If you didn’t know the names Max Gresham and Darrell Wallace Jr. before Thursday night, chances are you do now.
In an unexpected double-header feature on Speed Thursday night, the Joe Gibbs Racing development drivers put together a pair of outstanding runs at the Richmond International Raceway. First in the K&N East Series race, and then in the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown charity race.
If you didn’t watch the action Thursday night, here’s what went down.
In the K&N East Series race, which is the division just below the NASCAR Nationwide Series, it was Griffin, Georgia driver Gresham who started on Pole and led a race-high 55 of 100 laps. But on lap 56, Mobile, Alabama’s Wallace Jr. took the lead and never looked back, earning his third career K&N East Series win, and taking the lead in the K&N East Series standings. Gresham would end the night in fourth.
Then came the race that might have shocked everybody.
In the 75-lap latemodel charity event, Gresham started eighth but was up to second within the first 10 laps, passing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stars Joey Logano and Michael Waltrip with relative ease along the way. Gresham then proceeded to eat away at Kyle Busch’s 2-second lead, eventually chasing him down and taking the lead.
One would hardly have been able to tell it was Gresham’s first latemodel race.
Wallace, meanwhile, spent most of the early portion of the race battling Logano and Waltrip in the top 5. Late in the race, it would be Wallace who challenged Busch for the top spot. But after a competition caution with 10 laps to go, an accident on the ensuing restart would take both Wallace and Gresham out of contention.
But not before the duo put the NASCAR world on notice.
So what did the drivers prove Thursday night at Richmond? Both showed that they are capable of running with the big boys, and that in the very near future, they will both be capable of not just running competitively in the Cup Series, but putting cars in Victory Lane as well.
Gresham may very well be the smoothest driver of his age, as evidenced by the way he erased the 2-second lead Busch, arguably the best driver in NASCAR today, had on him. With any manner of luck, Gresham may very well have been able to pull off the sweep Thursday night.
But he’ll have plenty of chances at bigger sweeps when he’s racing on Saturdays and Sundays like Busch. And he’ll earn his share of them.
As far as Wallace(no relation to Rusty) is concerned, dismiss any comparisons to Wendell Scott that may be made. Wallace has the ability to double Scott’s win total in his first year of Sprint Cup competition when he makes it to NASCAR’s highest level, and it is very well within the realm of possibility that he could become the first black NASCAR champion.
In other words, if there is a racial barrier in NASCAR, Wallace is about to take it down. Like Gresham, Wallace is going to win a ton of races and contend for championships.
Gresham and Wallace may be the two best undiscovered talents in NASCAR right now, at least if Thursday night’s races at Richmond are any indication.
After those races, Max Gresham and Darrell Wallace Jr. have put the NASCAR world on notice.