When I was 15, my driving experience consisting of my dad taking me in empty parking lots and wide-open dirt roads and gripping the arm rest as I attempted to keep the car in one piece. Going straight was a bonus for me back then - not hitting the gas when I meant to hit the brakes was a good day out for me.
Needless to say, I was not ready to drive in NASCAR at 15. Not that I am now - even if my two speeding tickets over Christmas might say otherwise. But then again, I’m not Darrell Wallace Jr. The BIRMINGHAM NEWS reports that Joe Gibbs Racing has signed the teenage driver to its driver development program. As you can see from the picture above it should be obvious, but I’ll spell it out anyway - Wallace Jr. is not related to former NASCAR champion Rusty Wallace.
Since starting his racing career at age 12, Wallace Jr. has quickly risen up the ranks. Last season he was 2008 Rookie of the Year in the United Auto Racing Association and finished sixth in the overall points standings. So the kid can drive.
The world of competitive go-kart racing has meant that drivers are able to make a name for themselves at a much younger age than ever before. Jeff Gordon might have been the first driver to go that route, becoming a sprint car champion by the age of 20 and started his first Sprint Cup race at 21. More recently, Joe Gibbs Racing replaced Tony Stewart with 18-year-old Joey Logano for the 2009 season.
So it’s probably not accurate to pain Wallace Jr. as the Tiger Woods of NASCAR. (And let’s me honest, it’s kind of hard to think about anything like that ever happening in NASCAR.) But NASCAR has been desperate for minority drivers (having Randy Moss as a part-owner doesn’t count) and Joe Gibbs Racing has been at the forefront of the search. If Wallace Jr. is anywhere near as good as advertised it would be a huge boost for a sport that needs to find new fans in a bad way.