Kobe Lambeth

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My name is Kobe Lambeth and I am a freshman at UNC Charlotte. I have been a NASCAR fan since 2007 and my dream is to work somewhere in the field of motorsports dealing with mass media and journalism. In June 2017, my journey began as a freelance journalist and social media specialist for RockinghamNow covering high school sports and leading a Twitter project in hopes of providing expanding coverage throughout the community and a goal of significantly increasing the number of followers on multiple accounts. My goal at UNC Charlotte is to provide coverage of those in the motorsports industry as many attempt to get their foot in the door. Motorsports means a lot to me, so I will primarily be focusing on stories related to the UNC Charlotte campus.

For Wallace, it’s worth the wait

Darrell Wallace Jr. speaks during NASCAR Media Day at Daytona International Speedway on February 12, 2015, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)

Drivers dream of having the opportunity to compete in the Daytona 500, which is the most prestigious event on the NASCAR schedule. The race has a long history of changing a driver’s life forever, creating lifelong memories, and producing unfortunate heartbreak for others.

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. waited for his chance to compete against the best drivers in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. However, patience played a key role in landing the best opportunity of his young career.

In 2017, Wallace started the season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driving the No. 6 Ford Mustang for Roush Fenway Racing. The 24-year-old native of Mobile, Alabama did not finish the season due to a lack of sponsorship. His team ultimately shut down after 12 races. Later in the year, he returned to the Xfinity Series to score a Top 10 finish at Chicagoland Speedway during a one-off with Biagi-DenBeste Racing.

Also, he took the No. 99 MDM Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado to victory lane at Michigan International Speedway in his long-awaited return to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. After his truck failed post-race inspection, his win was declared “encumbered.”

With his racing future in question, Wallace did not give up as he was chosen to be a substitute driver for Aric Almirola who was injured during a vicious crash at Kansas Speedway. This was a golden opportunity to show people his true potential.

Wallace made four Cup starts with Richard Petty Motorsports, earning his best finish of 11th at Kentucky Speedway on July 8.

During the off-season, Aric Almirola moved to Stewart-Haas Racing to drive the No. 10 Smithfield Foods Ford Fusion which left the door open for the iconic No. 43 ride. After doing a solid job as a substitute driver, Wallace was hired to drive for Richard Petty Motorsports full-time as the team prepared to switch from Ford to Chevrolet.

Richard Petty Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing formed a technical alliance. As a result, the No. 43 team moved to Welcome, North Carolina to be a part of the RCR campus.

Leading up to the 60th running of the Daytona 500, there was plenty of hype surrounding Wallace, a rookie driver set to participate in his first full season of Cup competition. Wallace is the first African American driver since Wendell Scott scheduled to complete the entire Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.

In his Can-Am Duel race, Wallace finished third, creating some momentum heading into the Daytona 500. Throughout the course of Speedweeks, he attracted plenty of attention from the media and fans. Many were excited to see how he would fare at the highest level of stock car racing. Even four-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton sent out a tweet in support of Wallace prior to the Daytona 500.

As the motorsports community had their eyes glued on Wallace, could he live up to the hype?

After starting the Great American Race in seventh, he ran a relatively clean race without any major mistakes to earn a runner-up finish to the 2018 Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon.

Following the race, Wallace was very emotional in the media center as the talented driver hugged his mother and sister. When answering questions from the media, he could barely get words out of his mouth as raw emotion started to sink in. This was emotion from a person who truly appreciated living in the moment.

Wallace’s future in NASCAR was unclear after losing his Xfinity ride, but he always kept fighting another day to keep the dream alive. His second place finish in the Daytona 500 earned him the best finish for an African American driver in the history of the storied event.

Observing his reaction post-race following a successful Speedweeks, it is easy to determine that Wallace is very determined to succeed. Everyone cannot handle the pressure of having the spotlight on them, but Wallace handled every moment of it like a true professional.

Based on observations from Twitter, his fan base grew from flag to flag as you could scroll down to witness a plethora of praise for the driver who is not afraid to be himself. If this continues for the remainder of the season, Chase Elliott may have some competition for the Most Popular Driver award.

From being a NASCAR Drive for Diversity program graduate, the ability to compete for a championship in the Truck and Xfinity Series, to not knowing if he would race again, “Bubba” has definitely come a long way in his career.

Driving the No. 43 car made famous by Richard Petty is a tough task, but Wallace is very capable of finding success if Speedweeks were an early indication of what is coming soon.

Sometimes, the most beautiful things in life are worth waiting for.

Jones wins at Daytona

Shown from left, UNC Charlotte senior Devin Jones and teammate Nick Galante celebrate their ST class victory at Daytona International Speedway following the season opener for the IMSA Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge. Photo courtesy of IMSA.

Devin Jones, a UNC Charlotte senior, won the Street Tuner (ST) class at Daytona International Speedway with teammate Nick Galante Jan. 23. The dynamic duo held off their competitors to give the No. 81 BimmerWorld Racing BMW 328i the top step on the podium.

The 23-year-old sports car racing driver currently living in Mooresville, North Carolina accomplished a dream many years in the making.

“Daytona is the track every driver wants to win at, it’s the pinnacle of motorsports,” Jones said. “I grew up watching races at Daytona and dreamed of getting a chance to race there.”

Jones, a native of California, grew up racing go-karts as he developed the skills necessary to be a successful driver. He won multiple races and championships during his karting career.

“The first time I came to Daytona was as a kid for Daytona Kart Week,” Jones said. “We lived in California then, so my family and I drove across the country to race there.”

“At the end of the weekend, my dad and I went into the old Daytona victory lane that they were tearing down to rebuild. We took a brick from the old victory lane. I still have that brick. So to stand in that same victory lane as a winner in IMSA is truly a culmination of years of sacrifice and hard work. I will remember it for the rest of my life.”

For the past two seasons, Jones drove for Bodymotion Racing behind the wheel of a Porsche Cayman.

According to Jones, you have to be very precise with your racing line in the Cayman or it will cost the driver plenty of momentum.

This season, Jones must change his driving style to meet the demands of a completely different animal with BimmerWorld Racing.

“The BMW 328i is a turbo car, which is something I had to get used to,” Jones said. “The turbo kicks on a bit after you pick up throttle, this can be tricky.”

“Once I got a feel for how the car needs to be driven, the turbo is a big benefit. Car placement isn’t quite as critical on corner entry compared to the Cayman, but when the turbo comes on, you have to get the car pointed for a strong exit off the corner. Both cars are fast in different parts of a certain track, that’s part of what makes the IMSA Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge such a great series,” Jones said.

As a senior communication major at UNC Charlotte, Jones must find a way to balance life in the classroom, while traveling around the country to focus on his racing career.

“The faculty has been accommodating and very supportive of my goals with racing. I’ve known of many students who have attended UNCC and have gone on to do great things in the motorsports industry. It’s inspiring to see so many students who have a passion for racing. I am a communications major and when I am at the track, I can use things that I’ve learned in the classroom towards building relationships with fans, teams, and sponsors. I can also draw on my experiences from the business side of motorsports to help me make connections to theories in class. It’s been an honor to attend UNCC and I always proudly call this school my home,” Jones said.

Despite settling down in the sports car racing world, Jones has two career starts in NASCAR. During the 2013 season, he finished 24th in his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut at Martinsville Speedway, while bringing home a 26th place finish last year in his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut at Watkins Glen.

UNC Charlotte is relatively close to many NASCAR related facilities, which gives those wishing to pursue a career in motorsports the perfect opportunity to get their foot in the door. Although Jones has success in sports car racing, could a potential NASCAR career be in the works.

“I wouldn’t rule out anything, but my main focus is sports car racing,” Jones said. “With that being said, I had a blast racing at Watkins Glen in Xfinity last summer, so if the right opportunities come about I would always love to jump back into one of NASCAR’s top three series.”

In the past, Jones had a goal of competing in NASCAR full-time but it can be challenging to find the right opportunity to secure a ride. Ultimately, he fell in love with sports car racing and it appears that he has found a home.

Jones and Galante’s ST class victory at Daytona put them in a good position as the ST title battle will heat up throughout the course of the season. Jones is confident that the 2018 season will be a memorable one.

“Our goals for the IMSA season is to win races and win the championship,” Jones said.

Jones and Galante will be back in action on March 16 at Sebring International Raceway for the second round of the IMSA Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge.