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.

March 28 in Motorsports History: Adrian Fernandez wins Motegi’s first race

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While auto racing is an international sport, oval racing remains uniquely American. 

That almost always has remained the case since the inception of the sport, but in 1998, the citizens of Japan got their first taste of American oval racing.

Having opened the previous year, Twin Ring Motegi was built by Honda in an effort to bring Indy-style racing to the Land of the Rising Sun. 

Adrian Fernandez was the first driver to win at the facility, taking the checkered flag in CART’s inaugural race after shaking off flu earlier that day.

Fernandez held off a hard-charging Al Unser Jr to win by 1.086 seconds. The victory was the second of his career and his first since Toronto in 1996.

Adrian Fernandez celebrates with Al Unser Jr and Gil de Ferran after winning the inaugural race at Motegi. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

The race was also memorable for a violent crash involving Bobby Rahal.

Running third with 15 laps remaining, Rahal’s right front suspension broke in Turn 2, causing his car to hit the outside wall and flip down the backstretch.

Luckily, Rahal walked away from the accident without a scratch.

“The car was on rails through (turns) 1 and 2, and all of a sudden it just got up into the marbles, and it was gone,” Rahal said. “Thank God we’ve got such safe cars.”

The following season, Fernadez went back-to-back and won again at Motegi. The track remained on the CART schedule until 2002.

In 2003, Honda switched their alliance to the Indy Racing Leauge, and Motegi followed suit.

The track continued to host IndyCar racing until 2011 with the final race being held on the facility’s 2.98-mile road course, as the oval sustained damage in the Tōhoku earthquake earlier that year.

Also on this date:

1976: Clay Regazzoni won the United States Grand Prix – West, Formula One’s first race on the Long Beach street circuit. The Grand Prix would become an IndyCar event following the 1983 edition of the race.

1993: Ayrton Senna won his home race, the Grand Prix of Brazil, for the second and final time of his career. The victory was also the 100th in F1 for McLaren.

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