NASCAR: Darrell Wallace Jr. comes out on top of wild Truck finish at Gateway

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Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. claimed his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win of the season tonight at Gateway Motorsports Park after holding off German Quiroga in a three-lap dash to the checkered flag.

The thrilling finish was set up by an incident that took place shortly after a restart with eight laps to go.

Wallace and Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate Erik Jones fought for the lead, only to have Quiroga get involved and take second from Wallace.

One turn later, Jones bobbled and slid high but Quiroga appeared not to lift and wound up spinning Jones off the track into an inside wall.

Several of Jones’ crew members ran down to Quiroga’s pit box to briefly confront members of his team face-to-face before the final restart. Wallace and Quiroga banged doors down the backstretch on the restart lap but Wallace grabbed the lead for good in Turn 3.

“It was wild – such a bummer for Erik, man,” Wallace told Fox Sports. “I thought it was out of our hands until that caution with him, but he and him were so fast…We got in a little trouble in the first pit stop but a little adversity never hurts anybody.”

As for Jones, he believed that Quiroga just flat-out dumped him.

“I got a little free but – right in the left-rear, he just turned us around,” Jones said. “I don’t know what to do about that.”

Quiroga explained that he tried to move left and give Jones enough room to collect himself after getting loose.

“But he was already sideways…I just kept on driving straight, trying not to hit him,” he said.

Wallace led the first 62 laps of the race, but during the stop that he alluded to in Victory Lane, the left-rear tire was not put on properly. When Wallace tried to go, the tire came loose.

That forced his crew to re-jack the left side of his truck up and get the tire on again. While that was going on, Gray Gaulding was crawling to the pits after apparently running out of gas.

Gaulding ultimately came to a stop near pit entrance, forcing a caution. After multiple Trucks chose to pit, Matt Crafton rose to the lead for the restart at Lap 72, while Wallace took it in 12th.

While Wallace made his way back among the leaders, Crafton and John Hunter Nemechek put on a great game of cat-and-mouse for the lead.

Crafton re-claimed it on Lap 122, but just one lap later, the defending NCWTS champion suddenly veered right and crashed hard into the Turn 4 wall after a reported tire failure.

That handed the lead to Jones (who had taken second from Nemechek) going into yellow-flag pit stops. But Jones fell back to third in the race off pit road behind Nemechek and Wallace.

Wallace briefly took the lead from Nemechek after the restart with 27 laps to go but the two battled side-by-side in Turn 3 before Jones made it three-wide coming off of Turn 4.

When that settled down, Wallace and Jones had taken first and second while Nemechek was left to try and fight off Quiroga and Timothy Peters for third.

Nemechek held his own with the two Red Horse Racing drivers, but with 14 to go, he slowed down the back stretch and then spun in Turn 3 after a tire went down on him.

Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).