After win, Wallace hoping to inspire more African-American racers

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After earning a historic NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win today at Martinsville Speedway, Darrell Wallace Jr. expressed hopes that his victory can help fuel bigger African-American involvement in a sport where the roster of drivers has been predominantly white.

“Hopefully, it makes it easier,” he said. “I mean, this sport isn’t easy at all for sure – it’s taken us 18 races, I believe, to finally get here. Hopefully it’ll just make them want to jump in it now…You’ve got to be willing to do it and stick out through the thick and the thin.

“In this sport it’s more thick than anything.  But you’ve just got to keep chugging along, man. This is one of many, I hope.”

By winning today’s Kroger 200, Wallace joins Wendell Scott as the only black drivers to win a NASCAR national series race. Scott became the first after winning a Grand National (now Sprint Cup) race in 1963.

The late Scott, who was honored earlier this year by the Commonwealth of Virginia, was a native of Danville, Virginia, which sits about 30 minutes from Martinsville’s .526-mile oval. That fact was not lost on Wallace, who said he was thrilled to win “in Wendell Scott’s backyard.”

Wallace’s triumph is also a milestone for NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program, which was created in 2004 to help minority and female drivers compete in the sanctioning body’s minor leagues with the goal of ascending to its national levels: Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Trucks.

With his victory today, Wallace joins Kyle Larson as Drive for Diversity graduates who have gone on to win a NASCAR national series event; Larson, a Japanese-American, took his first such win in the Trucks this past April at Rockingham, North Carolina.

“We congratulate Darrell Wallace Jr. on his first national series victory, one that will be remembered as a remarkable moment in our sport’s history,” NASCAR chairman/CEO Brian France said in a statement.

“Darrell’s success, following fellow NASCAR Drive for Diversity graduate Kyle Larson’s win earlier this season, is indicative of a youth and multicultural movement that bodes well for NASCAR’s future growth.”

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).