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GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Darrell Wallace Jr. made his debut in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East a memorable one.
Wallace pulled away from the field on a green-white-checkered finish to the Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150 at Greenville Pickens Speedway to take the victory on Saturday night. He is the youngest driver and first African-American to win in series history. He gave Drive for Diversity its first East victory and third overall in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series.
"We were solid all day - from practice to qualifying. Everything," Wallace said. "I can't thank the guys from Revolution Racing enough. They worked their tails off to get this car ready for this race."
Wallace led three times for 22 laps. At 16 years, 5 months, 19 days, Wallace eclipsed the mark set by Brett Moffitt (16 years, 9 months, 27 days) when he won at South Boston (Va.) Speedway last season.
Fellow rookie Andrew Smith finished second, followed by Jody Lavender and rookies Cole Whitt and Ryan Gifford. Gifford is Wallace's teammate with Revolution Racing, the four-car operation for Drive for Diversity.
Whitt, 17, won the 21 Means 21 Pole Award presented by Coors Light earlier in the day. Twice, Whitt was able to get a better restart than Wallace. Each time, Wallace was able to get into the lead.
Whitt started alongside Wallace on the final restart, but after Whitt led by a nose at the line to take the final green, Wallace was able to edge ahead and get clear coming out of Turn 2.
"I kept spinning my tires," Wallace said. "I told myself to just relax - you'll get them back. And that's what I did and I came home with the 'W' "
Defending series champion Ryan Truex started second and led 127 laps to earn the Wix Filters Lap Leader Award but was involved in a pair of late wrecks.
The first time, Truex bobbled on a Lap 137 restart while he started alongside the lead car of Wallace. The result was the cars in the outside lane bunched up and several top 10 cars were involved in the pile-up. Included were the Joe Gibbs Racing duo of Max Gresham and Brett Moffitt, Ty Dillon, and defending NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion Jason Bowles.
Until that point, it appeared the race would come down to Wallace and Truex.
"At the start, they told me to be patient," Wallace said. "I just saved my tires pretty much and picked them off at the end.
"It was just a good race. I learned a lot from Truex. He's pretty much the young veteran out of the group. I'd like to thank him for running me clean."
Truex's misstep on the restart, however, cost him several spots, although he was able to continue.
Whitt and Truex made contact on the backstretch of the white flag lap, which dropped Whitt back to fourth and left Truex to limp a heavily damaged race car across the line in 15th.
The late-race fracas also allowed Smith, making his stock car debut, to come away with second while veteran Jody Lavender recorded another top three at Greenville Pickens.
"It was an awesome run," said Smith. "We had an amazing run. We gave away a little track position in the beginning trying to save our tires - maybe a little too much - but we battled back in the end and beat our way for second."
"I've had so many seconds and thirds here, and I really want to win one bad," said Lavender, who earned the Featherlite Move of the Race Award after finishing 17th in the final race of 2010. "If a track ever owed me, it's this one."
Lavender was second at Greenville Pickens last season and sixth in 2008.
Lavender added that to finish third "really shows the heart these guys put into it. ... We were really a fifth or sixth-place car, and we kind of lucked into a third place. But I'd rather be lucky than good any day."
Rookie Zach Germain started 30th and finished 11th to earn the Coca Cola Move of the Race Award, just edging Lavender for the honors. Lavender started 20th.
Sixteen of the 30 drivers in the race are Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders, and the series newcomers brought extensive resumes.
Kevin Swindell, who finished 23rd, and Whitt finished 1-2 in January in the Chili Bowl, the premier Midget race. Sergio Pena, also a member of Revolution Racing and runner-up in January's prestigious NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, was caught up in several wrecks and finished 28th.
In the end, though, it was Wallace celebrating his debut at the end of the night. In the process, he secured the first spot in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown following the 2010 season.
The race was slowed 13 times for 61 laps, and included one red flag period for an extended cleanup after the Lap 137 melee. The race was extended to 156 laps due to a late-race caution.
The Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150 will air on SPEED this coming Thursday, April 1, at 6 p.m. ET.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East will return to the track Saturday, April 3 at South Boston.
Darrell Wallace (6) leads Cole Whitt (84) late in the running of Saturday's race. Peter Taylor/Getty Images for NASCAR