- Last Updated on 09:33 AM 10/28/13
- BY Joe Chandler
Martinsville — Darrell Wallace Jr. wrote a new page in the evolution of NASCAR racing Saturday in winning the Kroger 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway.
Wallace, driving a truck out of the Kyle Busch Motorsports stable, became the second African-American driver to win a NASCAR national series race, joining the late Wendell Scott of Danville, a NASCAR Hall Of Fame nominee.
Scott won a NASCAR Grand National Series race (what is today known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series) on Dec. 1, 1963 at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Fla.
“It means everything,” Wallace said of his victory.
“This is an emotional win for me, especially to do it in Wendell Scott’s backyard. To do it in the backyard of Wendell Scott, it means so much more. This is an emotional win and a big win for all of us.”
Wallace’s win at the paper-clip-like oval was a big milestone for NASCAR racing, which has been attempting for several years to attract more minority competitors to the sport through programs like the Drive 4 Diversity program.
The 20-year-old Concord, N.C. driver has had success in NASCAR’s developmental series with six wins in the K&N Pro Series East and three top-10 finishes in the Nationwide Series last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.
Saturday’s race marked Wallace’s 19th start in the Truck Series.
“I’m so happy for NASCAR and I’m so happy for Darrell himself,” said race runner-up Brendan Gaughan.
“It really means a lot to me that great guys like Bill Lester and Willy T. [Ribbs], who I raced against, and the spirits of guys like Wendell Scott - there’s a lot of guys who worked hard so Darrell could get where he is.”
Wallace forged ahead of Halifax resident Jeb Burton on the final restart with six laps to go. Gaughan, who restarted third, nudged his way inside of Burton to grab second place on the next lap. Burton held on to finish third.
The 21-year-old Halifax resident said he didn’t have anything for Wallace on the final restart.
“His truck was a lot better than mine,” Burton noted.
“I was probably going to get to him and give him a little shot, and the 62 (Gaughan) got into me and kind of screwed that up.”
Burton had started ninth in the race, had fallen back as far as 12th place, but got a break in the late going when Ty Dillon and Kevin Harvick, who were in front of him as he was trying to hang on for a top-five finish crashed.
“If Harvick and the 3 (Dillon) hadn’t wrecked, we would have finished sixth or seventh,” Burton pointed out.
“That would still have been a good day. It’s frustrating to come back and not have the same truck we had in the spring, but we salvaged a good points day out of it. That’s the main thing.”
Burton said he was struggling trying to get to and stay near the top five in the second half of the race.
“I was hanging on for dear life,” he remarked.
“The cautions helped us a lot. Our handling just wasn’t there. Our brake package just wasn’t the same it was. Then, I was loose going into the center (of the turns), sideways coming off, just trying to manage my tires the best I could. But, to come away third and be that bad says a lot about our team.”
Wallace led three times in the race for a race-high 96 laps. He clearly had the best truck after Denny Hamlin, who led 65 laps of the race, spun after contact from series points leader Matt Crafton on Lap 145.
Ben Kennedy and Ryan Blaney finished fourth and fifth, respectively.