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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Strong All-Star weekend leaves Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans with high hopes for a 600 win; Darrell Wallace Jr. has strong Nationwide debut

NEWTON, IA - MAY 19: Darrell Wallace, Jr., driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, walks alongside his car in pit lane prior to qualifying for the Pioneer Hi-Bred 250 on May 19, 2012 at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images for NASCAR)


It sounds repetitive lately, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. really is showing up on track lately and is due for a win soon in a points race. This Saturday, he won the Sprint Showdown to transfer to the All-Star race, allowing someone else – Bobby Labonte – to get the fan vote into the race. Then once in, he ran strong all race and made it all the way to fifth place by the time the checkered was out.

Now that Hendrick is back to his winning ways, there’s a strong possibility that he’ll win again next week in the 600 – and if he’s as strong as he was Saturday in the All-Star race, Dale Jr. could be getting Hendrick that next victory.
In years past, that type of thought might have been wishful thinking on the part of Jr. fans. This year, it’s legit and based on performance. He’s doing as well as any of his teammates, or better.

Jr. said the same car would return next Sunday.

“Yeah, I think we showed what we are capable of doing here next weekend. We are probably going to bring the same car. We have a couple of ideas on how to make the car even faster, especially for qualifying that I hope will work out. I am real pleased with our effort. These races are little sprints and you really depend on the team to put the car out on the line ready to go, ready to take off. I had a lot of fun.”

Strong Nationwide debut for Darrell Wallace Jr.

Give a guy solid equipment, and if he’s talented enough he’ll give you results

That’s what happened Sunday at Iowa when young driver Darrell Wallace Jr. got behind the wheel of a Joe Gibbs Racing Nationwide car for the first time.

He came home in the top 10, and barely got mentioned throughout the broadcast.

Times like this are when I can see how the constant talk about one driver who hasn’t really accomplished anything – ahem, Danica, ahem – could get annoying to fans. Darrell Wallace – in addition to having the perfect name for NASCAR, has driven his way into the ride via his solid runs in lower feeder series. He wasn’t a media phenomenon, just a strong driver looking for a ride. Gibbs is smart to give him an opportunity to shine, and I look forward to seeing him race more in the future.

Of course, this is just one race, and Darrell Wallace Jr. might be running laps down in future races he runs for Gibbs, but I doubt it.

He’s the real deal, has a bright future in the top levels of NASCAR, and I’m glad he got a chance to show what he can do on the big stage.

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Follow Matt Myftiu on Twitter @MattMyftiu


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