Being a traveling mom is a way of life for Kim Wallace. That’s because she’s married to Kenny Wallace, a race car driver who’s been part of the elite NASCAR circuit since 1989.
Kim is Kenny’s high school sweetheart and the mom of three daughters ages 17, 19 and 21. When the girls were young, families rarely attended races. There “really was no place for us to go at that point. Things have progressively gotten better for the [NASCAR] family,” Kim says.
There were other reasons it was tough to travel then. Starting salaries for young drivers were low, so it wasn’t cost-effective to take the girls to a race unless it was close to their Charlotte, N.C., home. Even then, it got tougher to travel with Kenny once the girls were in school. “When Brooke [the eldest] turned 5 that really made us very much home bound because I wasn’t home schooling my kids. We weren’t pulling them out of school to go to the races,” she says.
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Family meetings, an annual December cruise with friends, fans and familly plusyears of on-the-road experience have kept the Wallace family closely knit and happy. Now, even with two grown daughters and one headed for college, the Wallace family manages to work out their schedules so they can cheer Dad on. TravelingMom founder Kim Orlando caught up with Kim Wallace as she traveled the NASCAR circuit.
TMOM: Did you go to the races without the girls?
KIM WALLACE: If it was a far-away race, then Kenny and I would fly there and I would fly somebody in–my in-laws, my parents or maybe an aunt or family member–to keep the kids for me.
TMOM: Do your kids ask to go to the races?
KIM WALLACE: When they were little it didn’t seem like they really cared that much about it. But if it was on TV and someone crashed into Kenny’s car, my youngest would just be so angry. Then they go through a point that their friends become more important in their life. But my three girls love their dad. He is the greatest thing in the world to them. Brooke’s gone through high school and college; she works in a dentist office now. Brandy and her boyfriend came up to Bristol [Tenn.] to be with us. Brittany and some of her friends are going to come to one down the road here.
TMOM: Was there ever a time when you were afraid to bring them to the track for safety reasons? Were you afraid how they’d react if their dad crashed?
KIM WALLACE: There were a lot of times when they came out in their teens and preteens and there was an organization set up here in the drivers’ compound that was a Christian ministry for the drivers’ and the crews’ children. They always did such wonderful things for the kids. Someone from the Christian ministry would be watching the race and they would know if somebody’s father crashed. Usually they would find out that he was OK and they would greet the child with ‘Your dad is OK.’
TMOM: How have your kids dealt with having a celebrity dad?
KIM WALLACE: I strive for my kids to have a normal lifestyle. I didn’t want them to miss parties or sleepovers and they have turned out to be normal kids. They have gone to school with the same group of kids all their life, so they’re not their friends because of what their dad does – they are just their friends.
TMOM: Let’s talk about how you travel. Don’t some of the NASCAR drivers have big mobile homes? Did you travel like that?
KIM WALLACE: We do have a motor home. We have an employee who takes our motor home from track to track. We fly in or drive to a race track and we stay in our motor home. It is like home away from home; it has everything in it that we would ever need.
TMOM: How do you have a personal life when you travel for 36 extended weekends a year?
KIM WALLACE: Our schedule is given to us and we have no choice there. You have to do it if you’re going to race in this series. You just get accustomed to planning that you come home on Sunday night and Monday you’re washing sheets, towels, clothes to the dry cleaners. You’re ironing on Tuesday, and Wednesday you’re getting things ready to go again because most of the time we are leaving on Thursday. Basically it is just planning and that’s all we know after so many years of it.
TMOM: Have you ever built a family vacation around a race?
KIM WALLACE: Never. It doesn’t happen. We all live our life around his schedule. That’s why I say racing is not easy on a family. There were many times when I would take a weekend off and just have a bunch of friends over to play bingo.
TMOM: What do you do on a family vacation?
KIM WALLACE: We take a cruise every year in December when racing is over. We have been doing this about 14 years. We take our fans, our friends, our family; they can all go. There can be 150 of us. We have the best time.
TMOM: Do you take your kids out of school for the cruise?
KIM WALLACE: Yes. By that week, everybody is winding down for Christmas break; it’s not like they are really learning anything that last week. I have always been the you-got-to-go-to-school type I am seeing that play out now with their work ethic. Brooke is working. Brandy just went to cosmetology school and she won’t take a day off of school, and that is something I instilled in them when they were growing up.
TMOM: How often do the girls see their dad?
KIM WALLACE: On top of NASCAR, he runs 46 dirt races a year. Most are on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. When do we see Kenny–Monday? In the summer, it gets really hectic. Sometimes we don’t go with him because we just can’t. I have to tell him: That is your hobby, not mine. If I am racing on my weekends here, why do I want to go racing on my days off? Kenny and I just had this conversation–that we need to take some time on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday with the girls.
TMOM: You have to make a plan to see everybody.
KIM WALLACE: We have family meetings all the time with our kids. Our girls make fun of us now because we had these family meetings growing up and it just sort of happened that way; we didn’t plan for that. I don’t think it has been a bad thing. They were like ‘Our friends think we’re weird because we have them,’ and I say, ‘I’m sorry that this couldn’t happen for them.’
TMOM: What has helped you keep your sanity through all of this?
KIM WALLACE: I have my scrapbook, my computer – everything that I could possibly do at home except house work. I’m from a big family. I am used to having a lot of people around. I come here [to my motor home] for my own sanity. Kenny is a great person and makes us feel like we are definitely a part of his life. He doesn’t push us aside.
TMOM: So you feel like you are a part of his success?
KIM WALLACE: Absolutely – he is so vocal on TV about how much he loves me and these kids and when he says that I hear a lot from fans, ‘I just love your husband because he loves you.’
Photo courtesy of Phil Cavali