Darrell Wallace once had dreams of being an NBA star. However, Wallace eventually developed a passion for motor sports after his father bought a Harley-Davidson when he was 9 years old.
Seven years later, Wallace made history by becoming the youngest driver and first black American to win the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.
His rise in the NASCAR Drive for Diversity initiative made him one of the most promising drivers in the program’s history. Now 18, Wallace will compete for the Joe Gibbs Racing team at the Iowa Speedway on May 20.
While preparing for the race, Wallace took time to speak with rolling out sports about breaking racial barriers in NASCAR. –amir shaw
How important will the race at the Iowa Speedway be to you and NASCAR?
It’s going to be very important. To be able to make my nationwide debut will be pretty big. It’s definitely going to be an exciting race for me and the entire sport.
How difficult is it to come up in a sport that doesn’t have many successful blacks to emulate?
Athletes in other sports have someone to look up to because there are other African Americans that are already at the top level. Right now in NASCAR, there really [aren’t] any blacks at the top to inspire other black race car drivers. That’s where I come in and try to win races, break those barriers and keep moving up that ladder to get to the top level. Hopefully, one day I’ll be in the Hall of Fame and be someone that minority kids can look up to.
How can black kids gain entry into this sport?
It all starts out in the go-carts that I started out in. It’s all about patience. You don’t start winning off the bat. It took me years before I got my first win. It seemed like a long time, but when I start racing it goes by quick. When I got my first win, it seemed like it was the day after I started racing. It definitely takes a lot of patience. You have to have that right sponsor to help you out throughout your career. I’m working on making a name for myself — a brand — and spread that [into] long-term sponsorship. The key is patience.
How does the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program help to level the playing field in the sport of racing?
It has given drivers like myself a shot in racing, and an opportunity to compete with the top ranked in NASCAR. It was a lot of fun and I broke some records, some racial barriers and had fun with it all. That type of exposure definitely helps other drivers progress throughout their careers and better themselves.