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Program produces driver debut

NEWTON, Iowa — Darrell Wallace Jr. has crossed off a bunch of boxes on the checklist of drivers hoping to one day be NASCAR stars. He dominated in carts and late models, and he landed a seat for Sunday's Nationwide series race in Iowa, though he won't turn 19 until October.

Wallace even has the perfect NASCAR nickname: "Bubba."

But Wallace's skills aren't the only reason he is getting noticed.

He is one of the most promising black drivers to come along in decades and arguably the best talent to come through NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program, started eight years ago to give women and minorities a better chance of landing a seat in a sport dominated by white men.

Wallace, who drives for Joe Gibbs Racing, will be the first black driver to run a Nationwide race since Marc Davis last year.

"It's different," Wallace said. "I get looked at a lot more and talked about a lot more, but it doesn't bother me at all.

"It's actually cool. Some people see it as this is given to me because of skin color. But others that have raced with me and have known me for a while have seen that I have the talent and skill, what it takes to run in this series."

Joe Gibbs Racing plans to have Wallace drive the No. 20 Toyota in four Nationwide races this season.

CUP QUALIFYING: Kyle Busch captured the pole for tonight's Sprint Cup All-Star race for the second straight year, completing his run — three laps including a mandatory four-tire pit stop — in 1 minute, 19.11 seconds.

TRUCKS: Justin Lofton raced to his first series victory, getting the jump on race leader Brad Keselowski on a late restart and holding on in the N.C. Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. Lofton, who struggled with restarts earlier in night, became the fifth winner this year in the truck series. Keselowski was second and Todd Bodine third. Keselowski got bumped from behind by Ron Hornaday on one restart and nearly got sideways. After the race, the two had a verbal sparring match.

INDY 500: Marco Andretti ran the fastest lap of the month, 227.540 mph, on the final day of practice before today's pole qualifying. Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe (226.835) and three-time Indy winner Helio Castroneves (226.716) were second and third. The speeds picked up after series officials allowed the engines to run with more horsepower, which added about 4 mph.

NHRA: Antron Brown (Top Fuel, 3.797 seconds, 324.98 mph), Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car, 4.046, 315.56) and Allen Johnson (Pro Stock, 6.618, 207.85) led the first day of qualifying at the Summernationals in Topeka, Kan.

Program produces driver debut 05/18/12 [Last modified: Friday, May 18, 2012 11:50pm]
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