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.

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds