Darrell Wallace Jr. was the first black driver to win a NASCAR race since the 1960s when he took the checkered flag in a Truck Series race at Martinsville last year.
The 20-year-old Wallace, who goes by Bubba, has openly talked of becoming the Tiger Woods of NASCAR – the great black star who can transcend the sport and prove people of all colors can race.
He rebounded from a crash in the season-opening Truck race at Daytona to finish second at Martinsville last month.
”We’re trying to carry that momentum from Martinsville on to Kansas, so it’s a little tough,” Wallace said. ”But I’m trying to have fun as much as I can, getting in and out of the shop as much as I can, checking on the progress of all the trucks that are being built.”
Wallace drives the No. 54 Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports, which has perks. He can learn from one of the best drivers across all three NASCAR series. But the drawback is that Busch usually dominates when he jumps down to the Truck Series. Busch won five times last season, has one win this year and 36 in his career.
”The most frustrating thing about last year is looking back at how many races we were faster than Kyle,” Wallace said. ”Every race it seemed like we wrecked out, he would win. So there were a couple of races that we should have had on our win list. But that’s just part of the rookie blues and the rookie stripes. So I definitely know what I have to do now this year and use that as motivation to go out there and perform better. I’m using our motto. It’s just better every finish from last year.”
NASCAR has initiated several pushes toward boosting the number of minorities in the sport. There’s a Drive for Diversity program that paid some dividends with Wallace and Kyle Larson after struggling to find racers for the top series. The program is 11 years old and was designed to attract minorities and women to the sport in all fields, from the track to the front office. He was also part of NASCAR’s ”Next” class of up-and-coming drivers.
”You get to do so many things that you didn’t think you’d be able to do,” Wallace said. ”It’s just a lot of fun to be able to race with your peers and be along with them. And at such a young age group, you get to have a lot of fun.”
LIVE QUALIFYING: Live, from Talladega, it’s NASCAR qualifying on network TV.
The May 3 NASCAR Sprint Cup knockout qualifying session from Talladega Superspeedway will be aired on Fox – believed to be the first time the session will be televised live on network TV other than the Daytona 500.
”This move is a direct result of the double-digit ratings gains NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying format is delivering every weekend,” said Bill Wanger, executive vice president of programming, research & content strategy. ”We are thrilled to be able to highlight this new format on Fox, and what more exciting place to do that than Talladega Superspeedway.”
NASCAR made numerous changes for this season, including a tweaked qualifying process in an effort to liven up what had become a monotonous part of race weekend.
Instead of going out one at a time, the entire field gets a 30-minute session to post their fastest lap, with the top 12 moving on to a 10-minute second round. On bigger tracks, the qualifying will have three sessions, with the field cut to 24 then 12.
MUSTANG ANNIVERSARY: The Ford Mustang his hit the big 5-0.
The car went on sale for the first time on April 17, 1964, and was introduced at New York’s World Fair.
The Mustang was featured in the recent movie ”Need For Speed.” It was billed in the film as the final car famed designer Carroll Shelby was working on at the time of his 2012 death. Shelby was working on a 50th anniversary edition of the Mustang when he died at the age of 89, but the car in the movie is fictionalized.
NASCAR drivers who race in Fords have fond memories of their first spins in a Mustang.
”The first neat car I had was a 1985 Mustang GT with T-tops and it was great,” Carl Edwards said. ”I was like 19 years old and I had a Mustang. It was neat. I had a lot of fun in that car. It was a great car. Mustangs are fun, period.”
Joey Logano won a Nationwide Series race last year for Roger Penske in a Ford Mustang.
”I need to get a Mustang to add to my stable of cars, for sure,” Logano said. ”I love the old Mustang Mach 1 series. Those cars are just iconic. I would love to get behind the wheel of a Mach 1 for sure.”
JADOTTE DEPARTS: Marcus Jadotte, who was vice president of public affairs and multicultural development, has left NASCAR.
He will serve as a consultant as NASCAR continues to evolve its diversity and multicultural development initiatives throughout the organization.
Jadotte led the development of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity (D4D) and NASCAR Pit Crew Development programs. These initiatives focus on developing the skills of promising female, Asian, Latino and African-American drivers and crew members in NASCAR.
NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program will continue under Executive Vice President Steve O’Donnell.