Darrell Wallace Jr. takes historic NASCAR Trucks win at Martinsville

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This afternoon, Darrell Wallace Jr. became the first African-American driver since 1963 to claim a NASCAR national series victory, winning the Camping World Truck Series’ Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway.

Wallace, who led 96 of 200 laps, withstood multiple late restarts to score his first career win in the Trucks in his 19th series start. Prior to today, Wendell Scott had been the lone black driver to win in the upper tiers of NASCAR, claiming a Grand National Series (now Sprint Cup) win at Jacksonville, Florida all the way back on Dec. 1, 1963.

“Oh my God, this is – I don’t know, man, I’m speechless,” an overjoyed Wallace told Fox Sports. “I couldn’t even hold it together off Turn 4 coming to the checkers and I still can’t.

“I had so much confidence coming into this race and I told my guys that I did. I told everybody that asked me if I was gonna win, “Hell yeah” – every time. There was no ‘Maybe, we’re gonna try.’ This one was for sure and we capitalized on it.”

With less than 20 laps remaining, Wallace’s main rivals for the win cancelled each other out as Kevin Harvick, driving for NTS Motorsports in this Truck race, was turned around by Richard Childress Racing’sTy Dillon in a battle for second place.

Harvick and Dillon continued to bump each other under the subsequent yellow and when Harvick came to pit road, members of Dillon’s crew briefly confronted the Chase for the Sprint Cup contender while he was still in his truck.

After the incident, Harvick went on a verbal attack, claiming that “rich kids” like Dillon were the reason why he was leaving RCR’s Sprint Cup program at season’s end to join Stewart-Haas Racing.

“The 3 [Dillon] just dumped me, and that’s exactly the reason I’m leaving RCR because you have these kids coming up that have no respect for what they do in this sport,” Harvick told Fox Sports. “Everything’s fed to them with a spoon…It’s a shame you’ve got to get taken out by some rich kid like that.”

Dillon insisted that Harvick kept chopping down to the low line in the final laps.

“I gave him a tap and he got sideways, and then he hit the brakes and tried to brake-check me in the corner,” he said. “The 88 [Matt Crafton] hit me and just finished [Harvick] off.”

Additionally, he too had some harsh words as well for Harvick.

“I’m pretty disappointed in the things that just went down,” he said. “I used to look up to that guy, but I guess he doesn’t understand the circumstances of what’s going on. It’s tough racing out there in [Turns] 1 and 2.

“I know we wrecked, but to tear a truck up after the race and act like a punk on pit road – to stop on my pit stall while my guys were coming out – that was ridiculous and for him to not stick around, that’s pretty sad, too.”

When the race resumed with five laps left, Wallace quickly pulled away from the field and went on to his breakthrough win. Brendan Gaughan finished second, followed by Jeb Burton, Ben Kennedy and Ryan Blaney.

Haas F1 tussling in middle of pack in 2nd season

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) For a second-year Formula One team, Haas F1 should be all smiles.

The only U.S.-based team on the grid has faster cars and has already scored more points this year behind veteran drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen than it did in all of 2016.

Yet it’s that sort of success that can both please and frustrate team principal Guenther Steiner and test the patience of industrialist owner Gene Haas: Despite the better results, Haas hasn’t moved any closer to the front of the team standings as it scraps around the middle of the pack while Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull grab all the glory.

“There are so many people fighting for the crumbs,” Steiner said ahead of the U.S. Grand Prix. “I didn’t expect the competition in the midfield to be so brutal this year.”

Still, it’s better to be in the middle of the scrap than left behind.

“It’s been an up-and-down season,” Magnussen said. “When we’re quick, we’re very quick, but our lows have been perhaps a bit too low.”

For Haas F1, this race weekend is a homecoming of sorts. While the team is based in North Carolina, the Texas race is the only one on the calendar in the U.S., making Haas F1 the home “favorite” with American fans even if it really has no chance of winning.

“It would be nice to put a whole weekend together, have good practices, good weather, not wreck your car… kind of like we did in Japan,” Haas said.

The Japanese Grand Prix two weeks ago delivered Haas F1’s best overall performance this year. It was the first time this season both cars finished in the top 10 and put them at seventh in the team standings with 42 points, one place and already 13 points better than their 2016 finish.

While Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton are closing in on another team and drivers’ championship, only 24 points separate the team standings from fifth through eighth place. The most exciting battles and daring drives over the final four races could come from the middle of the pack as teams scuffle for points and the season-ending money that comes with them.

“We’re in that tight pack that ebbs and flows from race to race,” Gene Haas said. “It’s a constant dance around each other for position.”

Haas is still getting used to a Formula One reality that only a few teams have a realistic chance of winning each week and others just dream for a shot at a podium finish. He came to Formula One from NASCAR – where he is still a partner in Stewart-Haas Racing – and a track environment where “at any race, every team has a chance to win.”

Haas F1 impressed the rest of the teams just by not finishing on the bottom in its first season in 2016. That only raised expectations the team could fight its way to the front of the second tier this year. This season began with a thud when both Haas cars failed to finish the first race in Australia. That hasn’t happened since and the team has scored in three of the last five races.

Gene Haas figures reliability problems – a failed suspension system recently knocked Magnussen out of a top-10 finish – have cost his team dearly.

“Right now I feel like our drivers are better than our cars,” he said.

Haas got into F1 with an admitted goal of boosting his commercial enterprises as a high-tech tool manufacturer and he says that’s paying off away from the track. The trick is staying long-term in a very expensive sport that sees heavyweight manufacturers like Ferrari and Mercedes sometimes double or triple the budgets of other teams.

Formula One has not been kind to small teams that join the grid only to go bust within a few years. Haas is the first American-owned team in the series in 30 years. Three other teams that tried to start from scratch since 2010 – Caterham, HRT and Manor – all collapsed and went out of business. Haas said he as a five-year plan in F1 to see if he can stay longer.

“If you do the five-year plan and you look at (those) teams from the past, their five-year plan was they went out of business. You want to avoid that one,” Haas said.

Grosjean, who signed with Haas from Lotus, said he expects the team to be on the grid for the long haul.

“He’s the best team owner I’ve ever had,” Grosjean said. “He’s passionate about racing and really loves it to a high extent. We know the gap is big right now, but that’s where the patience is.”