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Darrell Wallace Jr. doesn’t want to be ‘Debbie Downer’ with uncertainty of near future

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Darrell Wallace Jr.‘s racing future is cloudy with a one percent chance of rain. But he won’t let that dampen anyone else’s day.

Wallace was in good spirits Wednesday during the NASCAR Media Tour despite having sponsorship secured for only the season’s first six Xfinity Series races and a “99 percent chance” Roush Fenway Racing will secure more.

“Who likes a Debbie Downer person?” Wallace said before lowering his voice to a monotone pitch.

“I could be up here like this the whole time waiting to get out of here, but that’s boring,” Wallace said. “I want to make you guys laugh and see the smiles on faces – get those chuckles whether they’re laughing at me or with me, I don’t care you’re laughing, so job well done by me. It’s just having fun. It’s all about having fun no matter what you do.”

If anything could get Wallace down, it’s being in the “little tight spot” of not knowing exactly how much racing he’ll have on his calendar 31 days before the season opener at Daytona. Wallace and his No. 6 Ford will be backed in the first six races by Leidos, a military defense company. Leidos sponsored Wallace in the final six races of last season.

“Yeah, it’s not set in stone that it’s a full season, but that doesn’t change my outlook or my attitude or anything,” said the five-time winner in the Camping World Truck Series. “I’m still the same old guy that walks around trying to put a smile on everybody’s face, and go out there and deliver out on the race track.  We’ll go to Daytona, give it our best effort.”

The No. 6 team’s best effort the last two seasons hasn’t been able to produce many results the 23-year-old Alabama native can smile at.

In 66 Xfinity starts over the last two years, Wallace has finished in the top five three times each season. Last season, his last top five came at Kentucky, the 16th race of campaign. His best finish in 72 career Xfinity starts was second in last spring’s Dover race. He ended his sophomore campaign 11th in the points after failing to advance out of the first round of the playoffs. Of his three DNFs, two came in the final four races.

When it comes to securing his future in NASCAR with one of the most successful teams in the sport’s history, Wallace is taking a hands-on approach.

“I’ve been making a couple more phone calls to see what we can do to be on the forefront of this, which we are at the forefront of it,” Wallace said. “We’re really close to finishing the deal. I have a great team at Roush Fenway and a great team behind me to get that process done, but I’m the same old guy.”

Wallace can say this because of how he was raised and the advice he received when times got rough.

“It really goes back to my parents,” Wallace said. “My mom always said, ‘No matter what, give the media everything positive to talk about. Don’t give them anything negative. They’re gonna take it and run with it.’  Not that she’s bashing on you guys, it’s just the truth.”

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NASCAR America: Steve Letarte on challenges of avoiding speeding penalites

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NBC Sports analysts Steve Letarte joined the NASCAR on NBC podcast this week. One of the topics the former crew chief discussed is the challenge of avoiding speeding penalties on pit road. Letarte said the introduction of digital dashboards has made it even harder.

Watch the video to hear his thoughts.

NASCAR America: Comparing severity of Harvick, Keselowski and Allmendinger penalties

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NASCAR handed out two crew chief suspensions in the Cup this week following the race weekend in Phoenix while another was upheld on appeal.

Brad Keselowski‘s crew chief, Paul Wolfe, was suspended three races and the team was docked 35 driver and owners points for failing weights and measurements in post-race inspection.

Kevin Harvick‘s crew chief, Rodney Childers, was suspended one race and the team docked 10 driver and owner points for an unapproved track bar slider assembly.

The penalties for AJ Allmendinger‘s team, including the suspension of crew chief Randall Burnett, was upheld after an appeal.

The NASCAR America crew debates which team is hurt the most by their penalties.

 

Mario Andretti tries out, approves of Charlotte Motor Speedway road course

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We now have two positive reviews of the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course.

Following AJ Allmendinger‘s comments back in January, IndyCar legend Mario Andretti has shared his thoughts on the 2.4-mile circuit that will likely host a NASCAR Cup race in fall 2018.

As a guest of the track and the NASCAR Racing Experience, the 77-year-old driver piloted two cars – a 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder Hybrid and a 2017 Cadillac CTS-V. Andretti maxed out at 177 mph in the Porsche.

“It’s very difficult sometimes to really create a road course where you can ‘stretch your legs’ inside an oval,” Andretti said in a press release. “From that standpoint, I think they did a good job by giving it rhythm by putting some banking to the hairpin corners – which obviously invites some overtaking. It’s wide enough that you can choose a line. You’re not really trapped. … It’s got a multiple-line (groove) that you can choose from, depending on the capability of the car.”

The “roval” circuit would use most of the 1.5-mile oval NASCAR already competes on.

Allmendinger took part in a data test on the road course in mid-January and later said it “was a lot of fun.”

Earlier this month, Speedway Motorsports Inc. CEO Marcus Smith said the track “learned a lot” from the test.

“We have done a lot to engineer a world-class road course that would include the ‘roval,'” Smith told NBC Sports, adding that “several truckloads of crash walls and catchfence” were being transported in for installation.

The Cup Series has two road courses on it schedule, at Sonoma Raceway in California and Watkins Glen International in New York.

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Drivers unhurt in crash of Furniture Row Racing hauler near Las Vegas Motor Speedway

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The drivers of the Furniture Row Racing hauler carrying Erik Jones’ No. 77 Toyota were uninjured Thursday in a hit-and-run accident 15 miles north of Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Travis Watts, who was behind the wheel, and David Shano were traveling from Phoenix Raceway to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, when their tractor-trailer rig was struck shortly after midnight on Interstate 15, according to a team release. The team said a car carrying two occupants pulled off the shoulder and back onto the highway directly in front of the truck, causing front-end damage to the tractor.

The team said there was no damage to the trailer or its interior, which was carrying Jones’ cars.

“We’re all very relieved no one was injured in the incident,” team president Joe Garone said. “There was substantial damage to the tractor, but everything in the trailer was checked out thoroughly and is OK. We’ve rented a tractor and the No. 77 hauler is on schedule to arrive at Auto Club Speedway later (Thursday).”

The team rented a replacement tractor at a Rush Truck Centers in North Las Vegas.

According to the team, the Nevada Highway Patrol apprehended and arrested the occupants of the car. The team is working to supply police with a video dash cam from the No. 77 tractor.