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NASCAR driver: Follow your dreams
Darrell Wallace Jr., a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver, told Martinsville High School students Tuesday about the triumps — and the hardships — that he has faced in his career. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
Pursuing a career in NASCAR has taught Darrell Wallace Jr. the importance of having the courage to follow your dreams.
Wallace is in his first full-time year driving the No. 54 Toyota Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
During a visit to Martinsville High School on Tuesday, the 20-year-old told students that he grew up playing basketball and planned to pursue that sport through college — until he fell in loving with racing.
“Racing came out of nowhere,” he said. “I just jumped into it all of a sudden, and it changed my life.”
He recalled that his father bought a Harley Davidson motorcycle and hired someone to fix it up. That person invited Wallace and his father to a race.
After that race, “I was hooked,” Wallace said. He was about 9 at the time.
By the time he was 15, Wallace said, he had started racing. He even graduated from high school a year early, in 2011, to pursue his dream.
But there were a number of obstacles along the way, he said.
For one, NASCAR is traditionally a sport for white people, Wallace said.
A biracial man, Wallace said he has been booed off the racetrack and endured racial slurs from fans and other drivers.
“That was the hardest part,” he said.
Besides being a person of color, Wallace said, he also faced adversity when he beat older drivers on the track.
In both cases, “it was hard,” Wallace recalled, but his response to those seasoned drivers was to “come back and beat them again and again. If you’ve got the heart for it, nothing is impossible,” Wallace said.
He told the students it has been a year since he had a first-place win and readily admitted that “I’ve wrecked more than I’ve finished,” including five times this year. Four of the wrecks were his fault and one was not, he said.
Although he has won more than 120 times, Wallace said racing is different than many other sports. He explained that if a driver wins five races of the more than 30 in a season, it is considered a good year.
“You’ve got to have patience. If not, how are you going to take not winning in over a year,” he asked.
The thing that inspires Wallace most is “knowing that God gave me another day to get up and try to win a race,” he said.
Wallace, who also toured the school, did so as part of a program to promote racing and “bring in new faces” as part of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program, which encourages people of color to get involved in the sport, he said.
So far, Wallace said, the sky is the limit.
With 10 top-10 finishes out of 17 starts so far this season, “Stuff is just falling into place,” he said.