Darrell Wallace Jr. celebrates winning the NASCAR Cup Series truck race in Brooklyn, Mich., Saturday, Aug. 12.
Originally published Sunday, August 13, 2017 at 05:56a.m.
BROOKLYN, Mich. — In his first NASCAR Truck Series race in three years, Darrell Wallace Jr. looked as if he had never left.
Wallace held off a late challenge from Christopher Bell to win Saturday at Michigan International Speedway. After taking the lead in his No. 99 Chevrolet with about 10 laps remaining, Wallace had to contend with Austin Cindric and Bell toward the end. He was able to edge Bell by 0.176 seconds.
“I knew those last laps were going to be hectic,” Wallace said.
Wallace hadn’t driven in a Truck race since 2014, when he won four times. He drove full time on the Xfinity Series in 2015 and 2016. He actually has a two-race winning streak in Truck races, since he won the finale three years ago.
Kyle Busch won the first two stages Saturday and looked dominant, but his car showed a bit of damage after an incident in which Cody Coughlin bounced hard off a barrier to the inside. Busch fought back but had to settle for third place in the 100-lap, 200-mile race.
Cindric led for a while, but when he and Bell fought for the lead with about 10 laps remaining, Wallace was able to pass them both.
“It came way too early. I did not want to make that move,” Wallace said. “But I also didn’t want to be a sitting duck and let that opportunity go to waste.”
Wallace, who is known by the nickname “Bubba,” now has six career Truck victories. Xfinity sponsorship dried up, and he has only 12 starts on that circuit this year. In June at Pocono , he became the first black driver to make a Cup start since 2006.
Wallace’s car was sponsored Saturday by Maestro’s Classic.
“For the rest of the year, I don’t know,” Wallace said. “Think we can line something up more with Maestro’s here. I think they’re all pumped up. I mean, I had to go out there and win for them, so they have to come back for a second one at least. ... Nothing set in stone for right now. I’ll be on the sidelines again for three weeks, three months — who knows?”
Ryan Truex finished fourth, followed by Cindric and pole winner Matt Crafton.
Bell, the points leader coming in, now leads by 37 over Johnny Sauter. He nearly got the better of Wallace at the end.
“I felt like I was in the perfect position to win the race, and just didn’t get it done,” Bell said. “I’m happy for Bubba. That’s really cool for him. He hasn’t Truck raced in a while, so to be able to hop back in one and win, that’s pretty cool for him.”
John Hunter Nemechek made it through only four laps. An early spin left him with a 29th-place finish, and he dropped from fifth to eighth in the standings.
The Truck Series races again right away, on Wednesday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.