During black history month, it’s nice to see young African Americans making history. We’ve reported on the Jeopardy teen winner, the youngest app creator, and now another sport will see its racial barriers broken by an African American teen.
NASCAR has long been viewed as a white sport, but now the racing community has to make way for its fourth African American fulltime racer, 19-year-old Darrell Wallace Jr. According to Fox Sports, “Wallace is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing and will drive the No. 54 Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports on Friday.”
Gibbs has seen this breakthrough before when he was coaching the Washington Redskins with Doug Williams as the first black quarterback to win a Super Bowl in 1988, and he believes in his driver saying:
”We’ve had a lot of other African-American drivers get in the sport, but they got in late,” Gibbs said. ”It’s hard to get in late. You’ve got to start when you’re young and race your way up. I think Darrell’s got it.”
And Darrell has definitely been “movin’ on up” through the racing world from standing on the sidelines to the driver’s seat. His dad inspired a love of the sport since he was nine years old by putting him in go-karts and investing up to $1 million into his driving career. Darrell Wallace has never missed one of his races either.
But while his family has made immense financial and physical investments in his career, there are racial barriers that he had to break independently. His resilience and love for the sport has not been deterred by the racial insults. Darrell’s parents are a biracial couple and his Mom, Desiree Wallace, told him to “avoid confrontations with other drivers who used slurs. Just go win.” And her words have stuck with him:
”We used to take it from fans,” his father, Darrell, said. ”We’ve had it from other drivers. We’ve had it from officials. We’ve had it from promoters. We’ve had it from track owners. We’ve pretty much had it from everybody.”
But Darrell Jr. has pressed on and raced through the haters that would want to keep him from kickin’ their butts on the track. In May 2012, NASCAR quoted him about a meeting he had with former Def Jam President, Kevin Liles:
“I met with Kevin Liles, the [former] head of Def Jam Records, in Richmond and he was asking, ‘Well, what kind of things do you like, sponsor-wise, so I can start working on some stuff?’ I said, ‘Kevin, I like anybody who’s going to sponsor my race car. If I didn’t like chocolate, and MARS said they wanted to sponsor my car, then I will start eating chocolate. Vegetables? I’m not a big vegetable-eater. But if someone who puts vegetables out there wants to sponsor my race car, I’ll start eating my vegetables every day.’ “
Go get ‘em Darrell! Read more here.