Darrell Wallace Jr. sets NASCAR milestone, becomes first black driver to win race in 50 years
MARTINSVILLE, Va. (AP) — Darrell Wallace Jr. became the second black driver to win on NASCAR’s national level and first in a half-century, taking the Truck Series race Saturday at Martinsville Speedway.
Wendell Scott won in Jacksonville, Fla., in December 1963 in what is now known as the Sprint Cup Series, the highest of NASCAR’s three national levels.
“This means everything,” the 20-year-old Wallace said. “This is an emotional win for me, especially doing it in Wendell Scott’s backyard. I love coming here to Martinsville, it’s always good to me. It finally paid off. I think it’s my third trip here. I love coming here. The fans are great here.”
Wallace, driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports, beat Jeb Burton into Turn 1 off a restart with five laps to go.
“We congratulate Darrell Wallace Jr. on his first national series victory, one that will be remembered as a remarkable moment in our sport’s history,” Brian France, NASCAR’s chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “Darrell’s success, following fellow NASCAR Drive for Diversity graduate Kyle Larson’s win earlier this season, is indicative of a youth and multicultural movement that bodes well for NASCAR’s future growth.”
Wallace was never below sixth place and led a race-high 96 laps but needed to survive a final restart. Wallace chose the inside line for the reset and quickly pulled away from Burton.
“I had a chance to talk with Darrell and his father in victory lane today and we are just thrilled for him and his entire family on the win in Martinsville,” said Joe Gibbs, owner of Joe Gibbs Racing. “We obviously think a lot about Darrell. He has tremendous talent and we really believe he can have a huge impact on our sport.”
The Concord, N.C., driver was making his 19th career start.
“I had so much confidence coming into this race,” Wallace said. “I told my guys that I did, and I told everybody that asked if I was going to win. … So, it was, ‘No, maybe we’re going to try,’ this one was, ‘For sure,’ and we capitalized. This means a lot.”
Brendan Gaughan was second, followed by Burton. Championship leader Matt Crafton finished 17th and leads James Buescher by 51 points with three races remaining.
Tempers flared in the garage after Ty Dillon turned around Kevin Harvick at the entrance of Turn 1 in front of Crafton and Chase Elliott. Once both drivers got their cars going down the backstretch under caution, Dillon resumed his efforts to spin Harvick but was ultimately unable to complete the task.
The pair steered their cars down pit road and Harvick stopped in Dillon’s pit stall to voice his frustrations. Harvick’s truck was instantly surrounded by Dillon’s pit crew and an orange sledgehammer was tossed his way in response. Harvick is in his final season with Richard Childress Racing in the Sprint Cup Series. Dillon is team owner Richard Childress’ grandson.
“The 3 (Dillon) just dumped me,” said Harvick, who will drive for Stewart-Haas Racing next year. “Exactly the reason why I’m leaving RCR because you’ve got those kids coming up and they’ve got no respect for what they do in this sport and they’ve had everything fed to them with a spoon. So, I cut him slack all day and, you know, he just dive-bombs me in there, dumps me. I’ve got to thank all these Anderson Syrup guys for everything that they do. It’s a shame you’ve got to get taken out by some rich kid like that.”
Dillon finished 22nd, and Harvick was 30th.
“I’m sure he’s tweeting something now about it,” Dillion said. “So, can’t even face me after. I’m pretty disappointed in the things that just went down. I used to look up to that guy, but I guess he doesn’t understand the circumstances of what’s going on.”
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