Racing a Family Tradition For Jake Dallenbach
What most viewers don't realize is that the Dallenbach racing history extends far beyond the personality they see on television, and the latest chapter is being written each Tuesday night during the 10-race Summer Shootout Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Sixteen-year-old Jake Dallenbach is not only following in the tire tracks of his father, Wally Dallenbach Jr., a two-time champion of the Sports Car Club of America's Trans-Am Series and a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series veteran; but also those of his grandfather, Wally Dallenbach Sr., a driver and official in the open-wheel community for nearly 40 years; and his mother, Robin (McCall) Dallenbach, who raced NASCAR late models for several years and made two Cup Series starts in 1982.
"It was really a lot of fun growing up in such a racing-oriented family," the younger Dallenbach said. "My whole family used to get together out on our ranch and race half midgets, so it's really been cool to have that one sport which would bring all of us together."
Nearing the conclusion of his rookie season in the Summer Shootout Series, Jake is still adapting to his Legends Car after several years of quarter-midget competition. While the results have been mixed, the driver of the black No. 95 in the National Guard Legends Car Semi-Pro division isn't panicking.
"This whole thing has been a major learning experience, that's for sure," said Dallenbach, who lives in Spring Branch, Texas, but is spending the summer in Concord, N.C. "The races here are a lot shorter than I'm used to, so you've got to 'get it done' right out of the gate if you hope to run up front and compete for wins. Plus, back home in Texas, I know all of the competitors and, for the most part, we all race each other clean. Here, you've got drivers from all over the country racing really aggressively to win these events."
In addition to his education on the race track during Summer Shootout, Dallenbach has taken his racing "summer school" one step further by also working for a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup team.
"I told Jake a long time ago, 'If you really want to do this, you're gonna have to start at the bottom and work your way up,'" said Wally Dallenbach Jr., a veteran of 226 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series starts. "That's exactly what he's doing. He's working with Frankie Stoddard and those guys on the No Fear team, doing everything from sweeping floors to hanging shocks.
"That said, I don't know if Boris (Said, driver of the team's No. 60 Ford) wants to hear that he's got a Dallenbach working on his cars," Dallenbach Jr. concluded with a big laugh.
As Jake Dallenbach continues to build a racing resume, his father is extremely encouraged by the progress he sees both on and off of the track.
"I'm really impressed with where he is right now and how hard he's working to get what he wants," Dallenbach Jr. said. "It's not like he's sitting back expecting special treatment because of who he is. He's working his butt off, and that shows me a lot because there are many kids out there who just expect things to be handed to them, and Jake isn't that way at all."
As NBC enters its final year of televising NASCAR races, Wally Dallenbach Jr. isn't sure what his professional future holds, though he readily admits juggling time as a television analyst and a racing father is pretty complicated.
"Right now, I'm wide open for next year," he said. "I'd like to work something out with Turner, because they're a great company to work for and I've got a lot of great relationships there. On the other hand, with all of my kids now racing (Jake, his brother Wyatt and his sister Katie), I'm not sure I want to be on the road 20 straight weeks any more."
Regardless of what happens with his father's broadcasting career, Jake Dallenbach fully understands the demands on his father's time, and is quick to point out that both of his parents play vital roles in his racing success.
"Even though my dad's gone a lot, especially during this time of year, he still makes it to as many of our races as he can," Jake explained. "But the insight and advice that I get from not only him, but my Mom too, is what's so awesome. Granted, they're my parents and they want what's best for me, but when they give me advice about my racing, I know they've both been there and done that."
The 13th annual Summer Shootout, which runs each Tuesday night through Aug. 8, features three classes of Bandolero racing, three divisions of Legends Cars and the Thunder Roadsters.
Tickets are just $5 for adults with children 6-12 admitted for $3 and kids under 6 are free. Tickets are available in advance at the speedway ticket office and at Gates 4 and 5 the night of the event. Parking is free.
Spectator gates open at 5 p.m. with preliminary action at 5:30 p.m. Feature racing begins at 7:30 p.m. and is scheduled to conclude by 10:30. For information, call the speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS.