If Sergio Pena's performance in the Toyota All Star Showdown last month wasn't enough to make people take notice of the reconfigured Drive for Diversity program, Darrell Wallace, Jr.'s win at the K&N Pro Series East season opener was. The 16-year-old driver wheeled his way to the victory at Greenville-Pickens Speedway (SC) on Saturday night and became not only the youngest driver to ever win a race in the series, but the first African-American to put his name in the win column.
Wallace is part of Revolution Racing, a single team ownership structure that fields cars solely for the Drive for Diversity program. At Greenville-Pickens Speedway, Revolution Racing had four entries - for Wallace, Pena, Mackena Bell, and Ryan Gifford. All these teams are overseen by four-time East Series Champion Andy Santerre.
Wallace started seventh in the race and made it up into the top-three by the halfway mark. Once into second, Wallace put the pressure on defending champion and then-leader Ryan Truex. The two pulled away from the field by nearly two seconds before Wallace made his move at lap 113 and took over the lead. A caution came out on the same lap and relegated the Revolution Racing driver back behind Truex.
Truex prevailed on the restart at lap 122, but Wallace got a second chance when caution came out again at lap 123. On the next restart, it was all Wallace.
"I had to work hard!" said Wallace, Jr. " Truex was strong on the restarts and he was able to get by me both times. I just had to get settled down and get back in."
Wallace had to survive two more caution periods and one red flag before taking the victory over Andrew Smith by a margin of .830.
"My Dad told me that I was the youngest and the first African American - that's awesome," said Wallace. "The Late Models and the East teams are a team effort and I can't thank everybody enough. They put a great racecar together for me to win tonight. We all did really great tonight and I'm really proud of all that they did, and I was glad that I was able to showcase what Revolution Racing has."
Teammate Gifford posted a fifth place finish while Pena was involved in an accident and had to park his car with a 28th place finish. Mackena Bell finished 20th.
A total of three drivers led the Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150 including polesitter Cole Whitt, who finished 4th. Truex led 127 of the 156 laps run, but finished a disappointing 15th after spinning along the backstretch on the white flag lap.
"It was a racing deal," Truex said. "I went to the outside on the last restart and I got up to second outside of the 84 and I guess the guy behind him got into the back of him. It got him (the 84) all sideways and he slid up in front of me. I didn't want to spin the guy out so I backed off of him and the next thing I know I got hit in the right rear and I was facing straight at the wall."
Truex had an earlier incident on a restart where a car got into the back of his NAPA-sponsored Toyota and lifted the back end completely off the ground. Truex was able to save it, but a four-car pile up happened right behind him. It was one of 13 caution periods throughout the race.
"We'll just move on to next week. Sometimes it's just not your day," said Truex. "I don't know if I could have passed Wallace, but I definitely could have given him a run for his money. He was really good tonight."
The runner-up finish went to newcomer Andrew Smith, who was driving a Jeff Spraker Racing entry. Smith ran in the top-five most of the night.
"It was an amazing finish," said Smith. "We came and tested and ran very well. We all work hard together in the shop and I think we deserved (this finish). We had a restart with eight or ten to go and I got under him and someone got under me. We came through it with the car a little beat up, but the last two laps the leaders got together and I snuck by for second."
Jody Lavender rounded out the top-three finishers.
The K&N Pro Series East returns to action this Saturday, April 3, at South Boston Speedway in Virginia.
NASCAR K&N Pro Series East-Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150 Unofficial Results
At Greenville Pickens Speedway
Lap length: 0.5 miles
(Start position in parentheses)
1. (7) Darrell Wallace, Jr., Mobile, Ala, Chevrolet, 156 laps, 47.098 mph, $7,325.
2. (4) Andrew Smith, Pooler, Ga., Chevrolet, 156, $4,400.
3. (20) Jody Lavender, Hartsville, S.C., Chevrolet, 156, $4,300.
4. (1) Cole Whitt, Alpine, Calif., Toyota, 156, $4,100.
5. (8) Ryan Gifford, Winchester, Tenn., Chevrolet, 156, $2,000.
6. (18) D.J. Shaw, Conway, N.H., Chevrolet, 156, $1,700.
7. (12) Derek Ramstrom, West Boylston, Mass., Chevrolet, 156, $2,050.
8. (5) Patrick Long, Thousand Oaks, Calif., Chevrolet, 156, $1,950.
9. (10) Jason Patison, Corona, Calif., Chevrolet, 156, $1,300.
10. (24) Ruben Rovelo, Mexico City, Mexico, Dodge, 156, $1,775.
11. (30) Zach Germain, Bexley, Ohio, Toyota, 156, $2,688.
12. (16) Joey Polewarczyk, Hudson, N.H., Chevrolet, 156, $1,675.
13. (11) Jarit Johnson, El Cajon, Calif., Chevrolet, 156, $1,150.
14. (29) Scott Bouley, Middlebury, Conn., Chevrolet, 156, $1,125.
15. (2) Ryan Truex, Mayetta, N.J., Toyota, 156, $2,700.
16. (25) Matt Kobyluck, Uncasville, Conn., Chevrolet, 155, $1,600.
17. (6) Eddie MacDonald, Rowley, Mass., Chevrolet, 155, $1,600.
18. (23) Drew Brannon, Miami, Fla., Chevrolet, 155, $1,600.
19. (13) Ty Dillon, Lewisville, N.C., Chevrolet, 155, $1,100.
20. (26) Mackena Bell, Carson City, Nev., Chevrolet, 154, $1,600.
21. (19) Jeff Anton, Russell, Mass., Chevrolet, 153, $1,100.
22. (17) Ryan Duff, Hazard, KY., Chevrolet, 153, $1,575.
23. (28) Kevin Swindell, Germantown, Tenn., Chevrolet, 150, $1,050.
24. (22) Max Gresham, Griffin, Ga., Toyota, 137, accident, $1,525.
25. (15) Brett Moffitt, Grimes, Iowa, Toyota, 137, accident, $1,000.
26. (3) Jason Bowles, Ontario, Calif., Ford, 136, accident, $1,500.
27. (21) John Salemi, Nashua, N.H., Chevrolet, 65, accident, $1,500.
28. (14) Sergio Pena, Winchester, Va., Chevrolet, 64, accident, $1,000.
29. (9) Jake Crum, Statesville, N.C., Chevrolet, 48, accident, $1,000.
30. (27) Dustin Delaney, Mayfield, N.Y., Chevrolet, 19, accident, $1,500.
Time of Race: 1 hour 39 minutes 22 seconds
Margin of Victory: .830 seconds
Fastest Qualifier: C.Whitt * (86.726 mph, 20.755 seconds)
Caution Flags: 13 for 61 laps.
Lead Changes: 7 among 3 drivers.
Lap Leaders: R. Truex 1; C. Whitt 2; R. Truex 3-128; D. Wallace,Jr. 129-142; C. Whitt 143-147; D. Wallace,Jr. 148-153; C. Whitt 154; D. Wallace,Jr. 155-156.
Standings: 1. D. Wallace,Jr., 185; 2. A. Smith, 170; 3. J. Lavender, 165; 4. C. Whitt, 165; 5. R. Gifford, 155; 6. D. Shaw, 150; 7. D. Ramstrom, 146; 8. P. Long, 142; 9. J. Patison, 138; 10. R. Rovelo, 134.