News & Media

Wallace looks to make most of dwindling chances

September 29, 2012, Holly Cain, Special to NASCAR.COM,

DOVER, Del. -- Darrell Wallace Jr. climbed out of his nearly pristine Toyota race car following a NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Richmond International Speedway last month, threw on a baseball cap and gathered himself as a group of television cameras crowded around him.

The 18-year old star graduate of NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program gamely gave an uplifting interview, thanked his sponsors and talked about the humble lessons he learned competing against the "big boys." His body language, however, screamed disappointment and frustration.

"It's good to run in the top 10, but I don't have a five-million dollar ride going into the next year. I've got to make the most of every opportunity. "


And this was after a 10th place finish. His third top-10 in as many starts in the Nationwide Series.

"For me, it's tough,'' Wallace said, recalling that night. "It's good to run in the top 10, but I don't have a five-million dollar ride going into the next year. I've got to make the most of every opportunity. That was something I came up short in.

"We were better than the guys that finished ahead of me that night, but that's the tough part of this sport. I definitely beat myself up bad over it.

Wallace, who goes by the nickname, "Bubba," won the pole for Saturday's race at Dover International Speedway, his fourth and final scheduled Nationwide start of the season for Joe Gibbs Racing. It's his second front-row Nationwide start, and he already has a K&N East Series victory at Dover last year.

He has six career K&N East Series wins -- and is the youngest series winner and first African-American winner - and has never finished worse than 10th in the highly competitive Nationwide Series. Yet, Wallace does not have a job lined up for the 2013 season.

He joked often on Friday that he left his donation bucket at home. The serious reality is that without a sponsor, his obvious talent has no outlet. So, if there seems a sense of urgency for Wallace, that's because there is.

"I've got the drive. I want to win every race I'm in, but I know as you move up in the ranks you're going up against the best of the best.''

This is no longer just about representing NASCAR's promising Diversity program, it's about showing what a driver can do after it. It's about showing what he can do. Period.

"I see [my need to do well] because of me not having anything for next year,'' Wallace said. "I've got this last race in Nationwide, then two more in K&N, then that's it for me. I've still got a legends car and late model at home, but that's all on my dad's bill. And sometimes we have a good month of business and sometimes we don't. That's how it goes.

"That's the pressure I use to make me run better. I don't see [the pressure] as I'm a different face. The pressure is not having something next year.''

Wallace has been in discussions with the Gibbs racing team but said there is nothing guaranteed for 2013. His track record at Dover -- which includes a runner-up in Friday night's K&N East race -- could bode well this weekend when he feels so much on the line. Wallace commented that he's taken up golf and could run his late model at the local short tracks.

But golf isn't really his game. Racing is.

"I think he's the real deal,'' said former Cup champion crew chief Andy Petree, an ESPN broadcaster for the Nationwide races. He's impressive and he's a young guy, only 19 years old. He's well-spoken, really nice and really just the total package. At least he's getting quality starts in quality equipment. There are people out there looking at him, trust me.

"It's so tough to get companies to step up and back up a young man. But if he keeps doing what he's doing, he's gonna get a break. I think he'll get his opportunity, he's that good.''