May 15, 2012
By Doug Demmons
If Wendell Scott were around today, he’d probably chuckle at the notion.
Scott was nothing if not resourceful. He could do more with less than just about any other driver in NASCAR history.
He dreamed of what he might accomplish with decent equipment, with manufacturer support. The irony was that when he finally acquired a truly competitive car -- for a race at Talladega in 1973 -- he was injured in a wreck that essentially ended his NASCAR career.
Indeed, Scott would have to chuckle at the notion of a black driver finally getting the chance he never had -- to drive for a truly competitive team.
Darrell Wallace Jr. this weekend will get that chance as he makes his Nationwide Series debut for Joe Gibbs Racing at Iowa Speedway. He isn’t the first black driver in NASCAR and, if he wins, he wouldn’t even be the first winner. Scott still holds that distinction 49 years later.
Wallace won’t even be the first Drive for Diversity alum to make a start in a NASCAR national series race. But he will be the first to do it for one of NASCAR’s best teams.
He’s still just a teenager and a rookie, so no one expects him to bring a trophy home from Iowa. But in the Nationwide Series, the equipment and the crew doesn’t get much better than Gibbs.
This is, as Wallace has said, “my time to shine.”
And that will eventually bring something that no other black driver at the top levels of NASCAR has ever experienced -- expectations of success.
More will be expected from Wallace than just giving NASCAR someone to point to when the sport’s lack of diversity is criticized. Once he gets some Nationwide races on his resume, Wallace will be expected to bring home top 10s and top fives and even wins.
That’s the mark of true progress toward diversity.
This isn’t a token start with an underfunded start-up team. This is the big leagues.
Wallace understands that. He knows the opportunity of a lifetime lies before him and he plans to make the most of it. He knows that whenever he accomplishes something news stories will report that he was the first black driver to win a pole here or a race there.
He’s aware of what he’s stepping into. But he sees himself as a driver, not as a pioneer. Scott has that role covered. Wallace is the guy who walks down the path the pioneers carved out and makes them proud.
A couple weeks ago at Richmond, Wallace was talking about the differences between his time at Rev Racing in NASCAR’s K&N Pro East Series and his time now with Gibbs.
Rev Racing is the racing team run by Max Siegel, who took over the sputtering D4D program and turned it into something with a chance for success. It’s a great program but it isn’t JGR.
Wallace noted that at Rev Racing the teams didn’t have enough really great equipment to go around so they’d have to share. One week he might get the best shocks package and another week someone else would get it.
At Gibbs, it’s the best for everybody.
That’s all Wendell Scott ever really wanted.
Doug Demmons is a writer and editor for the Birmingham News ~ he writes daily and weekly auto racing columns ranging from NASCAR to open wheel to Formula One, local tracks and more... you can read Doug's columns online at ALABAMA MOTORSPORTS
Follow Doug on Twitter: @dougdemmons
The thoughts and ideas expressed by this writer or any other writer on Insider Racing News, are not necessarily the views of the staff and/or management of IRN.