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France Talks Diversity At CMS

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 19 2012

Brian France held a press conference in Charlotte on Saturday. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

CONCORD, N.C.  – Darrell Wallace Jr. becomes the third African-American to compete in a NASCAR Nationwide Series race this weekend and NASCAR Chairman Brian France said Saturday it would be big for the sport if he performed well.

“He’s somebody with the most promising talent who is an African-American who has come through our diversity program,” France said after announcing NASCAR would join Beyond Sport, a global organization that promotes the use of sports to create positive social change.

“He has been dominant in the K&N Series, which is very competitive. He’s winning and we’ll see how it goes in the Nationwide (race) this weekend with him. That’s a break through if he rises. If not him, there will be somebody who’s going to walk in the door and be a star and it’s going to be very good for us.”

A Mobile, Ala., native, Wallace has six victories in 25 starts in NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series East. He also has recorded 19 top-10s, including 11 top-5s. Since joining the K&N Series in 2010, the 18-year-old driver has earned three poles, led 542 laps and finished no lower than third in the point standings.

In Nationwide qualifying Saturday, Wallace claimed the eighth starting position in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

The other African-Americans who have competed in the Nationwide Series are Marc Davis and Bill Lester. Davis had 10 starts and Lester one.

France said he’s not surprised that it’s a tough climb up the NASCAR ladder for Wallace, because in order to get a full-time ride one must unseat “some of these guys who are the best in the world.”

“But somebody’s going to come and do it,” France continued. “He may be the one. I don’t know. We’ll have to see.”

France said he couldn’t measure Danica Patrick’s impact on the sport.

“She’s brought visibility to the sport, which we knew she would,” France continued. “Most importantly, she’s made improvements, which was her stated goal. She’s getting better and better. Some of her runs reflect that. That will be what determines the impact in the end, is how well she competes and nobody knows that better than she does.”

Patrick qualified ninth for Sunday’s Iowa Nationwide race, her best ever on a short track.

On other topics, France said he thought it had been a “good solid year”, NASCAR was working with companies on a technology that would allow the drying of tracks in 20 percent of the time, and the sanctioning body’s R&D Center would be taking a more active role from performance on the track to innovations.

– Deb Williams can be reached at dwilliams@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 19 2012
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