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LEE, N.H. -- This time, it sunk in quicker.
Rookie Darrell Wallace Jr., who surprised everybody -- including himself -- when he won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East opener back in March, made a daring three-wide pass to get his second win of the season Friday in the K&N Pro Series 125 at Lee USA Speedway.
"It definitely hit us this time," said the 16-year-old from Mobile, Ala., "as soon as I crossed the finish line."
Wallace started behind Ryan Truex and Eddie MacDonald on the race's final restart. Truex and MacDonald had swapped the lead four times over the previous 35 laps, and appeared setting up for a final dash to the checkers for the win. But it was Wallace who had drove up through the field after getting tangled up in an early race incident and wound up stealing the spotlight. He dove inside the side-by-side leaders going into Turn 3, and emerged with the lead coming out of Turn 4.
|1||6||Darrell Wallace Jr.|
Wallace, second in points, closed the gap on defending series champion Truex to 33 with three races remaining.
And there's definitely a little rivalry brewing between Truex and his closest challenger.
"I think we were one of the best cars out there, other than Eddie MacDonald," Truex said. "We got up there, we were racing clean, racing hard, he wanted to win here at his home track. We were having a good time racing him and, whatever happened on the last lap -- Darrell Wallace just drove it through the grass and doored us. So he took aaway a good race from me and Eddie.
"But I'm happy with second. It was a good points day."
Said Wallace: "I was all the way at the bottom. I just drove it in harder than they did, we hit, and that was the end of it, and I just said, 'See you later, bye.' Thats all you can do. I didn't turn him, I didn't dump him."
Truex and Wallace made contact on the cool-down lap, causing Wallace to spin.
"I'm kind of upset, but I can't let that get to me," Wallace said. "We just spanked them in this race. He over-drove it into 1. I knew it was going to happen, I talked to the crew under red. I told them he's going to wash up and I'm going to take the win and that's what happened. I'm happy."
Truex had just taken the lead from MacDonald on Lap 115 when a multi-car pile-up on the backstretch brought the race to a halt. The field was given the red flag so the track could conduct the extended cleanup without burning up laps.
On a night when the track held a reunion for those involved in the series' New England roots, it was a top three finish for three teenagers who showcased the evolution of the series: Wallace was followed across the line by 18-year-old Truex from New Jersey and 17-year-old Brett Moffitt of Iowa.
"We had to really work at it - we threw a lot at it - and we got it decent," said Moffitt, who overcame a valve issue during practice. "We still had quite a bit more that we need out of it. We were lucky and in the right place at the right time and finished third."
MacDonald ended up fourth. The Rowley, Mass., driver seemed poised to win at his home track, where he made his series debut in 2001. He led five times for a race-high 65 laps only to get shuffled out of the lead in the final laps.
Cole Whitt finished fifth. Andrew Smith, Matt Kobyluck, Marc Davis, Kevin Swindell and Jorge Arteaga rounded out the top 10. Earlier in the day, Swindell won his first career Coors Light Pole Award, but was spun on a Lap 54 restart while battling MacDonald for the lead. Wallace, who was running third at the time, was among the cars that were involved in the pileup.
Moffitt remained third in points, 67 behind Wallace. Rookies Whitt and Gresham are fourth and fifth, respectively. Wallace was also able to add to his Sunoco Rookie of the Year points lead as the top finishing rookie.
Truex, who started 16th, earned the Coca-Cola Move of the Race Award, while Smith took home the Featherlite Most Improved Driver Award.
Wallace's win at Greenville Pickens made him the youngest driver -- and first African-American -- to win in series history. The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East returned to Lee for the first time since 2004. The last three times the series ran there, Andy Santerre won. Santerre is now the director of competition for Revolution Racing.
"I can't thank them enough, they give me such good cars," said Wallace, who had a run of three straight third-place finishes halted with a sixth-place last time out at Lime Rock Park. "I didn't feel really good for the track, so we just winged it for the race, and we were fast. We were the fastest car out there and it obviously showed with the win."
The K&N Pro Series 125 will air on SPEED on Thursday, Aug. 5 at 6 p.m. ET.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East will return to the track on Saturday, Aug. 28 at Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, Ga.
Darrell Wallace Jr. takes the checkered flag for the victory Friday night. Elsa Garrison/Getty Images for NASCAR