Who has the best lights in town? Vote now for your favorite in our holiday lights contest.
Darrell Wallace Jr. wants to promote African-Americans' presence in NASCAR by winning races.
Darrell Wallace Jr. has had three top-10 finishes in his first four Truck Series races for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Monday, April 1, 2013
MARTINSVILLE — The Virginia Department of Historic Resources will unveil a state historical marker Friday in Danville, honoring the late Wendell Scott, the only African-American driver ever to win a race in NASCAR’s Cup series.
A day later at Martinsville Speedway, Darrell Wallace Jr. has hopes of becoming the first African-American ever to win a NASCAR Truck Series event.
Forget about winning “American Idol.” Wallace would much rather become a racing idol for his race.
“African-Americans don’t have any current idols to look up to in this sport,” Wallace told reporters in February’s NASCAR’s 2013 Media Tour in Charlotte, N.C.
“You don’t have anybody. They want to see who they can be like and they look at NASCAR and is there anybody there? No.”
Wallace certainly appears to have the goods to possibly fill the void one day. The 19-year-old Concord, N.C., resident has quickly moved up through NASCAR’s lower ranks to the Truck Series, where he’s beginning a multiyear deal with well-funded Joe Gibbs Racing and Kyle Busch Motorsports.
“I guess so,” answered Wallace, when asked Wednesday at Martinsville Speedway if his ethnic background helped him land the coveted spot. “But I don’t like to really go off that. If it’s part of that, then so be it.
“But I’ve shown at pretty much every level that I can run with the big guys. I qualified on the pole in my fourth Nationwide Series start at Dover and had three top-10 finishes in four races for Joe Gibbs Racing.
“I don’t like to be cocky, but I have what it takes to run with the guys. And surrounding myself with a good group of people and good teams like Joe Gibbs Racing and Kyle Busch Motorsports it helps that much more to keep me out front and keep my name out there.”
Now it’s all about production for Wallace, who caught the racing bug when he started running go-karts 10 years ago in the Concord area.
“Growing up, I played basketball ... my sister played basketball so I was kinda following her steps,” said Wallace, who was born in Mobile, Ala, in 1993. “Then my dad bought a Harley-Davidson and he wanted to get it fixed up and tricked out and make it look good. And the guy who did it for him, he raced go-karts and had a track by our house.
“And he invited us out to come watch him and my dad was like: ‘Do you want to try it?’ And I’m like, ‘sure, why not? It looks fun.’
“And the next weekend we went out and bought a go-kart and the rest is history. We’ve never stopped racing since.”
In 2010, Wallace turned heads when he became the youngest driver in NASCAR’s K&N East Series history and the first African-American driver to win at Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway. A year later, Wallace won three races and finished second in the tour’s standings. In three years in the starter series, he won six times and posted 16 top-five finishes in 36 races.
In his Truck Series debut at Daytona in February, the young leadfoot brought his Toyota Tundra home a respectable 12th in his maiden voyage at NASCAR’s most revered track.
Now comes Martinsville, the tight, low-banked oval that often gives even the most experienced drivers fits. Wallace failed three times to make the field for the speedway’s annual October Late Model Stock show that’s billed as the series’ Daytona 500.
“Not really my best place because of that,” said Wallace, quickly noting he did finish third in a K&N East race on the .526-mile oval in 2010.
During Wednesday’s Truck Series media outing, Wallace did stay out of trouble while hauling print and electronic media members around the track in a pace car.
“The big thing about this is in a Late Model it takes so long to get down the straightaway ... so you can sit there and read a newspaper and eat a doughnut and all of a sudden you’ve got to turn,” said Wallace, chuckling. “In the trucks, it will be a little bit more faster paced with all the horsepower off the corners.
“I’m trying to learn as much as I can from Kyle Busch. He’s pretty dominant here so if we can pick his brain and get as much information as we can, we should be pretty good to go.”
Certainly, the kid has a strong mount. He will be wheeling the same truck that Cup driver Denny Hamlin drove to victory at Martinsville last year.
“It’s a truck that’s capable of winning, so it’s all up to me there. We’re shooting for nothing less,” Wallace said.
It would be a big booster for NASCAR. Sanctioning body officials are assuredly anxious for an African-American driver to have success and help lure a new demographic to the grandstands not to mention alter some public perceptions about the sport. Besides Scott, the only other full-time African-American drivers in NASCAR have been Willy T. Ribbs (2001) and Bill Lester (2002-07), both on the truck circuit.
“I’m going to do the best I can to make that number from three [African-Americans] to 30 by 10 years or so,” Wallace said in Charlotte. “I don’t really worry about not making it.”
Weather JournalStorm track isn't very snowy for us