. I’ve had two bad ones there. So I might have one more bad one coming, I don’t know.

“But I feel good about it if we can stay out of trouble. If we can stay out of trouble, I think we’ve got a shot at it.”

Veteran driver Tony Raines believes several deserving giants in the sport should have been included in last week’s inaugural five-member class voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

“I really was surprised that David Pearson didn’t make it,” Raines said. “I think the inaugural class should have been a little bit bigger. There’s at least 10 people that you know are going in. Instead of delaying it, just put them in there.

“I did a lot of work with Bobby Allison when I first came up. And I believe he’ll be in there. But it’s people like that and I thought: ‘how could you not put them in there in that first class?’ But I wasn’t asked to vote.”

The curtain may come down on the rich history of Nashville (Tenn.) Fairgrounds Speedway next weekend.

The track is expected to close for good after hosting the All American 400 on Sunday Nov. 1.

That news didn’t sit well with Raines and Wallace.

“The superspeedway in Nashville is a great facility, but it doesn’t have the characteristics that the old fairgrounds has,” Raines said. “That’s disappointing. But things change and progress comes and goes.

“I enjoyed racing there and hate to see it go.”

Wallace made his first trek to Nashville shortly after launching his driving career.

“The old fairgrounds is legendary,” Wallace said. “Some of my very first races out of St. Louis in ASA were run there.”

Wallace fondly recalled competing in the All American 400 in years past.

“It was such a great idea that (late promoter) Bob Harmon had,” Wallace said. “You’d go North against the South. Me and Tony (Raines) would line up for the All American 400 with the American flags.

“And then some of the southern guys would line up with the Rebel flags. It was all in fun. That’s what the old fairgrounds was all about.

“And a team like mine could compete to win the race because it wears the tires out so fast. I miss that track because it’s a great equalizer.”

– Jeff Hood can be reached at jhood@racintoday.com

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, October 23 2009
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