Despite search for sponsorship, Darrell Wallace Jr. says he’s not in danger of missing races

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DALLAS – A sight regularly seen every week in NASCAR is of a car pulling into Victory Lane with a laundry list of sponsor decals plastered all over the body.

The driver’s first priority in post-race interviews, after he’s finished celebrating, is usually to list said sponsors, thanking them and his team.

This is a scenario Darrell Wallace Jr. has been fighting for the last 12 years of his career.

In his rookie season in both the Xfinity Series and with Roush Fenway Racing, Wallace has a very short list to thank when he gets out of a car.

“It’s a struggle for everybody in the sport,” Wallace said during Texas Motor Speedway’s Media Day at the House of Blues. “I’ve never had an opportunity to say, ‘Hey, I’m Darrell Wallace Jr., driver of the No. 6 … such and such.’ It’s just been Ford Mustang.”

During his prior two years with Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Camping World Truck Series, Wallace competed in 44 races and won five. The majority of the time the sponsor on his truck was some variation of its manufacturer, Toyota.

In his second-to-most-recent win, at last fall’s Martinsville race, his sponsor was the induction of Wendell Scott into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, while Toyota Care graced his Truck in his most recent win in last year’s season-ending race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Through the first five Xfinity races this year with Roush Fenway Racing it’s more of the same, with Wallace racing with the decals of Ford EcoBoost or Roush Performance Parts on his No. 6 Ford Mustang.

But even devoid of additional sponsorship, Wallace says there’s no danger of him missing any races.

“Our goal and our mission is to be at Homestead at the end of the year and winning that race,” said Wallace, whose early racing career was primarily supported financially by his father’s industrial cleaning company in Tennessee. “We also just have to keep performing on track to earn that sponsorship.

“My dad’s company, I don’t count that as a sponsorship. I’m just thankful for the opportunity we had growing up,” said Wallace. “The sponsorship is still a battle, and we’re still fighting that. But I think we have some really good things in the works, for sure.”

To this point, Wallace believes his on-track performance speaks for itself. He’s fifth in the season standings. Wallace just needs to convince a sponsor to believe in him. Prospective sponsors want the right person representing their brand, especially when a season’s sponsorship in the Xfinity Series can go for as much as $10 million total, according to recent reports.

“The sponsors really just want to get to know you and know what you’re about off the race track and how you carry yourself and that’s the main thing,” Wallace said. “It’s just all about being yourself, impressing them in the right way. Not just saying what they want to hear, but delivering the message in a positive and 100 percent real way.”

While he battles his way on track to be able to thank a permanent sponsor in Victory Lane, Wallace is grateful to have car owner Jack Roush’s support.

“He wants to run for a full season,” Wallace said. “He believes in me and that’s the biggest thing. You have the support from Jack and he wants us to succeed, and I think it’s really cool that he’s in the debrief meetings with us on Monday at 2 o’clock and he want’s to know why did we finish like that? What do we need to improve on? He’s a racer. He gets it.”

Texas Xfinity results: Noah Gragson wins playoff opener

NASCAR Xfinity Series Andy's Frozen Custard 300
Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images
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Noah Gragson is rolling through the NASCAR Xfinity Series like a bowling ball headed toward a strike.

Gragson won for the fourth consecutive race Saturday, taking the lead with 11 laps left and winning the 300-mile race at Texas Motor Speedway. The victory put Gragson in the second round of the playoffs.

Finishing behind him in the top five were Austin Hill, Ty Gibbs, AJ Allmendinger and Riley Herbst.

MORE: Texas Xfinity results

The race was pockmarked by wrecks, scrambling the 12-driver playoff field.

The Xfinity playoffs will continue Oct. 2 at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET, NBC).

Noah Gragson wins Xfinity race at Texas Motor Speedway

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Noah Gragson opened the NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs the same way he ran much of the season.

Gragson sidestepped a web of issues plaguing playoff drivers and won Saturday’s 300-mile race at Texas Motor Speedway, tying a decades-old Xfinity record by winning for the fourth consecutive race. Sam Ard, formerly a series mainstay, won four in a row in 1983.

Gragson, continuing to establish himself as the championship favorite, took the lead with 11 laps to go from Jeb Burton as most of the day’s leaders were running different tire and fuel strategies over the closing laps.

“This number 9 team, man, they’re on fire,” Gragson told NBC Sports. “Luke Lambert (crew chief) and the boys executed a great race.”

MORE: Texas Xfinity results

The win was Gragson’s seventh of the year. Following in the top five were Austin Hill, Ty Gibbs, AJ Allmendinger and Riley Herbst.

The victory pushed Gragson into the second round of the playoffs.

A big crash at the front of the field on lap 117 changed the face of the race. John Hunter Nemechek lost control of his car on the outside and was clipped by Justin Allgaier, starting a wreck that scrambled most of the field. Damages forced playoff drivers Daniel Hemric and Allgaier from the race.

Six laps earlier, another multi-car crash scattered the field and damaged the car of playoff contender and regular season champion AJ Allmendinger.

The wreck started when Brandon Brown slipped in front of Allmendinger and went into a slide, forcing Allmendinger to the inside apron. Several cars scattered behind them trying to avoid the accident.

Playoff driver Jeremy Clements had a tough day. He parked with what he called mysterious mechanical issues about halfway through the race.

Stage 1 winner: Daniel Hemric

Stage 2 winner: AJ Allmendinger

Next: The second race in the first round of the Xfinity playoffs is scheduled Oct. 1 at 4 p.m. ET (USA Network) at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.

Cup drivers are for changing Texas but leery about making it another Atlanta

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FORT WORTH, Texas — Some Cup drivers are concerned that a reconfigured Texas Motor Speedway could create racing similar to Atlanta, adding another type of superspeedway race to the NASCAR calendar.

While Texas officials have not stated publicly any plans to make changes, some competitors feel Sunday’s playoff race (3:30 p.m. ET on USA Network) could be the final event on this track’s current layout. 

With the All-Star Race moving from Texas to North Wilkesboro next year, Texas Motor Speedway’s lone Cup race will take place Sept. 24, 2023. That could provide time for any alterations. Work on changing Atlanta began in July 2021 and was completed by December 2021. 

Reigning Cup champion Kyle Larson said work needs to be done to Texas Motor Speedway.

“I would like them to demolish this place first and then start over from scratch,” Larson said Saturday. “For one, they did a very poor job with the reconfiguration, initial reconfiguration. 

“I would like to see them change it from a mile-and-a-half to something shorter. I don’t know if that means bringing the backstretch in or whatever. 

“If I could build a track, it’d be probably a three-quarter mile Bristol basically, pavement and progressive banking. But I don’t know if that’s even possible here. I’m not sure what they have in mind, but anything would be better than what they did.”

Former Cup champion Joey Logano worries about another superspeedway race with such events at Daytona, Talladega and now Atlanta. 

“Do we need more superspeedways?” Logano asked Saturday. “Is that the type of racing fans want to see? Because when you look at the way that people have finished up front in these superspeedways lately, (they) are the ones that are riding around in the back. 

“Do you believe that you should be rewarded for not working? Because that’s what they’re doing. They’re riding around in the back not working, not going up there to put a good race on. They’re riding around in the back and capitalizing on other people’s misfortune for racing up front trying to win. I don’t think it’s right. That’s not racing. I can’t get behind that.”

Logano said he wants to have more control in how he finishes, particularly in a playoff race. 

“I want to be at tracks where I can make a difference, where my team can make a difference, and we’re not at the mercy of a wreck that happened in front of us that we couldn’t do anything about,” he said.

Discussions of changing the track follow complaints about how tough it is to pass at this 1.5-mile speedway.

“Once you get to the top, it’s almost like the bottom (lane) is very, very weak,” Daniel Suarez said.

Suarez has mixed feelings about the idea of turning Texas into another Atlanta-style race.

“Atlanta was a very good racetrack, and then they turned it into a superspeedway and it’s a lot of fun,” Suarez said. “I see it as a hybrid. I don’t think we need another racetrack like that, but it’s not my decision to make. Whatever they throw out at us, I’m going to try to be the best I can be.”

Suarez hopes that Texas can be like what it once was.

“Maybe with some work, we can get this race track to what it used to be, a very wide race track, running the bottom, running the middle, running the top,” he said.  

“As a race car driver, that’s what you want. You want that ability to run around and to show your skills. In superspeedways … everyone is bumping, everyone is pushing, and you can not show your skills as much.”

Chase Briscoe would be OK with a change to Texas, but he wants it to be more like a track other than Atlanta.

“If we’re really going to change and completely start from scratch, I would love another Homestead-type racetrack,” Briscoe said. “The problem is any time you build a new race track, it’s not going to be slick and worn out for a while. It’s trying to figure out what’s best to maximize those first couple of years to get it good by the end. 

“I think Homestead is a great model, if we’re going to build another mile and a half. I think we’re going to have to look at what they have, the progressive banking, the shape of the race track is different. I just think it’s a really good race track, and I think it always puts on really good racing. Anything we could do to try to match that, that would be my vote.”

Denny Hamlin just hopes some sort of change is made to Texas.

“I’d rather have another Atlanta than this, honestly,” Hamlin said. “Anything will be better than kind of what we have here.”

NASCAR shares prayers for Stewart-Haas Racing engineer

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FORT WORTH, Texas — The NASCAR garage is sharing its prayers for Stewart-Haas Racing engineer DJ VanderLey, who was injured Thursday night in a crash during a micro sprint Outlaw race at the Texas Motor Speedway dirt track.

He suffered several fractured vertebrae and has a spinal cord injury, according to a post from his wife Jordan on her Facebook page. 

Two GoFundMe accounts have been set up to help the family with medical costs. 

VanderLey was Chase Briscoe’s engineer for four years, and they are good friends.

“I hate that it happened to anybody,” Briscoe said Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway, “but for it to hit close to home has definitely been tough for me.”

Briscoe said he planned to visit VanderLey in the hospital on Saturday and that “I just hope that everybody continues to pray. That’s really all we can do at this point, trying to hope he gets better.”

Christopher Bell calls VanderLey among his best friends. VanderLey was Bell’s engineer at Kyle Busch Motorsports in 2016. 

Bell spent the night at the hospital and also picked up Jordan VanderLey at the airport when she arrived. 

Stewart-Haas Racing had a decal for VanderLey on Riley Herbst‘s No. 98 Xfinity car for Saturday’s race.