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San Antonio native Robin McCall Dallenbach update

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By Mike Mulhern | Journal Reporter


Published: May 1, 2008


Robin Dallenbach was competent enough and tough enough -- as Robin McCall -- to play the racing game in the 1980s. And she once competed against her husband, Wally Dallenbach, a former NASCAR Cup racer and now TV commentator, in such races as the 24 Hours of Daytona.


"I wouldn't take anything back," Robin, now a housewife/ranch hand in Fort Worth, said of those days. "I think I was just before the time. Today it would be a whole different story.


"I think I was the youngest ever to qualify for a Cup race, at 18 (in 1982). No, I wouldn't take any of it back. I just take life where the path takes you.


"Like I just raced a (Baja) buggy last year for the first time, and it was wild! Wally runs the Baja a lot, and he loves it."


Robin Dallenbach is a mother of three and celebrating 23 years of marriage with Wally. But in 1982, Robin McCall was a teenage racing sensation who caught the eye of J.D. Stacy, a wealthy coal miner who at the time was buying a fleet of NASCAR teams, including the Dale Earnhardt-Rod Osterlund championship outfit.


"I was racing at New Smyrna (south of Daytona Beach), and he offered me a test in a Cup car, and we tested at Daytona and he signed me to a five-year contract, and I was going to go for rookie of the year," Dallenbach said. "So I ran two races at Michigan (blew an engine in the first, crashed in the second). I was going to run at Charlotte, too, but they sent me out to qualify in the rain, and I didn't know you could wave it off, so I didn't make the field."


She ran into financial problems and dropped off the scene.


Dallenbach went on to do some short-track racing, some on dirt, and at Kingsport, Tenn., and then she went into road racing.


"I ran against Wally in the 24 Hours of Daytona, and that was fun," she said. "Wally was driving for Jack Roush, and he won."


So, in light of Danica Patrick's success, what's her impression of women in racing today, the opportunities, the talent?


"I think you have to win in racing," Dallenbach said. "You have to win in whatever you're in. And maybe in these support series, these women just aren't running that hot.


"But I don't keep up with all the women drivers. Lyn St. James has been a real strong support. But it's about winning.


"Racing is a lot mental. It's not that men have faster reflexes. Racing is very mental, and it's very physical. I think women are equal in racing. You can always work out -- and the cars do have power steering."


Is there perhaps an element of meanness that women generally lack?


"It's not a nice sport in that sense," Dallenbach said. "One thing I'm working with with my daughter Kate is just that.


"Kate has been racing quarter-midgets since she was eight, and now she's 11 and she's moved up to Bandoleros. Last year she won every championship she could win, driver of the year, six track records -- and she is not nice on the track.


"She's great off the track, but you put her in that race car…."


Dallenbach said that her daughter gets a lot of coaching from both parents.


"We'll keep her in the Fort Worth area, racing Bandoleros for a year, and then let her run in the Summer Shootout (at Charlotte's Lowe's Motor Speedway). She's racing at ‘Little Texas,' the short-track right behind Texas Motor Speedway.


"Working with Kate has been a lot of fun, bringing her along, I'm anxious to see where this leads, as long as she wants to do it. The key is to get into one of these NASCAR diversity programs.


"But you've got to win, that's the bottom line."


But why would Robin and Wally want their daughter to get into racing anyway? It's a difficult career at best, even if you make it, as both Dallenbachs well realize.


"Kate wants to be a vet. She's really into animals, and we have a ranch in Texas, and we have animals," Robin said. "My dad is actually the one who got all three into racing, in quarter-midgets. Jake (18) is moving to Charlotte in June, and will race while he's working at Roush's.


"So I said we'll get Kate as much diversity as we can. And if she wants to continue, we'll do our best. Of course, there's no guarantee she wants to continue, but she does right now."


■ Mike Mulhern can be reached at mmulhern@wsjournal.com.

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