Wallace Jr. jumps at chance for JGR Nationwide gig
April 23, 2014, Holly Cain, NASCAR.com
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Darrell Wallace Jr. will be making his first Nationwide Series start since 2012 -- driving the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 ToyotaCare Toyota in the Aaron’s 312 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, the team announced Wednesday.
Although Wallace would tell you the opportunity is a long time coming, the actual deal came about rather quickly -- a story Wallace tells with a laugh.
“Got an email at 7:20 in morning (last week) and I woke up at 9:30 and saw it and immediately wrote back and said, ‘I hope it’s still on the table,’ " Wallace said in a telephone interview with NASCAR.com Wednesday.
“It was. I told them I was available and to call me whenever and he called 30 minutes later and said ‘we have a Nationwide race for you.’ I was like, ‘sweet.’
“I was a little surprised and got very excited and it ended up being a great day the rest of the day.”
Wallace has set a high standard for himself in his limited Nationwide Series action in 2012. He posted three top-10 finishes in four starts for JGR that season -- with a best finish of seventh at Iowa Speedway. He won the pole in his last start at Dover (Sept., 2012) and finished 12th.
“We’re excited to be able to provide this opportunity for Darrell in Talladega,” said J.D. Gibbs, president of Joe Gibbs Racing. “He has been doing a great job in the Truck Series with his (Kyle Busch Motorsports) team and we want to make sure he continues to gain experience in our Nationwide Series cars as well.”
Wallace, 20, is currently ranked eighth in the Camping World Truck Series standings, where he drives the No. 54 ToyotaCare Tundra for KBM. And he’s coming off a pole position and runner-up finish at the series' last event at Martinsville, Va., where in 2013 he scored his first Truck Series victory and became the first African-American to win in NASCAR’s national ranks in nearly 50 years.
Instead of a couple more weeks off before the next truck race in Kansas, now Wallace will be spending his time as he’d much rather: racing.
“It’s been rough couple weeks off, boring,’’ Wallace said. “I was expecting to have two more weeks off so now I have the next three on and I’m excited."
It will be Wallace’s first Nationwide Series start on the Talladega high-banks. He finished 17th there in 2012 in the Truck Series and had a good effort thwarted there in last year’s truck race after being collected in a massive late race pileup.
The Talladega NNS ride is a one-race deal, but Wallace is hopeful to turn it into greater opportunity.
“I asked them if a top-10 guarantees another ride,” he said, laughing. “We’re shooting for another top-10 and hopefully we can win it and get another race down the road.
“It’ll be a good solid weekend. Getting to run a Nationwide race for the first time in two years, I’ll be like a kid in a candy store.
“Wish I could be in a car for Richmond (this week), but I can hold on one more week.’’