Huntersville, NC ~ A few weeks ago we brought you the breaking news on Matt DiBenedetto signing a developmental driving deal with Joe Gibbs Racing. Matt has been on the radar of many teams for a while now, we all knew it was just a matter of time. Well, Gibbs has went out and scored another young driver from the southern Late-Model talent pool, to add to the already stellar lineup. Welcome in the newest member of Joe Gibbs Racing, 15 year-old Darrell Wallace Jr.
Wallace Jr. has emerged as one of the rising stars in the Late-Model ranks in a very short time. A terror in the Bandolero and Legend car series, the youngster moved up to the Late-Models at the end of 2007. 2008 was a break-out year for the 15 year-old, as he racked up his first Late-Model win during a weekly show at Franklin County Speedway in Virginia. He followed that with a terrific season in the UARA series, picking up a win, coming home 6th in points, and winning the Rookie title in a spirited battle with a very tough Brandon McReynolds.
While Darrell and Matt’s deals will take them in slightly different directions during the 2009 season, they both should benefit greatly from being with a powerhouse such as Gibbs. Matt will be making appearances racing in the Camping World East Series, while Darrell Jr. will be limited to testing due to his
young age. Darrell will race the entire 2009 UARA season with his goals on the championship, and look for DiBenedetto to make numerous appearances in the series and around the region also.
It seems that the talent that the “super teams” are looking for is finally back where it needs to be…..in their own backyard. The days of finding sprint and Indy drivers have fallen off slightly, and the local short-tracker is once again in demand. Gibbs has grabbed up two of the best young drivers many have seen in some time, and them being consecutive UARA Rookie Of The Year’s is no coincidence. Local Late-Model racing in the VA-TN-Carolina’s region is where it’s at, most notably the UARA series, and big teams are finally giving the credit and looks that these drivers deserve.
The 2009 season for local Late-Models and the UARA looks to be the toughest to date. Even with the struggling economy, many drivers are moving up to Late-Models, and a few drivers out of the mix for a while are making a return. They had better pack their lunch though, with Joe Gibbs Racing behind Wallace and DiBenedetto, they are coming to the track in 09′ fully loaded.