HUNTERSVILLE – Spend a couple of minutes around Darrell Wallace Jr., and you’ll see the kind of passion he has for racing.
Merely bringing up his Camping World Truck Series career gets Wallace’s eyes to light up.
The 19-year-old Joe Gibbs Racing developmental driver, nicknamed “Bubba,” has spent this season driving the No. 54 Toyota truck for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Wallace has good results, too; one pole and six top-10 finishes in 10 races, but top-10s aren’t enough for him.
Wallace believes he has the talent, equipment and support to win races this year.
“It’s been up-and-down for us," Wallace said. "We’ve been fighting hard, and we’ve been fast every race.”
Wallace enters every race hoping to finish first.
He has already accomplished many firsts in his young career. He became the first African-American driver to win at historic Greenville-Pickens (S.C.) Speedway. Wallace also became the first African-American to win a K&N Pro Series East race, when he took the checkered flag at Greenville-Pickens in 2010.
Reaching victory lane in NASCAR’s third-highest series hasn’t been as easy.
“I’ve just been overdriving it and losing focus,” Wallace said of his Truck Series races.
“I’ve definitely learned a lot. Those trucks teach you so much during racing. They’re so aero-dependent. You’ve got to put yourself in the right spot to be able to be successful during the race.”
Success is tougher to come by for Wallace and most other Truck Series drivers when Kyle Busch enters races. Busch has two wins this year. He’s established himself as a threat to win any Truck Series race.
Wallace, however, isn’t intimidated.
“I think there’s only been one time I’ve been behind him (on track),” he said. “Other times, I’ve been in front of him, beating him. Then I’ll wreck out.”
Wallace qualified second and led a race-high 54 laps on June 27 at Kentucky Speedway before contact with Ryan Blaney relegated Wallace to a 28th-place finish.
His first career NASCAR dirt-track race, the Truck Series' inaugural event at Eldora (Ohio) Speedway July 24, saw Wallace finish a solid seventh after running in the top 10 most of the event.
"Darrell had good speed right off the bat," crew chief Jerry Baxter said in a Kyle Busch Motorsports release.
The key for Wallace the remainder of the season – whether he's in Nationwide or Camping World Truck races – is to continue developing at a steady pace.
Both series provide the necessary experience to prepare Wallace for his ultimate goal, the Sprint Cup Series.
“I’m taking it step by step,” he said. “It’s not even in the picture right now. I’ve first got to get settled down in trucks and get some more top-fives and good runs there.”