Darrell Wallace Jr overcame a bad pit stop and exciting three wide racing to score the win in the Drivin’ for Linemen 200 at Gateway Motorsports Park. Saturday’s win is his first of the season and second career win.
Wallace had one of the strongest trucks all night leading 85 of the 160 laps. An incident on pit road, however, cost him the top spot in the early stages of the race after leading the first 62 laps. There was a problem on the left rear – the jackman did not get the truck lifted high enough to install the new tire. To add insult to injury, the jack was then dropped (a driver’s signal to go) and Wallace attempted to pull out of the pit box without the tire properly installed.
The incident did not end the night for Wallace’s Kyle Busch Motorsports team. They did not give up and fought their way back. In the closing laps of the race, the competition was intense. Wallace’s teammate, Erik Jones, appeared to have the truck to beat. Jones No. 51 Toyota got loose coming off the corner. The No. 77 of German Quiroga got into the back of Jones sending him hard into the inside retaining wall ending his night. Wallace capitalized on his teammate’s misfortune to score the win.
Several members of Jones’ crew made their way to the pit box of Quiroga to express their displeasure about the incident. They were also waiting on Quiroga when he came to a stop on pitroad after the race.
During the middle stages of the race, series points leader, Matt Crafton and rookie John Hunter Nemechek battled hard for the top spot. Nemechek impressing many with his run. The second generation driver led 53 laps and held off challenges from several drivers, often times holding the position on the outside line. His hopes for victory were extinguished in the final laps when contact with another truck led to a flat left rear tire causing him to spin and make contact with the outside wall. He would finish 15th.
Saturday’s race was only Nemechek’s third start. At this time, he his not eligible to run the larger speedways due to NASCAR’s age restriction. He celebrated his 17th birthday on June 11th.
Crafton was eventually able to make around Nemechek, but shortly thereafter, blew a right front tire destroying his Menards No. 88 Toyota. Crafton would finish a disappointing 26th.
Quiroga would finish second, with Timothy Peters, Johnny Sauter and Ron Hornaday Jr rounding out the top-5.