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Kenny Wallace discusses if NASCAR needs a traveling safety team and more Dirt racing is a labor of love for Kenny Wallace , but you wonder if he makes any money doing it. So you ask him. "That is probably the number one question people ask me," Wallace said. "I make money but the way I make money is the exact same way Rick Hendrick makes money: sponsors. The only money you can make running the race car is maybe enough to break even. Maybe enough to pay the gas on the way to the track (laughs). I'm fortunate that I have great sponsors like Toyota and JEGS and UNOH." That's the great thing about Herman: Ask him a question and he gives you a straight answer. Now, onward we roll into this week's installment of Herman Unplugged. NASCAR ILLUSTRATED : Did you get a chance to watch any of the other races on Memorial Day? What makes for a great race in your mind and which did you enjoy the most? HERMAN: "By far, the Indy 500. That's a great conversation. Me and my friends were talking about that. The Indy 500 was created in 1911 and NASCAR is relatively new. It didn't start until the '50s, so to me, even though I'm a hardcore NASCAR guy, the greatest race in the history of the United States is the Indy 500. I'm just being real. I got goosebumps on Sunday when that Indy 500 was on. Those stands were almost near capacity; you had to look hard to find some empty seats. And the race was just fantastic, it couldn't be any better." NI: The debate about a traveling safety team for NASCAR was reinvigorated this week after the events leading into the Indy 500. Where do you stand on that? HERMAN: "At FOX TV, we are lucky. We have a really nice sit-down meeting with everybody at NASCAR each weekend. Mike Helton, Robin Pemberton, everybody. It's a meeting of the minds. I wish the fans could see what we do. Jamie Little brought that up and flat asked Mike Helton in our meeting. When we were done, I was really happy with what I heard. Nobody thinks about this: IndyCar only runs about 16 races a year. NASCAR has the Cup, Xfinity and Truck series and their point is very well validated. Do we treat the Cup drivers better because they're more famous? You'll have the Xfinity Series in Mid-Ohio and the Cup Series somewhere else. It's not as easy as it sounds because NASCAR is way more successful and we run way more races." NI: Did you have any direct experience in working with NASCAR's medical staff over the years? HERMAN: "I love NASCAR's medical liaison. When my heart started getting out of rhythm four or five years ago at Talladega, it scared me and they put me in an ambulance at about 4 in the morning. I'm being ushered down to Birmingham and come to find out I was drinking too much Mountain Dew, Coke and sweet tea. But here's what was neat: NASCAR's medical liaison was there when I got there at 5 in the morning. They were notified, jumped out of bed from their hotel rooms and were there for me. So when people say NASCAR doesn't have a traveling safety team, that's not exactly correct." NI: Kyle Busch spent a good amount of time running up front before finishing 11th in NASCAR ’s most grueling race. Is it fair to say you were wrong about Rowdy coming back too soon? HERMAN: "110 percent wrong. You seen that on Twitter. I admitted I was wrong and said it loud on TV. I think what caught me off guard was medical rehab nowadays. Nobody jumped on me or was mean to me; it was basically the opposite. Everybody else was shocked, too. There were a lot of nice lady nurses that told me on Twitter that medical rehab has advanced so much. I had no idea somebody could have a compound fracture and then 10 weeks be walking around and driving a racecar at 200 mph. Once people got over the glory of telling me I was wrong, I think they themselves were in shock, too." NI: Jeff Gordon will be joining you as a colleague next year at FOX. What’s the biggest challenge he'll face in transitioning from competitor to TV? HERMAN: "I know exactly what it's going to be and he don't even know it yet: He's not gonna like being told what to do. When you go into the TV industry, you're just another employee. Darrell Waltrip has to call in Tuesday morning for conference calls. He has to be involved in these meetings at 7 o’clock in the morning. Jeff will think 'I can do what I want' but that's not the way it ends up. In the TV industry, they take those conference calls and production meetings more serious than when it's live and you're covering the race. The other thing is getting over that he's not racing anymore. That's brutally hard. The third thing is he is going to have to be really conscious of not showing any excitement for any Hendrick team. Actually, he's going to have to go the other way. He's going to have to be critical of the Hendrick teams to gain respect." SUBSCRIBE NOW!
NASCAR Illustrated takes a look at odd jobs around the sport. In this episode, Billy Mauldin talks about his work with Motor Racing Outreach.
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FOX Sports personality discusses battling cancer, positive perspective Photo credit: Jim Fluharty/ NASCAR Illustrated RELATED: Subscribe to NASCAR Illustrated Steve Byrnes has been a stalwart presence in NASCAR for three decades. Whether it was most recently co-hosting " NASCAR Race Hub" or roaming pit road and the garage for so many years previously, Byrnes operated at the highest level of his profession and built a reputation for fairness along the way. Byrnes, who is on medical leave from FOX Sports battling the reemergence of head and neck cancer, discovered the disease had returned this fall. "It is the same cancer," he said. "Doctors were shocked and stunned. They thought I was completely in the clear." It's been said that no man walks alone, and in Byrnes' case, that has rung true with support coming from all sides of the NASCAR community. From drivers such as Dale Earnhardt Jr . and Jimmie Johnson to fans who've welcomed Byrnes into their living rooms for years and seemingly everybody in between. "The outpouring has been overwhelming, completely overwhelming to me," he said. Byrnes' biggest support system can be found at home in Fort Mill, South Carolina, with wife Karen and 12-year-old son Bryson. NASCAR ILLUSTRATED : You tweeted "Why Not Me?" and that was some powerful perspective. Where does that strength come from? STEVE BYRNES: I'm not gonna say it didn't buckle my knees for a minute or strike fear in my heart. But I'll tell you when my attitude really changed. The first day I had chemo last year, there were probably 12 chairs there. I was sitting across from a 20-year-old college kid that looked healthy as a horse. He went to The Citadel and he had testicular cancer. Next to me was a woman who was 75 years old and she'd been treated for 10 years, and quite frankly, was tired of it. And everything in between -- age-wise, ethnicity-wise and gender. It just hit me that I'm not special. I'm not different than anybody else. Cancer doesn't play favorites. So why not me? NI: The support from the NASCAR community has to be humbling. But is it a tangible thing that really serves as a source of strength to help you keep fighting? BYRNES: Yeah, and I'll tell you why. I've always thought in this business, I always kind of kept a distance from the competitors. Just because I wanted there to be a healthy respect two ways … as opposed to me bragging about, "Hey, I'm friends with Carl Edwards ." It was never important to me. In fact, it was more important the other way that they respect me rather than like me. NI: What are some of your favorite stories or indelible moments through the years? BYRNES: One of the things that stands out is I went turkey hunting with Dale Earnhardt. And to this day I have no idea where we were in Alabama (laughs). I know we were somewhere near Montgomery. We landed and it was just me, him, his pilot and one of the videographers I worked with. I had started seeing Karen at that time and we'd been dating about four months. We're sitting on this concrete picnic table and we'd had a few cold beers -- or several -- and he said, "Hey, Byrnes, you love that girl?" And I said, "I'm pretty sure that I do." He says, "Marry her." And I started laughing and I said, "Wait a minute, you're gonna give me marriage advice?" (laughs) NI: How has this whole experience changed you? BYRNES: I struggle for words because it sounds so cliché but every day is a gift. I'm trying so hard right now to rather than be scared or worried, to live in the moment. Every time I start to worry about the future, it makes me realize particularly this second go-around that … if you wake up in the morning, that's a good thing and you should be grateful for that. It sounds corny or cliché, but there is no promise for tomorrow. NI: What lessons have you learned that you couldn't have realized otherwise? BYRNES: People talk about a bucket list. My bucket list is that my son and my wife know how much I love them, so that when my time does come there will be no mystery. They're not gonna have to wonder how Dad or Steve felt about them. I don't care what kind of cancer it is; that word can buckle your knees. But I'll be damned if cancer is gonna take my passions away. I love watching football, I love watching racing, I love watching my son play football. I'm not gonna let this disease rob me of the things that I love, the people that I love. NI: What would you say to all of those people who've supported you? BYRNES: The biggest thing is -- and I don't mean this as a eulogy by any means -- but what I really want people to know is I really care. The person they see on television is the person I am in real life, that I'm passionate about the sport and the people in the sport. I just want people to know that I care that much back. I wasn't doing this just as a job. I'm doing it and hope to do it again as something I truly care about. SUBSCRIBE NOW!
Richard and Kyle Petty honored for their work as Victory Junction turns 10 RELATED: Subscribe to NASCAR Illustrated Weave your way through Randleman, North Carolina, past its verdant pastures and timeworn gas stations, and you'll happen upon a magical place. About four miles outside town, a stone's throw from Richard Petty's residence, you’ll find Victory Junction. But it might as well be at the intersection of healing and hope. The 80-acre camp, situated on land that Petty roamed as a child before donating it a dozen years ago, celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. Since it opened in 2004, Victory Junction has enriched the lives of children with serious illnesses by providing life-changing camping experiences at no cost to them or their families. It has also honored the memory of Adam Petty in a most fitting way. Due to that incredible achievement, NASCAR Illustrated is naming Richard and Kyle Petty the 2014 Persons Of The Year. Although they would surely prefer the award go to the thousands of people who have helped turn Adam's idea into reality, we honor these two for their tireless efforts and singular contribution to children. Grandson of Richard and son of Kyle, Adam developed the idea of this camp. The notion came to him some two years before his death in an accident at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2000. Shortly after, the seed that Adam had planted started to take root. "This was just land that I grew up on," Richard Petty said recently. "We brought four-wheelers over here and went hunting and all this kind of stuff, so we knew the land. We had some boys from [ Richmond International Raceway developer] Hugh Hawthorne and he brought a bunch of guys down from Richmond. Dale Inman [long-time Petty crew chief] got on a bulldozer, never been on a bulldozer before, and just cleaned everything. For two years, they just cleaned everything trying to get things lined up." On a recent, resplendent autumn day, the King gazed out on the finished camp, taking stock of just how far it had come. "The place really looks good now because it looks like it belongs here," he said. "When we done it to begin with, it was pretty but it was naked. Now everything's hidden. Beautiful place, man." This is true both literally and figuratively. Victory Junction has welcomed more than 20,000 children and family members from all 50 states and several foreign countries in its first decade of operation. It has succeeded in its mission to create a place that fosters independence, confidence and continuous growth after camp to better the quality of life for children. Adam's legacy is palpable on these healing grounds. "I think you feel his presence," Kyle said of his son. "I've said it before: I see Adam in every child that comes through here in their smile. Adam had a huge smile. So when you see these kids laugh and smile, then yeah, you do feel closer." Victory Junction has always relied on and benefitted from the generosity of its extended NASCAR family. The Pettys started this journey with little more than Adam's vision and a belief that it was meant to be. There were only fields and dreams in the beginning. "We went out then to race fans, to the tracks, to NASCAR , everybody, and said, 'This is what we're gonna do,' " Richard said. "We started with no money; we just started it and said, 'We're gonna do it and they will come.' As you were able to show what you was doing here, then more people came and more people got involved." Evidence of that largesse is everywhere -- Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s Corral and Amphitheater, Kurt Busch 's Superdome, Michael Waltrip 's SportsCenter and Jimmie Johnson 's Victory Lanes bowling alley among others. "It's been that trickle-down effect," Kyle said. "The first two guys that really helped us here were Bobby Labonte and Dale Jarrett, really made a commitment and said, 'Let us do something.' Since then, just about everybody (among drivers). That's all cool and that was big and they built a big building and donated and gave their time and effort to raise their funds and awareness. "But it's the fan that sends $4.50 a month or $45 a year that really keeps the camp going. "So, that's the base. The base is the fan base. Just like the same guys, men and women and kids that go to race tracks all over and pull for Tony Stewart or Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon . They're the people that keep camp alive." Victory Junction Chief Development Officer Mark Schumacher joined the camp this year and only recently realized that his professional and personal lives had crossed without him knowing years earlier. Schumacher's son, a cancer survivor, was a camper at Camp Boggy Creek in Orlando, Florida, in 1998. That year, wildfires ravaged the Daytona Beach area and forced NASCAR to postpone the July race to October. As fate would have it, the Pettys visited Camp Boggy Creek that fall and that is when Adam hatched his idea. He left thinking: Instead of visiting kids in hospitals, as the Pettys had done with the annual Kyle Petty Charity Ride to that point, why not bring the kids to a camp in North Carolina? Schumacher's son's experience -- both good and bad -- helped make the move to Victory Junction a no-brainer. "He said it was the best time of my life during the worst time of my life," Schumacher said. "If that doesn't say it for you, nothing does. We just all believe one thing: A child needs to be a child. This is where they can do that. We're just bringing to them what every other child enjoys. That is what drives everybody on this team." Forged out of loss and sadness, Victory Junction has blossomed over time into a place of great joy. Schumacher sees a common thread running through all the campers that visit. "I think the genesis of this camp and the building of this camp and the experience the campers have is looking at life without a rear-view mirror," he said. "There is nothing we can do to change things. We can't bring Adam Petty back; we can't say to some of these children that your disease, your disability is magically disappearing. But we're not focused on looking back; we're focused on going forward. "So what can we do to make a difference going forward in their lives and how can we make that tragic death of Adam Petty mean something? That's Victory Junction." In the company of others sharing the same condition, kids feel empowered to let their true personalities come out. It's a freedom that -- once discovered -- can liberate these kids from the constraints society places upon them. "When these kids are in school, that's what they're known by is their disease," Kyle said. "That's the little boy in the wheelchair. That's the little boy with spina bifida. That's the little girl that can't play because she has hemophilia or whatever it may be. They become known by their diseases. Here, they are known by their names. Their disease takes the backseat." Victory Junction Camp Director Chris Foster noted that for many campers -- particularly those from small towns or with unique diagnoses -- it's often the first time in their lives being in the presence of others that can relate to what they're going through. The relationships that are formed over the course of a week can last a lifetime. "To come here and spend a week at camp with six or seven other kids in the cabin that have the same diagnosis as you is something they've never experienced in their whole life, and they get to feel normal and just play and be a kid," Foster said. "We don't like to focus on the diagnosis at all. We really just like to focus on the child and allow them to have that great experience. But in the real world, sometimes they are labeled by diagnosis." Michael Deal, who made his sixth visit to Victory Junction this summer, is one of many campers that return to the camp each year. "One of my good friends behind me, Zach, we both have Chrohn's [a bowel disease]," Deal said. "It's just we've been coming here so many years and almost been in the same cabin every time. We're basically best friends. We've done everything together. It's just a lot of fun. Here you can just let it all out. At home, you're afraid if people are going to tease you or make fun of you. And here, you can just talk about it and everybody will understand." In its first decade, Victory Junction has helped thousands of kids like Deal understand, heal and move forward on their way to better lives. Richard Petty, fond of using the word "deal" in everyday conversation, invoked the word to describe what makes this place truly special. "The deal is when you think about being here 10 years and seeing 20,000 kids that wouldn't get a chance to do anything like this," he said. "They can't go to church camp or YMCA camp or anything like that. But they can come here for five or six days and they see people that -- they think they're the only one in the world that's afflicted like that -- they come here and there's another 125 kids just like them. They join the world." The patriarch of the Petty family noted that he’d been blessed with four children, 12 grandchildren and three great grandchildren. His singular success in stock car racing afforded fame, fortune and worldwide acclaim. And yet, at 77, you get the suspicion that what's been built in the rolling hills of Randleman will mean more to him in the end. "This is the place that I come and I look around and say, 'Thank you, good Lord, for letting me be in this position to try to help all these other kids,' " he said. "To me, that's basically what it's all about." For Kyle Petty, the loss of his son served as prelude to healing on a grander scale than any of the family members could have imagined. He was asked what Adam would think, how he might feel, about the number of lives that have been so positively impacted by Victory Junction since it opened. "It's been like dropping not a pebble in still water, it's been like dropping a boulder in still water with the ripple effect and how it continues to just overwhelm you," he said. "I think from that perspective, he would be like us. He would just be humbled by the fact that the boulder that was dropped in the water was him, but when you look at it, the ripple effect still continues this much later." SUBSCRIBE NOW!
Johnson, Byrnes: Sport evolves with new format to grow fan base RELATED: Subscribe to NASCAR Illustrated Jimmie Johnson stood outside his motorcoach two days prior to the 2014 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway , expounding on an answer about the new Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup format and its impact on the sport. "Times have changed, the world has changed, there isn't an easy answer for it," Johnson said. "What I'm trying to do is look at the statistics. Is viewership up? Is attendance up? I don't know the viewership answer, I've heard mixed reviews." Johnson was informed that ratings were up the previous two weeks at Texas and Phoenix. "That's a good sign. I know attendance, it looks like, has been up at a lot of tracks in the Chase. Phoenix was sold out, Chicago was really full, that's what I'm really looking at," he said. "Especially when I'm getting older in my career, I want the sport to be around, I want it to be around for generations to come. The world has changed, and we need to change with it." The revolution will, of course, continue to be televised (and tweeted, and instagrammed, etc.). Viewership was up for the 36th and final race at Homestead, which produced a sellout crowd, while the rating remained level with last year. Steve Byrnes, who has been a stalwart presence in NASCAR television for three decades, assessed the state of the sport prior to Homestead. "I still think that we are a work in progress, meaning we had this amazing growth and popularity, and everybody was kind of puffing their chest out," Byrnes said. "Then when the economy staggered, we staggered with it. I think we're still trying to catch up and find out what the fans really want. They’re trying everything they can." Those efforts produced a strong finish to the 2014 season and valuable momentum for NASCAR heading into the New Year. SUBSCRIBE NOW!