The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East has turned into a development series in recent years. It's a good place for young drivers to learn the ropes before graduating up to one of NASCAR's “Big Three” National tours.
After Friday night's stop at Lee USA Speedway (NH), the driver skills aren't the only thing developing. A fierce and public rivalry, along the lines of Keselowski vs. Edwards or Harvick vs. Logano, is growing as well.
While the battle between point leader Ryan Truex and second-place pointman Darrell Wallace, Jr. doesn't feature any cars flying into the grandstands or wisecracks printed on T-Shirts, it did have enough drama to keep the fans in the stands interested. There were wild passes for the lead, cool-down lap collisions, a war of words and even a few pushes and shoves at Lee on Friday night.
The trouble started late in the race. After watching Eddie MacDonald lead for the majority of the event, Truex and Wallace found themselves in the mix late in the race. Truex led after a green-white-checkered restart, but Wallace dove under both Truex and MacDonald entering turn one. The three stayed in tight formation down the backstretch before Wallace was able to keep out front and hold on for a lap to win the race.
How the two combatants viewed those events differs considerably.
“Me and Eddie were racing clean and racing hard,” said Truex, who ended up finishing second. “He wanted to win here at his home track and I was having a good time racing him when whatever happened there on the last lap happened.
“[That's when] Darrell Wallace drove it through the grass and doored us. That took away a good race from me and Eddie.”
Wallace claims that he was only taking advantage of a mistake by Truex.
“He overdrove it,” said Wallace. “He drove it down into turn one [too hard]. I knew it was going to happen. I talked to the crew during the red flag and said that he was going to wash up in turn one and I was going to take the lead. That's exactly what happened, so I'm happy.
“I was all the way at the bottom. It's not like I ran them up. I just drove it in harder than they did. We hit and that was the end of it. I just said, 'See you later…bye!' I didn't turn him and I didn't dump him.”
After the race, Truex got into Wallace in between turns one and two and spun the winner out.
“I didn't mean to spin him out,” laughed Truex. “I know he spun out [because] I got into the back of him. I was a little angry with him. Anybody would be when you are racing side by side with somebody and he just goes though the grass and doesn't even try to pass you. He could have waited a lap and tried to get by us clean, but he decided to drive into my door.”
“After the race, I got turned by Truex,” said Wallace. “He said he didn't mean to and he said that he was mad. So I don't know, but I don't know because I had [Wallace's team manager] John Story go down and talk to his Dad and he said that's what happens when you pass in the grass like that. That's what you call sore losing right there. So I'm pretty upset, but oh well. I can't let that get to me. We just spanked him in this race.”
The post-race spin ratcheted tension up a bit. The fans booed Truex as he got out of the car, although part of the reason for that could have been because homestate rookie D.J. Shaw was spun out of second place earlier in the race after contact with Truex. Meanwhile, Wallace wasted no time to tell the fans what he thought of Truex.
“He's just a sore loser,” Wallace said over the PA, playing to the crowd. “I hope that he loses this championship.”
After the celebrations died down, the top three finishers were escorted by NASCAR officials to the press box for post-race interviews. Truex and third-place finisher Brett Moffitt made an appearance before the media first and then walked out of the turn one press box back towards the main grandstand area. That was at the same time that Wallace was walking towards the press box for his interviews. The two exchanged words and appeared highly animated before a few shoves and pushes were exchanged between the two teen drivers. A NASCAR official intervened to keep the peace and both drivers were then sent on their ways.
Those shoves aren't likely to end the feud though.
“If that's how he wants to race, we'll race like that,” said Truex. “I don't like racing like that. Anyone will tell you that I race people clean and I have respect for people, but if they are going to drive me like that, that is what is going to happen to them.
“I always run him clean and he always runs into me. But I guess that is how he races everybody. So whatever. I don't forget and if he wants to race me like that, I'll race him like that right back.”
While the Truex vs. Wallace feud took most of the spotlight after the race, those weren't the only two drivers with hurt feelings after the event. Speed51.com will tell you more about the other battles later this week in our Leftovers from the Lee race.