BSO Interview: Darrell Wallace Jr. Talks Becoming 1st Black Driver To Win Race In Nearly 50 Yrs
Over the weekend, Darrell Wallace Jr. became the first African American to win a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race, and the first to win a National Series race in almost 50 years. BSO had the pleasure to sit down and speak with the 20-year-old about how it felt winning his first race and making history in the process.
Finally, we got a win. We should’ve won a couple of races by now, but bad luck and rookie mistakes on my end had prevented us from winning. But we were able to get into victory lane in Martinsville and that was huge for my team and my sponsors. It was a great weekend.
It was overwhelming. I couldn’t believe we had actually won. You question if it is real, but there was more excitement than anything and I couldn’t hold the tears back. It’s been a hard-fought season and sometimes the ups and downs of the sport can really get to you. But when you finally get a win, there’s no greater feeling.
It always gets hectic where there’s a restart in the final five to ten laps. Everybody is trying to go for that top spot and you don’t know what’s going to happen. And when you’re leading the pack you can’t see what’s behind you. The biggest thing was focusing on getting a good restart and trying to pull away the best we can. That’s what we did. We executed on the start and were able to get a comfortable lead. I had a little room for error, but I tried to do my best to stay on top of things and I was actually able to pull away farther in the final laps of the race. I had a good set-up under me, and that’s a testament to my team back at the shop. It was a hard fought race that wasn’t over until the last couple laps for sure.
I try to be laid back and smooth on the wheel. That’s the key thing for me. But I’m ready to fight when it’s time and give when things need to be given. I try to keep myself at the right spot at the right time, stay out of harm’s way, and try to be there at the end. We try to maintain a good steady pace throughout the race and be ready to go in the remaining laps
It feels good, especially when you don’t think about it. After the win I figured we’d just won a race and now it’s time to go on to Texas this weekend. But that wasn’t the case. History had been made and I had no idea any of this was taking place until hearing about it on interviews afterward. It’s been good…taking it all in and doing media…a lot of media to push it out there.
That’s what the D4D initiative in NASCAR is all about – to bring in a new face behind the wheel, or at the track, in the stands, or working within the sport behind the scenes. So, hopefully, my win will help out with bringing more people into the stands and also getting the younger kids to watch on tv and encourage them to try out racing. It’s a fun sport.
The diversity program has definitely helped me and without my participation I don’t think I’d be here. I had two good years (2010-2011) with Rev Racing under that program and having that support from NASCAR was great. In 2010 we did a reality show on BET and I got to go to the BET Awards, so just participating in everything off track and having two good years on the track just put the icing on the cake. Then we jumped back to JGR and ran full season with them last year. Now we’re in the National Camp Truck Series for Kyle Busch motor sports. Without D4D all of that would not have been possible.
I’ve never been one to look up somebody and try to follow them. I do have some favorite drivers out there…Kyle Bush, my owner. His driving style is pretty cool, and there are a few others, but I just try to go out there and do it on my own and learn the hard way. Sometimes it bites me and sometimes it’s a good thing, but you do take in some things you get from the veterans and try to utilize that. But I never really had a driver or group of drivers that I looked up to.
Short-term, I’d like to finish out the season strong. We have momentum on our side and we’re going to fight hard. As for next year, we’re currently seeking sponsorships. Trying to find the right one or couple of ones and create that long-term relationship, move forward and further my career down the road.