Darrell Wallace Jr., behind the wheel of the No. 54 ToyotaCare Toyota Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports, is ready to make the difficult transition from one of the sport’s highest highs, a coveted Truck win at Eldora Speedway, to the trickiness of Pocono Raceway where he will race the Pocono Mountains 150 in NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series.
Even though he is in Long Pond, PA, he is still savoring his ‘W’ in the Mudsummer Classic at Eldora and in fact, just recently had the opportunity to celebrate with his race team.
“Luckily the race was a Wednesday night race so we had the whole weekend to sit back, reflect on it and let it sink in,” Wallace said. “I’m still pumped up about it of course. We had our team dinner last night and we were talking about it.”
“It’s been a fun week.”
“Eldora was a surprise; a shocker,” Wallace said. “But we did it. If we can just finish out the rest of the season strong and we can keep it going, we will be fine.”
While Wallace now has turned his attention to Pocono, he admits that the track is more difficult to figure out than even racing on the dirt, at least in his book.
“It is a tricky triangle for a reason,” Wallace said. “It is grueling on the mindset of a driver, especially me.”
“It’s just hard figuring out every corner because every corner is unique,” Wallace continued. “The guys brought me a fast Toyota Tundra and we just have to figure out where we need to gain speed. That’s the biggest thing. I think it’s mostly me but we will be fine by race time.”
Wallace acknowledges that he may just need to lean on not only his crew chief but also his team owner Kyle Busch and teammate Erik Jones to make it around the three corners of Pocono.
“My crew chief Jerry (Baxter) has been my biggest mentor and coach,” Wallace said. “He has been in the sport for a long time and he knows the ins and outs of it.”
“I listen to what he has to say, through the frustrating moments to winning moments to losing moments, I try to take in everything he says,” Wallace continued. “We move forward as a team and that’s a huge part of being successful. Having the communication and relationship with your team is critical. Jerry is the team leader and we all listen to him. We’re giving him feedback and we’re trying to help each other progress as one.”
“I think that is why we’re so dominant at KBM because we have the communication and we’re hitting on every note.”
“Kyle (Busch) is the centerpiece of this team and we build off him,” Wallace said. “We try to be as fast as him and he is undefeated this season. Toyota is undefeated. We have two wins; Erik (Jones, teammate) has got one. So, we’re on a hot streak right now.”
“We try to be patient and consistent and be ready to win.”
Although his teammate Erik Jones is on the quiet-side, at least quieter than Wallace himself, the driver of the No. 54 has the greatest respect for him, especially with Jones’ performance so far at Pocono, where he has practiced consistently in the top-ten.
“He’s quiet that’s for sure,” Wallace said of Jones. “But Erik is fast and he has speed. We sat on the front row at Iowa and he ended up winning the race. He has always shown speed and he is pretty fast here at Pocono.”
“We bounce ideas off each other and places where we have been. We grow as a team and we will be just fine here.”
So, what will success look like at Pocono for Darrell Wallace Jr.?
“I would definitely be happy with a top five,” Wallace said. “I hate to say it, but we’re on a points run right now. We’re trying to bounce back up through the points.”
“We have to be smart in the race,” Wallace continued. “The tunnel turn is the trickiest corner that you will ever get through.”
“We have to be patient, calm and make smart decisions,” Wallace said. “We’ll let those other drivers make a bone head move and then there’s our top five opportunity.”
“I’m on the level that I want to race,” Wallace continued. “We have to go out there and be smart about every call we make. We can’t get overexcited about what happened before because you get that special moment and then it’s time to get back to work.”
Wallace finished final practice for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in the 1th position with a time of 55.427 seconds and a speed of 162.376 mph. Wallace will qualify Saturday, August 2nd at 10:10 am and then race the ‘Tricky Triangle’ at 1:00 pm.