Darrell Wallace Jr., right, winner of Saturday’s NASCAR truck series race, smiles as he listens to Wendell Scott Jr., left, during a news conference at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Va., on Sunday. (AP Photo)
MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Darrell Wallace Jr. said he would win at Martinsville Speedway, and then he went out and did it.
He simply had no idea how big his victory was in Saturday’s NASCAR truck series race.
“And then the remark and everything starts flowing in after about the history and the record set and Wendell Scott and all of it just came rushing after, and I had no idea,” Wallace said Sunday of the stir his victory caused.
Wallace became just the second black driver to win on NASCAR’s national level, and the first in a half-century. Scott won a race in Jacksonville, Fla., in December 1963 in the sport’s premier series.
While the significance may have initially been lost on Wallace, that changed as the driver who also goes by the nickname “Bubba” was asked to appear on numerous morning news programs, give radio interviews and when he saw his Twitter feed fill with the trending #history, he said.
“It hasn’t hit me yet,” Wallace said. “I think the only time it hit me was when I took the checkered, and then after that it still hasn’t hit me. I guess tomorrow or whatever. It usually takes a couple days for a big win to settle in. ... But it’s been great seeing all the outlets that I’m on and doing all this stuff.
“It’s for the better, and it’s trying to change the sport, and I’m all in for that.”
Wallace’s victory also was cause for celebration in the Scott family.
“When the checkered flag dropped, I heard a big boom from heaven, and my daddy said, ‘Hell yeah!’ ” said Franklin Scott, a son of the racing pioneer who died in 1990 at 66.
The Scott family has been following Wallace’s career since 2008.
Franklin Scott’s brother, Wendell Jr., began mentoring Wallace through his involvement with NASCAR’s diversity program. Wendell Jr. became aware of the driver when he was just 15, watched him start second, run there all night long and finish there in a race in Callaway, and has remained in contact since.
Watching the final laps was nerve-wracking, Wendell Jr. said, especially when the 20-year-old driver faced a restart with five laps to go. Wallace’s main challenger was fellow racing novice Jeb Burton, but with some notorious Sprint Cup drivers in the race, the Scott sons admitted to feeling the heat.
“My brother and I were texting back and forth, so we were saying, ‘Oh, Lord. Watch so and so, watch so and so,’ ” Wendell Jr. said. “He did a Kyle Busch restart. It was one of the most magnificent starts to win a race I’ve ever seen, and anybody that saw that race knows that this young man is only just begun.”
Wallace hopes he’s right, and hopes he can honor the late Wendell Scott and other pioneers before him by continuing to have success and winning races without feeling like he’s representing anyone other than himself.
“I try to do my best, with all respect, (but) you’ve got to understand that I’ve still got to go out there and perform, and I’ve got to think about what I’ve got to do on track to get me back in Victory Lane,” he said.
“Adding more pressure definitely doesn’t help.”