Darrell Wallace Jr. celebrates after winning at Martinsville Speedway. (foxsports.com)
Darrell Wallace Jr., born in 1993 in Mobile, Alabama, decided he would partake in a southern tradition, racing. Wallace Jr. made a name for himself in lower ranks and eventually competed in the Drive for Diversity reality series, where he earned a full-time K&N Pro Series East (NASCAR divisional/developmental series) ride. After winning 6 K&N events over a 3-year span, Wallace has went on to win 4 Camping World Truck Series (NASCAR's 3rd highest touring division) races, and now races full-time in the Xfinity Series (NASCAR's 2nd highest touring division) for Roush-Fenway Racing. Wallace may sound like an ordinary racer, but in fact he has one thing that makes him different. He is African-American.
Before I go any further, I will admit I am a bit bias. I have always been intrigued by Wallace Jr. and have been a fan for a few years (not a #1 fan but a fan). Ever since I saw him win his first ever K&N Pro Series East race at Greenville-Pickens Speedway I have always wanted to see his career take off. Now, back to the race issue. Wallace is technically mixed, but most fans view him as African-American. Just like much of today's society, being mixed might as well be considered black (not my opinion but many put 'mixed' individuals in a black category). Though not much has been said about his race, I do believe that race will play a factor in his racing career, and here's why.
NASCAR was built in the South, and is still viewed as a majority southern sport. No one has to be refreshed on the relationship between the south and the views toward African-Americans. Though times have changed drastically many of NASCAR's leading fans are very southern and hold traditional southern values. Born and raised in South Carolina I know first hand that many southerners still have a strong point of view on many race issues. So how does that affect Wallace's career?
I am not saying that teams will judge him harder or that fans may never support Wallace Jr., but lets face it, when you have fans behind you it makes finding a ride much easier. Darrell Wallace Jr. may not be one of the most popular drivers now, and I believe this won't change due to the fact that he doesn't fit the traditional mold of a NASCAR driver. Diversity is not one of NASCAR's strong suits (though it is improving), and Wallace Jr. being a 'mixed' driver is a bit different than the traditional Caucasian male behind the wheel.
Wallace Jr's. #6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford
I will admit that Wallace may need to do more on track but I argue why? Other drivers such as Ty Dillion, Brett Moffit, and Kyle Larson technically have less wins in major series that Wallace Jr. at this point in their career. Also, Kyle Busch Motorsports has a tradition of fielding high quality equipment with high quality drivers, so why did Wallace Jr. struggle to find a ride come 2015? Eventually, Roush-Fenway Racing picked up Wallace Jr., but there was still lack of sponsorship. I am not saying Wallace Jr's. race is holding him back, but why is a driver who scored 4 truck series wins in one season including the 2014 Mud Summer Classic at Eldora (dirt track race) struggling to find a ride? If any other driver did that there would be no problem finding sponsors or a full-time ride.
Wallace Jr. poses with track owner Tony Stewart after winning the 2014 Mud Summer Classic (motorsports.com)
Overall, I believe Wallace Jr. is a very talented driver. Yes, he does need to do more on the track before being considered for a Cup series ride, but why is there not more coverage of him. Are there some younger drivers who are a little better?? Yes. But at the end of the day Darrell Wallace Jr. is one of the most talented young drivers in the NASCAR garage. Whether or not he will land a Cup ride one day is very hard to determine. Finding a ride is getting more and more difficult these days, unless a driver has a previous connection with a team.
Sadly, I believe if Wallace Jr. finds a Cup ride it will be a lower funded team such as Front Row Motorsports or BK Racing. Honestly, I would like to see this kid get a chance in a Joe Gibbs Racing (due to prior relationship with the team) or Roush-Fenway vehicle, but this doesn't seem likely as of yet. Again I am not saying race is directly holding Wallace Jr. back, but lets just say his skin color isn't exactly helping him. With the right opportunity I believe Wallace Jr. can compete at the highest level if given time to grow. Sure would be nice to see him become only the third 'non-Caucasion' driver to win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.