Darrell Wallace Jr., who last October became the first African-American to win a NASCAR national series race in nearly 50 years, scored Camping World Truck Series career victory No. 2 with a come-from-behind triumph on Saturday night at Gateway Motorsports Park.
Starting second, Wallace blew past pole-winner Cole Custer on Lap 1 and led the opening 62 laps in his Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota before falling to 11th when his team dropped the jack on a green-flag pit stop.
Wallace steadily rallied, however, and lined up on the outside of leader German Quiroga on a final restart with three laps to go, when he moved ahead of Quiroga and led the final three laps en route to victory.
Wallace’s Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate, Erik Jones, led before contact with Quiroga with seven laps to go sent Jones’ No. 51 Toyota hard into the wall, setting up the final three-lap dash to the checkered flag.
"It was a wild race," said Wallace, a 20-year-old alumnus of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program. "Such a bummer for Erik, man. Me and him were so fast. Kyle was not in the race but (his trucks) dominated the race pretty much. We got in a little trouble the first pit stop, but a little adversity never hurts anybody."
The result was just Wallace’s second top-five finish in seven outings this season.
"This has been such a rough season for us and that’s just how racing goes," said the driver whose nickname is "Bubba."
"If it wasn’t for bad luck, we wouldn’t have any at all."
Timothy Peters, new points leader Johnny Sauter and four-time series champion Ron Hornaday completed the top five.
While Wallace celebrated, teammate Jones lamented the costly bump from Quiroga.
"I guess we just got dumped again," said Jones, an 18-year-old who last November at Phoenix became the youngest winner in Truck Series history. "I don’t know what to do about that. I felt like it was our race. We had a great truck and I felt like we should have been there in Victory Lane."
Quiroga, who made a run at Wallace in turns 3 and 4 on the white-flag lap but fell short, was unapologetic about the incident with Jones — which prompted several members of Jones’ crew to run down pit road and into Quiroga’s pit stall to express their displeasure.
"He started getting loose and drove in really deep into (Turn) 1 and he was slowing a lot on the exit and was already sideways, and I just kept on driving straight trying not to hit him," Quiroga said.
Reigning series champion Matt Crafton, who entered the race as the points leader, crashed hard into the Turn 4 wall with 37 laps to go moments after taking the lead from John Hunter Nemechek.
Crafton, who declined a TV interview request after exiting the race, appeared to have a tire to go down on his No. 88 ThorSport Racing Toyota.
Scored with a 26th-place finish, Crafton fell to second in the standings and now sits 10 points behind teammate Sauter. Hornaday is third, 13 points out of the lead.
Nemechek, the 17-year-old son of Sprint Cup Series veteran Joe Nemechek, led 53 laps in just his fifth career truck start before spinning with 15 laps to go following an intense battle for third with Red Horse Racing teammates Peters and Quiroga.
Nemechek, whose spin was triggered by a flat left-rear tire, pitted under caution following his incident but was penalized one lap for a commitment cone violation. With his father serving as his spotter, the second-generation driver finished 15th.
"That’s alright," the elder Nemechek radioed to his son. "You’re doing great."