Forget Martinsville’s nuclear hot dogs and the equally nuclear tempers demonstrated yesterday by Kevin Harvick, Ty Dillion, Richard Childress and associated minions. The story — the only story worth discussing — is Darrell Wallace Jr.’s win in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 200.
And not for the reason you think.
Yes, Wallace is black. Yes, he came out of NASCAR’s oft-ridiculed as nothing more than a publicity stunt Drive for Diversity program. Nice back stories. But, given how no car manufacturer has ever produced a steering wheel and/or pedal that can sense a driver’s ethnicity, still not the story.
The story is that a twenty year old beat a whole bunch of seasoned NASCAR professionals at Martinsville. And if that does not make you sit up and pay attention, you know absolutely nothing about NASCAR.
Martinsville is the nastiest, toughest, most unforgiving track on the circuit. Think you can blast down the deceptively long straighaways and slam on the brakes for its paper clip turns? Bye bye brakes. Don’t want to abuse the brakes so you don’t push it down the straightaways? Get ready to be abused by your competitors as they turn you into a rolling speed bump. It takes a precision mixture of aggressively pushing and feathering the gas, cutting the corners just right and stainless steel nerves plus maximum concentration on every inch of every lap to so much as have a decent run at Martinsville, let alone win. No place for hot shot kids. Martinsville is men only territory (no offense, Danica). Talent is key here, but experience is king.
In other words, no place for kids who can’t so much as legally buy a beer to wash down that Martinsville nuclear hot dog. Certainly no place for said kids to figure out where that grandfather clock will go in their apartment.
Darrell Wallace Jr. is the total package on and off the track. He is intelligent and well-spoken; a sponsor’s dream. Behind the wheel he is even more of a sponsor’s dream; a smooth David Pearson type seldom noticed until you notice how he’s passing everyone on his way to posing for pictures with the company owner in Victory Lane. Wallace Jr. made Clippy his own yesterday, putting his name alongside NASCAR legends in the record books. And not because of his skin color.
Because he is that good.