Darrell Wallace, Jr., Development Driver for JGR, Is Going PlacesBy Marty Tyler
I spoke with him recently and am very impressed with what I learned about this young man. Please take the time to read what he had to say and judge for yourself. I think this young man is just what this sport needs!
Young Wallace comes to racing with a little racing in his family. “My cousin and uncle raced,” he began “My cousin raced gokarts. He was a multi-track champion in the state of Tennessee and my uncle ran Super Trucks all over the place and was a champion in that. Then my Dad tried to race gokarts but he only did that for fun. Those are the only members of my family who have raced.”
So how then, if he wasn’t exposed to “in house racers’ did he get hooked on speed? “7 years ago,” Wallace continues, “my Dad bought a Harley Davidson and he wanted to get it fixed up with chrome and pipes and all that stuff. Chris Rogers, the guy that fixed it up for him raced gokarts at Concord Motorsports Park and invited us to come and watch. We went to watch and Dad asked me if I would like to try this. I said yeah, sure, I’d like to give it a try and we’ve stuck with this ever since. We started with gokarts, Bandoleros, Legends and now UARA.”
Darrell has made quite a racing name for himself in the Concord area. With statistics like these it is understandable. Taken directly from his website:
—2005 Bandolero Division, with 35 wins out of 48 races. Forty of the forty-eight races were top five finishes. First driver to ever win all six races on the fifth mile track at Lowe’s Motor Speedway and capture the Winter Points Championship Title. Additionally that year, Darrell competed against drivers in the Outlaw Division where their ages range from 16 yrs old to adults and won all but one race against the drivers in that division. He finished the season with 11 wins at Kentucky, 9 wins at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, 6 at Atlanta, 4 at Nashville, 3 at the Concord Speedway and 2 in Orlando Florida. He also placed third in the Summer Shootout at Lowe’s
—2006 Legend Cars, completed the season with 11 victories, 27 top fives and 34 top tens in 38 starts.
—2007 Late Models, Holley Best performer of the race award at Tri-County. At Greenville Pickens he was awarded rookie of the race at that event.
—2008 Late Models, He finished 4th & 5th at Bristol Motor Speedway he picked up his first late model win at Franklin County Speedway and was the youngest driver ever to win a late model race there..
Last year was Wallace’s first full year in the UARA Stars where he won Rookie Of The Year which resulted in a great deal of attention for this young racer. That publicity resulted in an invitation to test for Joe Gibbs racing at South Boston in Virginia testing and driving a Camping World East Series car. Darrell was one of the fastest drivers there and after a meeting with JGR representatives he signed a contract to run this season in the UARA Stars and then move up to NASCAR Camping World East Series next year.
This young racer is working hard to get as much experience as possible. And of course he would rather be racing than nearly anything else, so recently he pulled double duty running the UARA series race at Orange County Speedway on Saturday June 6. He qualified 7th where he ran consistently until the close of the race. As he was starting to pass cars in his bid for the lead he was involved in an accident with 10 laps to go. He finished 13th and then headed to Franklin County Speedway in Virginia, a 3/8 mile, high banked, fast asphalt oval which is the home of Wallace, Jr’s first late model win, to compete in the “Old Dominion Shootout” the next day. The travel time was well worth it. Darrell qualified on the pole and won that 100 lap event which he hopes is the momentum he and his team need for the rest of the UARA season.
I asked Darrell if other drivers seem to be envious of the opportunity he has been given with being tagged as a development driver for Joe Gibbs? “Some driver’s (I have omitted the driver’s name) have said ‘us country boy’s are trying to come out here and compete with that Joe Gibbs driven stuff’, but, all our late model stuff is ours with their logo on the side of our car. It’s not really Gibbs stuff, it’s just Wallace stuff. We all thought that was funny.”
The car Darrell is running is basically an East Series car which will give him an advantage for next season. The UARA cars are a little lighter and handle a little differently, but, he is anxious to move up next season. His plans are to “make it all the way to Cup. Hopefully I’ll be behind Gibbs all the way there. That would be awesome. And I really want to run the trucks. The trucks are awesome.”
“We go up to the Nationwide shop a lot. We get to see all the cars and get to hang out sometimes before meetings. It’s cool.”I bet it is! Darrell is so calm and laid back. So, besides racing cars at crazy speeds and with his eye on that as a career goal, what else makes this young man “tick”? Before racing, he played basketball for 4 or 5 years, following in his sister’s footsteps, as he describes it. And while his true passion is racing, he loves to go with his father for a session in paint ball. And when there are no races on the weekends and “nothing else is going on I like just chillin’ at home with some friends.” He is just like many other teens and enjoys listening to music…Rock and Rap, of course. He does have a girlfriend and they have been dating for approximately 4 months. And as far as favorite food…I was surprised. Not pizza, Chinese food has his vote.
I spoke with Darrell for quite a long while. That isn’t always possible to do because of a driver’s busy schedule or mine, for that matter. But when I can get that opportunity, when the driver is willing to accommodate me, I will take it every time. It’s the next best thing to a sit down, face to face situation. The longer interview time takes the place of being able to watch, listen and form opinions. It gives me the chance to ask many questions, things that will never make it into the article, but, a great way to get to “know” who I am talking to. Additionally, I have to say this is an exciting young man…driven, focused, obviously talented, proud of who he is, where he comes from and where he is going and appreciative of his parents and the opportunity JGR is offering him. He is well spoken, good looking and has what it takes. I think he can make it. I know he has the desire to and I truly am hoping he does. Darrell Wallace, Jr is one young driver I would be thrilled to say, ‘You know, I knew he would make it! And I am so glad he did.’
Genuine diversity within NASCAR’s upper series of racing is still seriously lacking. There have been a handful of women and minorities here and there over the years, but with the exception of one or two, almost no upper funded NASCAR team owners or sponsors have supported a minority or woman driver. Joe Gibbs Racing seems to be one team who truly believes in the drive to diversify this sport. His organization truly is to be commended. Just look at what this team has accomplished! Without going in to statistics and history, just consider their drivers for 2009! Darrell joins development drivers Brad Coleman and Matt DiBenetto. Apparently JGR likes to “grow their own”. That is more than smart, obviously. Joey Logano was part of that development and he is going to be big! I genuinely wish that very same success for young Wallace.
Watch for this young man. Check out his website at www.darrellwallacejr.com and see what JGR has to say about him at www.joegibbsracing.com And be sure to check out www.wallaceindustrial.com
Darrell has agreed to write about the rest of his race season and about the importance of being a development driver for JGR. Welcome aboard, Darrell. Good luck and we’ll be watching!
Views expressed by the writers are not necessarily the views of Catchfence