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Saturday, August 5, 2006
Busch regular Kenny Wallace hopes turnabout fair play

By Rupen Fofaria
Special to ESPN.com

INDIANAPOLIS -- Kenny Wallace secured a call up to the Bigs, at least for one race, and he'll feel right at home racing in NASCAR's elite division.

The Busch Series racer will make his ninth Cup start of the season when he takes the green flag for Sunday's Allstate 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but trading paint with competitors in NASCAR's second-tier series isn't too much different than doing it in the Nextel Cup Series. That's because about two dozen Cup drivers have made at least one appearance on the Busch circuit this year.

In fact, seven of the top 10 drivers in the Busch Series are also full-time Nextel Cup racers.

"I'm used to racing them," said Wallace, a veteran who has made 300 Cup starts in his career. "We have to deal with them every week."

Wallace, Paul Menard and Johnny Sauter are the only three non-Cup full-timers to hold top 10 positions in the Busch rankings, and all of them, as well as Busch racer Stephen Leicht, attempted to qualify for the Brickyard -- a little whack back at the so-called "Busch Whackers" who invade NASCAR's minor league territory.

Only Wallace was successful. He will start 28th.

But the whack back is like a slap on the wrist after a jab to the face. The full-time Cup drivers doubling as full-time Busch racers have enormous resources and seemingly endless pools of money to become instant title contenders in the minors. Wallace is racing for an upstart single-car Cup team. Hardly a threat to the likes of Hendrick Motorsports' four teams or Roush Racing's five.

Whereas Cup regulars have won 20 out of 22 Busch events this year, a Busch regular has not dropped in for a stint with the Cup drivers and won.

"It's not the same thing," Wallace said of Busch drivers qualifying for Cup races. "But there's a lot of talent in the Busch Series, without [the Cup regulars], so payback is [always possible].

"The Busch Series is really exciting right now. It's the biggest and the best it's ever been. … I've got as many Cup starts as I do Busch starts, so I consider myself just an overall race car driver, but the Busch Series is where everybody wants to be right now. … Every top-notch Cup team is in the Busch Series now, and I just basically think that pretty much says it all."

That level of talent is only raised when the Cup drivers, who have been criticized for "stealing" purse money from Busch drivers, moonlight in the minors. Wallace, for instance, hasn't raced in Cup since July 16, but he's had to battle many of the same guys the past two weeks in Busch racing as he will on Sunday. Many of the Busch-Whacked say racing with Cup regulars such as Kevin Harvick and Greg Biffle only makes them better.

"You know, because our goal is to run Nextel Cup full-time, running against the Kevin Harvicks and guys like that week in and week out is good for us," Sauter said.

For Wallace, that might not mean he's banking on notching his first career Cup victory this weekend, but it does mean he believes he could.

Rupen Fofaria is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at rupenisracin@yahoo.com.