It is funny how quickly things can develop. At this time last season, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, Jr. was just trying to find his way. Now, the 20-year-old driver is fast becoming one of the best drivers in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
When Wallace found his way into victory lane last October in the Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway, he became the first African-American driver to win a race in one of NASCAR’s top divisions since Wendell Scott in 1963. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise that Wallace eventually won a race in his first season in the series, as he had 10 top-10 finishes and four top-5 finishes in the 18 races prior to the triumph at Martinsville. In the five races leading up to Martinsville, he had finished in the top-5 three times, including what to that point was his season-best fourth-place finish.
Wallace finished the season eighth in points with 12 top-10 finishes and five top-5s in the series’ 22 races. And he was just getting started.
After a wreck in the season-opening NextEra Energy 250 at Daytona International Speedway, Wallace bounced back with a runner-up finish at Martinsville. He finished the next three races 15th, 26th and 16th, but then started on a run that has not seen him finish worse than 13th in the last eight races. In that span, he has two wins, two runner-up finishes and six top-10s. Not bad for a a 20-year-old in just his second full-time season in the series.
In his signature moment of the season – actually, the signature moment this season for the entire Camping World Truck Series – Wallace got up on the wheel and gave the fans a show at Eldora Speedway when he won the second annual 1-800-CarCash Mudsummer Classic. Kyle Larson did everything he could to pass Wallace on the dirt track – including hitting the walls on numerous occasions – but when push came to shove, it was Wallace who won the battle of NASCAR’s young guns. Wallace took his No.54 to victory lane for his second win of the season and the third of his career.
With the way he has been improving, it isn’t a stretch to assume that we will see Wallace full-time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series soon. He has made six appearances in the series over the past two seasons, with four top-10 finishes and a high finish of seventh on two occasions. When Wallace does indeed make that leap, you can bet he will be more than ready for it.
It isn’t only the results on the track that make Wallace easy to root for, however. It is the maturity he shows both on and off the track at such a young age. He races his opponents with respect, and shows that same respect when speaking with the media. It can’t be an easy task being the first African-American driver with a win in one of NASCAR’s top series in 50 years, but Wallace has handled it all with class and a smile.
And somewhere in heaven, Wendell Scott is smiling as well.