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Wallace fights for top-five at Martinsville

April 06, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com

Darrell Wallace

First trip to Martinsville for 19-year-old driver considered success

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Darrell Wallace Jr. led twice for 34 laps, never ran outside the top 20 and finished fifth in his first NASCAR CampingWorld Truck Series start at Martinsville Speedway.

“A good day overall,” Wallace, 19, said as he stood alongside a Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota that showed the effects of a day spent racing on the flat, unforgiving half-mile.

The front of the No. 54 Tundra had taken a shot to the snout, it’s outside now more inside. A donut, courtesy of side-by-side contact with another competitor, adorned the door.

Wallace was fortunate. Most entries in Saturday’s Kroger 250 were much worse for wear. 

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“The truck just got wicked tight there at the end,” Wallace said, trying to explain how he went from leading the series’ second stop of the season to chasing the leaders in the waning laps. “Right at the end, it got hectic; those guys don’t play around.”

Pit strategy helped put Wallace on the heels of race leader Nelson Piquet Jr., and the two briefly traded the top spot following a Lap-161 restart. When Wallace shot out front on Lap 165, though, he began to distance himself from the field.

An advantage of nearly three seconds evaporated when Max Gresham spun in Turn 2 to bring out the caution.

Wallace headed for pit road, hoping that fresh tires would enable him to regain any lost track position, and 50 or so laps remaining would be enough time.

That was almost the case, as Wallace raced his way from seventh to third in a handful of laps.

That’s when it got a bit tougher.

“I just wish there was a little bit more (racing) after that last restart,” team owner Kyle Busch said of a Lap-230 spin by Todd Bodine.

“(Darrell) looked good coming up there just before that and then the caution came out, we got back going and it just wouldn’t go forward. All those other guys were kind of knocking him around a little bit, forcing him to the top, which hurts your tires all the time anyway.

“He fought hard and finished fifth so a good top-five after coming off a good solid day down in Daytona, too.”

Daytona winner Johnny Sauter made it two wins in a row, and teammate Matt Crafton was second, giving ThorSport Racing a 1-2 sweep. Pole-winner Jeb Burton finished third, and led 154 laps while Timothy Peters was fourth.

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