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Idaho‘s Tim Wallace has found a lot of success on the drag strip. He started in a junior pro-competition dragster when he was eight years old, and won his first championship a year later, the youngest ever winner in the junior class at his home track. He‘s won one of the biggest independent dragster races on the west coast twice, and was runner up once.
The thrill of running down a drag strip at more than 200 miles per hour in six seconds is one thing, but the thrill Wallace got his first time getting in a car on an oval track was almost just as great.
Wallace grew up around racing with his dad, but didn‘t step into a car on an oval track until a friend let him drive a sprint car in 2014.
“I was pretty hooked,” he said. “The first time I got in: The minute he fired me up and I turned some hard laps I was like, ‘Man, I need my own car to run out here.‘ ”
Three years later, another friend had a spare late model he let Wallace drive at Meridian Speedway in Meridian, Idaho. That was the start of a new circle racing love.
“I started at the back because I was a rookie and got like seventh in the first race out,” he said. “After that and being competitive and not being in last place in my first actual oval track race I was like, ‘man, I really need to get my own car for sure.‘”
After running a modified in the final races of the season last year at Meridian, Wallace will suit up for his first full season at the quarter-mile asphalt track when the season opens this Saturday.
Since he got into oval track racing, Wallace said he gets asked a lot which of the two styles he likes better, but for now it‘s “about 50/50.” Going down the drag strip may be the bigger blood rush, but going up against a lineup of cars on the quarter-mile oval is just as thrilling for him.
“It‘s just totally different. I‘ve been 6.4 seconds at 216 mph in a supercharged dragster. That‘s a pretty big speed rush,” he said. “Where on a circle track car the rush is totally different because you‘re next to other cars and dicing around. It‘s just two totally different things. I like both.”
The toughest part about the transition to the oval, Wallace said, was learning how to focus for longer periods of time. In a drag race, it‘s six seconds and done, but in a modified he has to be perfect on every single lap. Getting used to the car and learning the suspension setup in a modified took some time.
And getting into a car where he wasn‘t successful from the get-go has been “totally humbling,” for Wallace.
“I was used to being pretty dominant in my category here in town,” he said. “And then going to an oval track car, it makes you go from hero to zero pretty quick when you‘re dicing at the back for 10th place.”
What has helped ease the transition for Wallace has been working in the racing industry. He and his dad own auto body shops and a machine shop that provides motors for both drag and oval track cars. He bought his car from one of his customers, modified driver Shelby Stroebel. Stroebel and others in the area have offered a lot of advice to Wallace on how to find success at Meridian.
“There‘s a few people out there who will tell us exactly what we need to know, Shelby being one of them,” Wallace said. “And some other friends of mine are like, ‘If you need help let me know.‘
“Until I start winning, then that might change,” he added with a laugh.
Wallace will run a full season for the first time at Meridian this season, with sponsors West Side Machines and Lucas Oil, while also keeping up a full drag racing schedule. His hope is that he can just get faster each race and learn the ropes of the “left turning side of the sport.”
“I‘ve been thinking about it all winter, ways to lower laps times and be more competitive,” he said. “I‘ve been playing it out in my mind just different scenarios. We‘ll find out how that works on Saturday for the season opener.”
Meridian Speedway will open the season on Saturday with modifieds, pro-4s, minis, street stocks and hornets beginning at 6:45 p.m.