By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
Christmas came early for Darrell Wallace Jr. -- at least that's the way the 19-year-old driver felt about it.
"So I wake up EARLY this AM and for some reason it feels like Xmas morning ... hm feel like there is something waiting for me..." Wallace posted on his Twitter account Saturday morning.
The talented young African-American driver nicknamed "Bubba" had every reason to be excited. Less than three hours after he posted his tweet, at a press conference during the NASCAR Preview 2013 at the Charlotte (N.C.) Convention Center, Kyle Busch Motorsports announced the hiring of Wallace for a full 22-race schedule in the Camping World Truck Series this year.
Wallace will drive the No. 54 KBM Toyota Tundra, as he competes for the series championship and Sunoco Rookie of the Year title.
Yes, Wallace will become the fourth black driver to run a full schedule in any of NASCAR's top three touring series, following Wendell Scott, Willy T. Ribbs and Bill Lester. And, yes, Wallace is the first African-American driver to reach that full-time status through NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program.
But Wallace also has the talent to compete and the credentials to prove it.
Last year, at age 18, Wallace entered four Nationwide Series events in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. The results? Three top 10s, a pole at Dover and a worst finish of 12th. In his full-time ride in the K&N Pro Series East, Wallace notched a victory, a pole and six top fives in 14 starts.
Though Wallace will drive for KBM, he remains under contract to Joe Gibbs Racing and will compete in a limited number of Nationwide Series races for JGR this year. He already has tested a KBM truck during the offseason.
"I'm ready for things to happen," said Wallace, who joins Joey Coulter (full-time) and Busch (part-time) on the KBM Truck roster. "We've got two weeks till Daytona, and it's going to be good."
Wallace spent two years in the K&N Series with Rev Racing, the race team that operates under the aegis of NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program.
NASCAR president Mike Helton said the Gibbs organization also deserves substantial credit for broadening opportunities within the sport.
"Over 10 years ago, Joe and J.D. Gibbs brought (former NFL star) Reggie White to NASCAR and said we want to help NASCAR develop a program that would tear down the barriers -- or the perceptions in NASCAR of the barriers that we had," Helton said. "As you know, Reggie passed away, but Joe and J.D. kept that energy alive and were really at the heart and soul of NASCAR's efforts.
"Darrell is a great example of that opportunity turning into a progression of his career. That's why I'm very honored to be a part of this press conference today. Thank Joe and J.D. Thank Kyle Busch, who's quickly becoming a significant player in our sport - not just as a driver but as someone who really wants to help build NASCAR and through his truck program is doing great things for us."
Notes: Nelson Piquet Jr. has signed a contract with Turner Scott Motorsports that will put the Brazilian driver behind the wheel of the No. 30 TSM Chevrolet Camaro. Chris Carrier will continue in his role as crew chief for Piquet, son of three-time Formula One champion Nelson Piquet. ... Richard Childress Racing announced Friday that Dakoda Armstrong, 21, will compete in five Nationwide Series races under the RCR banner. Scheduled events are at Fontana, Calif.; Charlotte; Chicagoland; and Kentucky, with the fifth race to be determined.