NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Kroger 200
Topics: Kroger 200
Darrell Wallace, Jr.
October 26, 2013
KERRY THARP: Historic win here today for Darrell Wallace Jr. as he wins the 15th annual Kroger 200. He drove the No.54 Toyota Care Toyota, crew chief Jerry Baxter, truck owner Kyle Busch, Samantha Busch.
KYLE BUSCH: (Laughing).
KERRY THARP: Just a couple things here before we start. This is Darrell's first win in the Camping World Truck Series, and he's a Drive For Diversity graduate. We're very proud of that. He becomes the second African‑American driver to win a NASCAR series race joining driver Wendell Scott, who just so happened to grow up about 30 minutes from here. He's joined up here by his truck owner Kyle Busch, his crew chief Jerry Baxter. Darrell, congratulations on this win. What does it mean to you?
DARRELL WALLACE JR.: It means everything. This is an emotional one for me, especially to do it in Wendell Scott's backyard. I love to come in here to Martinsville. It's always good to me, and it finally paid off. My third trip here and I'm not even going to talk about the late model races. But I love coming here. The fans are always great and they always put on a great race here. Had to do some muscling there at the end and get around Ty and keep it away from Harvick. Dodged a few bullets during the race, and this is awesome. This is good for not only myself and my team, Kyle and Samantha, Jerry, Toyota, everybody involved, this is big.
KERRY THARP: Kyle Busch, certainly you've been to victory lane a bunch, both as an owner and as a driver, but this has to be a special one for you.
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, it certainly is. I mean, I'm happier for Darrell than for anybody, but this is certainly a monumental day and hopefully one that he'll remember for a long time and can cherish. The first one is always the most important one because it seems like they can just come right after that pretty easily. You know, we've seen great things out of Darrell this year, and he's really come a long ways throughout the season, and I think that's what you get when you are a rookie in the NASCAR top three national series is the experience growth that you gain and what he's shown behind the wheel and the poise and having Jerry Baxter as a leader I think is a huge part of that program, as well, too. Just appreciate these guys being a part of Kyle Busch Motorsports and carrying the team name to victory lane here and being the next best driver to go win in a Kyle Busch Motorsports truck. That's certainly fun to see. I've done it and Denny has done it and now Darrell has done it. It's pretty neat to have those guys to be able to drive for us.
KERRY THARP: Jerry Baxter, congratulations on this win. Just talk about it from your standpoint as a crew chief and this big win here today, Darrell's first of I'm sure many to follow.
JERRY BAXTER: It's a pretty special day. First thing is if you're going to bet on the wrong football team, you've got to be tough. Hence the hat.
KERRY THARP: I hear you, brother, I'm suffering, too. Darrell wore me out at Talladega last week.
JERRY BAXTER: It means a bunch. It kind of means as a team and as him, learning to race now, he's had speed since the first race of the year, he's had speed every week. It seems like we led a lot of laps, we led the most laps sometimes, but he's getting mature, he's learning how to race, and I think our whole team is. Him and I are more confident working with each other for sure. Used to be at the beginning that I had to‑‑ he would tell me what's wrong but it was a big panic all the time for him because he didn't know, and so I had to kind of decide what was right and what wasn't right. Now it's just normal. It's just like we just go. It's becoming pretty darned fun. I'm really proud of him.
Q. Darrell, I guess I have a unique perspective having lived in Danville, Virginia, know the Scott family and knew Wendell when he was a mechanic in his retired years. In the spring race you were on the outside pole and I think you finished fifth; is that correct?
DARRELL WALLACE JR.: Uh‑huh.
Q. So you knew it was imminent that you would take the checkered flag, you would win, make history, but how does the anticipation compare with it actually happening, especially here in Martinsville.
DARRELL WALLACE JR.: Well, coming into this weekend I had more confidence than anybody that I told everybody we were going to win this race. Before it was like, yeah, I'm going to try, we're going to try, we're always going to try to go out there to win, but this one was you can bet your bottom dollar that we're going to win this race. That helps out when you have that confidence level and the big momentum coming in, even after a hard wreck at Talladega, you have to dig deep and find it and put it all out there on the line and that's what happened. But to do it like I said here in the backyard of Wendell Scott means so much more, and like it'll take tomorrow for this to finally hit me, so I might be crying again tomorrow, but this is an emotional win and a big win for all of us.
Q. What's the difference between a young driver who has speed and a young driver who's in victory lane?
DARRELL WALLACE JR.: Well, you can always have speed, but you've got to put it together. Kentucky, Charlotte, Michigan and other places, those are the three that stand out, Kentucky we should have won that race but just let speed get to me. Wanted to get back up to the lead quick and put us in the fence and we were done. Charlotte, got excited running with Kyle and Brad and ended up wrecking. Now just finally calmed down. Denny was out there, Harvick was out there. Yeah, they're big factors, but I started asking who are they in this race. That's what you've got to do. You can't let the big guys get to you because you can beat them. There have been plenty of times I was leading him. You've got to put it all together. It takes a lot. This is my rookie season like he was talking about, and you've got to wreck to learn, and I've learned my lesson and I'm going to use that to capitalize, and we've still got three races to go get.
Q. One for Darrell and one for Jerry. Darrell, you've won races before. How does this feel different? And for Jerry, was there any doubt in your mind that he was going to hang on when those last restarts started to pile up?
DARRELL WALLACE JR.: I forgot how to win. I forgot what it feels like to win. It's been over a year. That's tough. But this one, I mean, I couldn't even hold it together coming off 4. I wasn't even on the throttle coming off 4, sorry, just so you know now, because I was in tears. I knew we had a big enough gap, but I was just praying that the checkered flag was out when I did cross it.
It feels good to win, and like I said, this win isn't for me, it never is for me, it's always for my guys, and without the help of the good Lord getting us here, it wouldn't have been able to happen.
JERRY BAXTER: (Audio missing) Jumped out two or three tenths a lap, so I pretty much felt like we were okay after that.
Q. You talked in the past about being an inspiration and how that is part of the diversity program has come mainly kind of more your‑‑ I don't want to say goal, but it's kind of what motivates you as far as just to be the first African‑American to do something. I'm curious now that you've won, does the kind of weight of the accomplishment or the impact of the accomplishment, has it set in at all?
DARRELL WALLACE JR.: Not yet. It will. But we go out there, and yeah, I want to be a role model and inspiration to the younger kids and just change the sport as a whole and change it for the better, bring in a new face and just new activity into the sport, and winning helps everything. Winning, there's nothing better than winning. And I think that'll help kind of pave its own way there, and hopefully get my name out there even more. Winning this big race can always do that, and that's what I've been trying to do all year is to get my name out there, to keep pushing, to strive for kids younger than me to get in the sport and be here sitting here talking to you guys one day.
Q. When we saw you after Talladega you still seemed a little shaken, and you're also an honest guy, so I was curious were you as shaken as maybe it looked, and how long did it take you before you kind of maybe regrouped yourself?
DARRELL WALLACE JR.: I think I'm more shaken now than Talladega. But Talladega was the hardest hit for me. I've never hit like that before. It's always been a blown right front and hitting the right side of the car and just banged up after that. But getting hit in the door, then getting zipped right on the fence, that was a pretty hefty hit for me. It didn't knock the wind out of me or anything, I wasn't hurt at all. I was telling my mom and my dad a visual of an actual car wreck popped into my mind for some reason at that time, and I was just happy to climb out of it.
Q. You talked about the impact of Wendell Scott and what he's been able to do in driving you to be where you are right now, but there have been other African‑Americans who have tried to be in the position where you're at. What does this do for you and for African‑Americans, minorities, who are trying to make it in this sport?
DARRELL WALLACE JR.: Hopefully it makes it easier. I mean, this sport isn't easy at all for sure. It's taken us 18 races, I believe, to finally get here. Like I said, with this, hopefully it'll just make them want to jump in it now. Like I said, you've got to be willing to do it and stick out through the thick and the thin. In this sport it's more thick than anything. But you've just got to keep chugging along, man. This is one of many, I hope, and hopefully we can get something settled for next year and just keep trying to fight for victory lane and let everything else set in place.
KERRY THARP: Darrell, I think I'd be remiss not to mention, this is a big win for Toyota, as well. Toyota certainly has been right there for you, and just maybe talk about that.
DARRELL WALLACE JR.: Yeah, it's an honor to carry them on my front bumper every day, every race, and especially having them on board for this race for Toyota Care, and they've been a big support of my career for the past five years now, and with JGR and now KBM, it's been nothing but greatness coming over from the Toyota family. It's great to have that good family behind you, and that helps you go out there and climb back in the race truck each and every weekend. Big shout out to Toyota and everybody involved. Thank you.
Q. For Darrell, you probably haven't had a chance to notice, but of course a lot of people have been sending out a lot of congratulatory messages to you since you were in victory lane.
KYLE BUSCH: I didn't.
DARRELL WALLACE JR.: He showed up in person.
Q. One of them from Mark Martin said you drove like a hero today, and I wondered what it means to you to have people who have spent a good deal of their career in this sport to say something like that when you accomplish what you did today.
DARRELL WALLACE JR.: Started getting to me hearing that. I look up to Mark a lot. I'm always behind him 100 percent. He's out there running with‑‑ he's the old one of the group, he's out there fighting for it each and every lap, and that's awesome. To be able to have that tweet from him and message from him gets me a little caught up, but that's cool to have the bigger guys watching down on the younger series, and one day hopefully I'll be there racing with them.
Q. Darrell, what are you going to do with your trophy now that you have it, and what are you guys going to do tonight maybe with Kyle to celebrate, and Kyle, you got pretty quiet in the TV booth. What were you thinking watching Darrell run the race?
DARRELL WALLACE JR.: Well, I moved out on my own about a month ago, August, Michigan weekend, and it's barren there. I need some trophies. I've only got one from 2011 from Dover sitting on my table, so that's my centerpiece. Now still trying to find a spot‑‑ I've got a perfect spot to put it, actually. I've got a perfect spot for it at my apartment, and we're going to have fun.
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, I was certainly cheering on both of my guys, the 51 and the 54, they ran a great race. They looked really good when they were up front working as a team. Denny and I and Matt and myself, we're popular for doing that on Sundays, and they looked good for doing it here on Saturday. I was excited to see all that and I was excited to see the chemistry working well between the organization, and then obviously Denny had his issues, and from there of course I was cheering on the 54.
You know, knew one of them had a great shot at being able to win the thing. They looked great running up front. I saw Darrell biding his time there when he got passed by Denny and he got passed by Johnny. He was just kind of settling in. He didn't lose ground. He didn't continue to lose ground to those guys. He stayed right there on their bumper as was learning some things there hopefully, and that's what it's all about and I think that's what Jerry was talking about, how he showed some poise today and showed to be a true racer of knowing when to push the pedal and knowing when not to push the pedal.
Q. Darrell, obviously there's so much going on, you don't have time to kind of capture the moment at this point, but once things start to settle down, who do you want to call? Who do you want to thank? What do you want to tell them, that got you here?
DARRELL WALLACE JR.: If Wendell Scott was alive I would like to call him, but I can call Wendell Scott Jr. He sent me a text after Talladega and said just please just send a letter or a text or word back to make sure‑‑ to let me know that you're all right, because he said he had déjà‑vu of his dad at Talladega. Give him a call if he's not already tried to call my phone plenty of times right now. What do you think about that? I don't know, just let it set in. I already talked to my mom and Coach Gibbs. I talked to him in victory lane, so that's cool that I've got all the support behind me, so we've just got to keep digging.
Q. Kyle, you talked last week about still needing some funding and everything for programs for next year. What do you feel like this win can do, and you also talk a lot about trying to give young guys a chance, and I think Brian Scott won once last year and now this is your second kind of non‑Cup guy to win.
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, sorry, Brian Scott. I would have to say this certainly has to help some things. We've been trying for a month or so to try to continue to put things together for Darrell. I mean, I want to see him back in our trucks. I think a second season does a world of wonders. I think we've seen it with a lot of drivers over the years who have stayed one year in this and that and moved on and then all of a sudden you don't see them anymore. You know, I think it takes a two‑year season to get your feet really wet and get dug in and get a platform and get comfortable in this sport, and the trucks is the best way to do that and the Nationwide is the best way to do that after that. There's a stepping‑stone here for a reason. Darrell has been great. He's been awesome to have on the team with the help of Joe and the whole Joe Gibbs Racing organization, the help of NASCAR, Camping World, the help of Toyota Care of course, all those partners, and Liberty Tire, if we can put all that same stuff back together again for next year and get the people to say yes, we'll be right back here doing the same stuff again. We just need to be able to put the pen to the paper and call it a 2014 season.
Q. Darrell, kind of just following up on what Bob asked you. You said you didn't have anything firm for next year. What's your plan for next year and do you have a plan for progression for getting to Nationwide, to Cup? I know you're affiliated with Gibbs, right?
DARRELL WALLACE JR.: It's just taking the right step at the right time. We've still got three races left. Winning definitely helps out with sponsorship, and I see heads shaking over here, so hopefully make some phone calls, make some stuff happen. I'd love to be back in a Toyota Tundra for Kyle, competing for wins each and every weekend, especially now after this. We've learned a lot and we've still got three races to learn, and to do that again next year, we should be going for that championship and a hard one to beat.
Q. Do you still have a relationship with Gibbs?
DARRELL WALLACE JR.: Yes, I do. We just talked to him on the phone, and something might pop up over there. We'll see, hopefully. We'll never know. Not yet. I don't know what I'm saying. (Laughter.)
Q. Darrell, obviously you drive for a team owner that has been very successful and found victory lane many times over the past few years. How much do you lean on his driving experience to help you?
DARRELL WALLACE JR.: Hardly any. He don't like to talk.
No, I go to him, and it's not about‑‑ I went up to him I think once at Kansas, just what I need to do, and it's so hard to have‑‑ to go up and tell somebody what to do. I have a hard time telling the younger kids when I'm out at Lowe's or Charlotte racing the legend car. I don't know if I'm not in the car doing it. I'm not the type to go up and ask, hey, what do I need to do, what's the plan? I kind of like to go at it myself, and that might hurt me a little bit, but at times it might help, too. Just to talk about how things are going over the weekend is what we kind of do, and I was hanging out in his hauler yesterday, the Cup hauler, and we were just asking how the truck was, and I told him we were a tenth better than anybody and the first thing he does was give me some knucks. So I guess everything was good there. He didn't say anything, like I said. He just did this and that was it.
But it definitely helps having him because he can win at anything.
KYLE BUSCH: I think our best experience that we've had working together this year was a test that we had at Kentucky earlier this season where Darrell unloaded and he took to the place instantly. I mean, he was super fast right off the truck. But we shared a lot of time jumping back and forth, me in his truck, him in my truck, and Joey Coulter was there with us, as well, too, and we had two trucks and four drivers, we all swapped back and forth. We learned a lot about each other. We had data on the trucks so we could really communicate about how my steering was compared to his and throttle traces and things like that, and I think Darrell picked up on a little bit there of just the different tendencies that drivers do have. He doesn't have a lot of experience with working with data. So sometimes the things you're saying that you feel like you're saying it the right way may not translate exactly to another driver, and that's where Darrell is getting with coming and asking for advice or asking for something, I can tell him, yeah, man, you drive into the corner to here, you pick up the gas here, you do this, you do that, and yet it's not entirely at all what he's comprehending. It's just different. That's where driving styles really set people apart.
But the more data, the more experience you get and the more times you're able to work in those situations, the easier it comes to you, the better understanding you have, and the more you do actually lean on other drivers.
Q. Kyle, you pretty much summed up what I was going to ask you about. You yourself, such a successful driver, now as a car owner, how much of Darrell do you see in yourself at that stage of the game when you were coming through the ranks?
KYLE BUSCH: I see a little bit of Darrell in me. A little bit of me in Darrell. Yeah, that's it. See, I get screwed up, too. It's all right.
You know, I mean, there were certainly times in the early stages of my career when I ran my first few truck races, first few Nationwide races. Like Jerry said, I had speed but I didn't know how to control it, I didn't know where to put it, I didn't know how to make it last so there's things you just get better with ‑‑ that's the experience level that you gain as a race car driver. You come from late models or legends cars or whatever it is that you race, and even in those things you're gaining that experience and you're getting better at that and that's why you're moving on to the next thing. I think that's the thing that Darrell is most focused on is being able to continue that through everything he drives, that you've got to be the best to beat the best, and you continue to do that in every series, and when you can then you make it to the top, and that's how we all get to where we want to be, which is the Cup Series one day.
Q. Darrell, for you and for Kyle, a couple years ago at Richmond in the short track shootout you two were up front and it didn't turn out quite so well. I'm curious from Kyle's perspective what did you see on that night that started you down the road of having him as your driver, and for Darrell, after that night did you ever picture yourself ever actually driving for him?
KYLE BUSCH: Let's let Darrell go first.
DARRELL WALLACE JR.: He was scared. He ain't going to admit it, but he was scared. The old late model, it was only three of us ‑‑ me, my dad, my spotter and another guy, Freddy and Mick back at home, and that's all we've got. Cup rig, six or seven guys, you know, Cup guy.
KYLE BUSCH: Rent‑a‑ride that way.
DARRELL WALLACE JR.: Well hell, you're still a Cup guy. But that was fun. I drove it a little deep, take a line away, I'm still new at it but then I get run over from behind. Nothing you can do about that. That was a fun race there, always loved running at Richmond, especially in that race. We were going to try this year, but we blew up in practice and that was it. But for driving for him, no, never seen that, and to be in victory lane for him, bringing home a win, that means everything.
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, I think for me when we ran that race together, it was fun. I mean, obviously I had a great time. I love running late models. Those are a different late model than I typically run, but they were fun. You get a chance to race against a different crowd you never get a chance to race against before. I remember myself, I think Michael Waltrip was up there, I think Denny, he came from the back, so he got up there eventually, but when I was racing with Darrell, you see the tenacity and the guts and the drive that the guy has. I mean, obviously everybody wants that, but he put the blinders on and was focused ongoing forward. That's for sure. But got himself a little crossed up.
But it's a lot easier to pull a rope than it is to push one. You know, that's what we've been‑‑ and Jerry mostly, I give him the credit that he's been able to harness his driver this year and get him to victory lane here today.
Q. You were in the role of being the 16‑year‑old kid coming into NASCAR and then the 18‑year‑old kid terrorizing all the old men coming up. Do you look around at the crop of young kids because it seems like there's more young talent than there's been in a long time and think my job is about to get a whole lot harder?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, no doubt. You don't necessarily focus on it when you're the young guy coming up but certainly when you're the old guy and looking down on what's coming behind I, you see that. It's great. It's unfortunate that there's not as many good rides out there as there are young drivers. There's young drivers across the nation in late models and still in legends cars right now growing up that may never get the opportunity. But you know, it's how hard you work. It's how much effort you put forth, and being able to get here and doing the right things, of course saying the right things also helps, but winning races is the ultimate thing.
You know, it's cool to see a bunch of those young talents coming up, but of course you try to wish all the best success on all of them, but I only wish the best success on mine. It's fun to see‑‑ it's fun to see the success of the young drivers. I like seeing Ryan Blaney winning, I love seeing Darrell Wallace winning, and good runs by other young guns, Ross Chastain had a good run going today. It's cool to see those, and more importantly it's fun when you get to see a newcomer come to victory lane, get their first chance of it, see what they say, see how they react and how they move forward from that and go try to get their next ones.
KERRY THARP: Congratulations, Darrell Wallace Jr. on this historic win here today, and Kyle, congratulations, Jerry Baxter, congratulations. We were privileged to be a part of it. Thank you.
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