Darrell Wallace Jr. was “100 percent” on board with the call that netted him his best career finish in the Xfinity Series last weekend at Dover International Speedway.
It wasn’t his first career win, but Wallace finished second thanks to the decision to stay on the track on old tires with race leader Erik Jones after a caution with 10 laps left.
“I wanted to do that, no matter if you sent us in or not,” Wallace told NBC Sports in a phone interview. “I might have stayed out on my own, just because track position is so key.”
Wallace, in his second season with Roush Fenway Racing, was running in fifth in a backup car when Brendan Gaughan spun to trigger the caution. After staying out, Wallace restarted fourth behind Jones with a field full of cars on fresh tires behind him.
“Our short-run program hasn’t been too great, so I didn’t want to give up a spot on pit road and then try to fight back,” Wallace said from Philadelphia, where he was helping promote the June 4 race at Pocono Raceway. “When you start on the outside at Dover, you kind of tend to get a better run because the bottom gets stacked up a bit.”
Dover represented Wallace’s 43rd career Xfinity start since joining the circuit full-time last year. His second-place result was his second top five of the season after a third at Auto Club Speedway. Wallace failed to finish better than 13th between those races.
The native of Mobile, Alabama, knows his No. 6 team needs to get more consistent before the second half of the season starts.
“Some (results are) bad luck striking and other is just not running well,” said Wallace, who has one DNF and has finished off the lead lap four times. “We have to clean up our act and really focus in on the second half of the season, which is still a good ways away, but we need to be well prepared for that. But we definitely can use our past race at Dover for momentum and know that we can run up front with those guys, we just gotta clean it up and just do better.”
In 2015, Wallace didn’t earn his first of three top-five finishes until the 11th race of the year at Charlotte Motor Speedway. That’s where the series will race next on May 28 with Wallace ninth in the point standings.
“We ran really good there, it’s always been a good track for me going back to the Truck days and just couldn’t catch a break there in the trucks,” said Wallace, who finished fifth and eighth at Charlotte last year in the Xfinity Series. In the Truck series, he crashed out of both his starts at the 1.5-mile track.
“Hoping we can get a little redemption there,” Wallace said.
If that happens and Wallace manages to earn his first career Xfinity win in Charlotte, he would qualify for the series’ first Chase playoff at season’s end. Wallace has already consulted one Sprint Cup driver who has plenty of experience in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
“I talked to (Dale Earnhardt) Junior about that a couple of months ago,” Wallace said. “He said that helped him out a lot. It took the stress levels down a lot. He could just go out there and run your own race. You just had to make sure you maintain a top 12 in points and hopefully you learned a lot in those first (26) races that you could go and utilize that in the Chase.
“We’re anxious to get our first win, but we have to make sure we have everything in order to capitalize on that. We’re getting there, we’re slowly getting there and it’s taking time for sure, but we’re not giving up.”