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Speedway scene - Walls keeps it all in the family

August 07, 1998|By MIKE SIRBAUGH / Staff Correspondent

Lost amid all the hoopla surrounding Rodney Franklin's record-breaking season is the sensational year being put together by Wayne Walls Jr.

Walls collected his 10th victory of the season at the Hagerstown Speedway in the 18th Annual Tony Armel Memorial on July 25. The 50-lap feature is the most prestigious race of the season for the late model sportsman division, and Walls took the coveted six-foot tall trophy home for the sixth time.

Walls and his crew showcased their skills in that race. On the 10th lap, he got a flat tire and just made it back to the track, latching on to the rear of the field at turn one after they had taken the green on the restart.

Walls was at turn 1, about to drive onto the track as the field was approaching the flag stand, but was held up by the corner flagman. In that case, track rules allow a driver to take the green in the infield, because it was an official's judgment that it may not have been safe for him to pull onto the track when the field was approaching.

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That race was also worth double points, giving Walls 3,493 points and a 240-point lead over Darryl Burkholder and a very comfortable position in defense of his track championship.

As Walls stood in Victory Lane following that race, one of the people he acknowledged was Franklin.

"He really helped me when I first started out," Walls said. "In 1988, we bought our first car off him. I've actually bought two cars off him."

Walls became an owner at that time, but he'd been racing much earlier. This season marks his 26th year behind the wheel, but he was involved even before that. His father, Wayne Sr., was also a driver and young Wayne helped him until he was ready to drive.

That torch is being passed on to the next generation as Mikie Walls is being groomed to begin his own racing career. He's already raced several times in the past two years, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather.

In Walls' 26 years of racing, he's garnered nine championships at several tracks, including Hagerstown and Winchester. With only four points races left this season, one for double points, he's well on his way to his 10th title.

"I like the lead. I feel good but anything can happen with double points races," Walls said. "That's why we try to have an extra car there. In case something happens, we can at least start the race. If you don't even start, you've lost your chance for 200 points right there."

"I like running for the points because of the crew. They like winning the points and that's my way of paying them back."

The crew consists of brother Larry "Boz" Walls, Butch Reed, Donny Horst, Rob Worthington and sons Mikie and Jeff throughout the week, and a host of others on race days.

"I've got to rely on my crew since I put in so many hours on the dump truck."

That reference is to one of his duties as part of two family businesses - Checkered Flag Lube and St. Thomas Towing and Auto Repair. Aside from the obvious, they also lease dump trucks, and Walls puts in even more miles behind the wheel covering areas from Washington, D.C., and Virginia to York and Harrisburg, Pa.

But as well as his crew peforms, it still takes a good person with a plan behind the wheel when the green flag drops. The defending champion certainly fills the bill.

"I try to get in the top five as quick as I can, in the first five laps, and then go for the lead," Walls said. "If you can get in the top five while they're still bunched up, then (the leaders) are a little cautious, too, not wanting to get caught up in something."

His brother, Richard Walls, sits in third place and has been racing stronger each week, giving Wayne one more challenger to think about.

"He came a long way. I think we race each other harder than we do others," Wayne Walls said. "But, it doesn't matter who it is. You've got to be there at the end if you want to win points."

Family has always been important to Walls, as anyone who witnesses the large gathering that greets him in Victory Lane can see. And time has not diminished that feeling.

"There was a time 10 years ago when we would have 80 or 90 relatives follow us to each race, but some of the folks can't make it that often any more," Walls said.

"I'd like to thank my parents, Wayne and Jean. They put out a lot of money for us and kept us out of trouble. I'll probably only race one more year and then turn it over."

Don't worry, Wayne. When the mantle is passed, a Walls will be there reaching, ready to carry on the tradition.

Future features




Tonight - 3rd Annual Jimmy Cornett Memorial, Small Fry & Grove Worldwide Family Night. Children under 12 are admitted free and will have an opportunity to ride in a race car during intermission and receive special prizes.

Aug. 15-16 - 51st Anniversary Weekend with two big shows. Saturday: STARS 100-lap feature plus Summer Championships for late model sportsman and pure stocks, beginning at 7 p.m. Sunday - HAV-A-TAMPA 100-lap feature with Summer Championships for 4-Cylinders, starting at 6.

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