MOORESVILLE, N.C. (August 24, 2010) – While most drivers competing in Saturday’s American Fence Association 150 NASCAR K&N Series East race will be focused only on the fast half-mile Gresham Motorsports Park, championship-contender Darrell Wallace Jr. will be sitting in a classroom at Northwest Cabarrus High School in Concord, N.C. starting his senior year.
The 16-year-old Revolution Racing driver is only 33 points behind defending NASCAR K&N Series East champion Ryan Truex, but he won’t be able to fully focus on the task until Friday afternoon when school lets out.
“We start school Wednesday and maybe it will keep my mind off of the pressure of trying to run down Truex for the points lead,” Wallace said. “This has been a great season so far but to be honest it hasn’t been easy. We have had a few minor things go wrong that have caused us to start at the rear of the field three different times, but we’ve managed to get through traffic and end up with good results. I hope we can have a clean race at Gresham and then in the last two races at New Hampshire and Dover so that we can give Truex a good challenge. Even if he has trouble there are two Joe Gibbs Racing cars and the Red Bull car right behind us. Whoever wins the championship will be the team that makes the fewest mistakes.”
Wallace made history in the first race of the season when he became the NASCAR K&N Series youngest and first African American to win a race. That win at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in March has propelled him to two wins, five top-fives and six top-10s in only seven starts. He leads the Sunoco Rookie of the Year competition over Cole Whitt, Kevin Swindell and teammate Ryan Gifford.
Wallace will be joined at the Jefferson, Ga. speedway by teammates and fellow Drive for Diversity program members Gifford, Sergio Pena and Michael Cherry, who will be making his series debut.
Gifford, who has fallen to eighth in series standings, 221 points behind Truex, is looking at wins as the salvation of his season.
“We have been beaten around quite a bit in the last two races and have lost a lot of points,” Gifford said. “We’re all going to Gresham for the first time and I’ve had success at both New Hampshire and Dover, so we’ll be looking to score wins rather than race for points. We’ve been fast enough to win every week and haven’t been able to make it work yet. We’ll get one before the season is over.”
Gifford, 21, from Winchester, Tenn. became the first African American to win a pole in series history Martinsville Speedway June 6.
Sergio Pena, who like Wallace is also splitting time between his senior year in high school and the race track, will look to turn his season around and improve upon his 12th-place point’s position. Pena’s best finish of the season is 10th at Lime Rock Park, but his consistency has allowed him to maintain a shot at the top 10 in season-ending points. He is currently 86 points out of the top 10.
“We have to run better in our last three races and I’m confident we can get to the top 10,” said the 17-year-old Pena. “I have learned a lot this season and know that we’ll use that experience in the final three races. Our goal has gone from a championship to finishing the season strong and earning a spot on stage at the banquet.”
Michael Cherry, from Valrico, Fla. and a season-long member of Revolution Racing’s Whelen All-American Series program, has earned an opportunity in one of the team’s NASCAR K&N Series cars. He will be making his series debut many strong runs in the Whelen All-American Series, including becoming the first African American driver to win a race at Tri-County Motor Speedway in Hudson, N.C.
The American Fence Association 150 NASCAR K&N Series East race at Gresham Motorsports Park starts at 8:30 p.m. Practice starts Saturday morning at 11 a.m. and qualifying is scheduled for 4 p.m. The race will be broadcast on Speed Channel September 2 at 6 p.m. EDT.