Wallace Eager for Martinsville Return

Darrell Wallace

Wallace has his sights set on a second straight Martinsville victory in Saturday's Kroger 250. (Photo: Getty Images)

Generally speaking, NASCAR drivers usually don’t get too excited over a 26th-place finish.  But if recent history is any indication, Darrell Wallace Jr. may actually be looking at his sub-par showing in last month’s season-opening race in the Camping World Truck Series as a harbinger of good news.

Wallace is returning to Martinsville Speedway for Saturday’s Kroger 250.  The Virginia half-mile is the site of his first career win, last October.  That victory came just days after the Kyle Busch Motorsports driver finished well outside the top 10 in a superspeedway race at Talladega.

Fast-forward to 2014, when Wallace finished well outside the top 10 in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway.  His next race just so happens to be on the flat half-mile “paper clip” also known as Martinsville Speedway.

And once again, Wallace is transitioning from one of NASCAR’s largest superspeedways to one of its smallest ovals, intent on putting back-to-back Martinsville victories on his resume.

"I have the same feeling, if not a better feeling, that I did heading into the October race there last season," said Wallace, who drives the No. 54 KBM Toyota.  "Our season really starts this weekend.  We didn’t have the finish we wanted at Daytona, but we’ve regrouped and have confidence on our side."

Wallace’s victory last fall helped put the finishing touches on a sterling rookie season that featured 12 top 10s in his 22 starts.  He won a pole at Dover and finished eighth in the final standings, just 27 points outside the top five.

In winning last fall’s race at Martinsville, Wallace dominated in just his 19th career start.  He led the final 50 laps, beating veteran driver Brendan Gaughan to the checkered flag by 1.6 seconds.  Wallace had celebrated his 20th birthday just weeks before and claimed victory on one of the sport’s most venerable ovals.

Martinsville was on the NASCAR schedule in the sanctioning body’s very first season – 1949.  That’s 44 years before Wallace was born.

"The team is pumped to get back to the track," he said, referring to the five weeks that have passed since the 2014 season opened in Daytona.  "We’re building brand new Tundras and I plan on putting Toyota back in Victory Lane at Martinsville for the second time in a row."

If successful, Wallace would become just the third driver in Martinsville history to win back-to-back Truck Series races – joining Dennis Setzer (2002 and 2003) and Mike Skinner, who swept both events in 2007.

Youth was served in last fall’s Martinsville race with rookies grabbing three of the five top finishing spots.  Some of NASCAR’s rising stars are expected to shine brightly again this weekend with Cole Custer, Gray Gaulding, Mason Mingus, Tyler Reddick and Ben Rhodes among those scheduled to make their Martinsville debut.

And Erik Jones, still two months shy of his 18th birthday, will drive the No. 51 Toyota as a teammate to Wallace.  All he did last season was drive to victory at Phoenix International Raceway in November to become the youngest winner in NASCAR national series history.

There are 39 drivers on the entry list for Saturday’s race including defending winner Johnny Sauter and points leader Timothy Peters.

Camping World Truck Series teams will open practice at Martinsville Speedway on Friday morning and qualify Saturday at 11:10 a.m. (ET), just hours before the green flag flies in the Kroger 250.  Motor Racing Network – “The Voice of NASCAR” – will have live coverage of the season’s second race beginning at 2 p.m., with live streaming at MRN.com.

Race Center

UNOH 200

@ Bristol Motor Speedway
Thursday, August 21, 2014
Radio Start:
MRN, 10 a.m. (ET)
TV Start:
FOX Sports 1, 10 a.m. (ET)

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