By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
CONCORD, N.C. – In recent years, the age limits for drivers in Super Late Models and Late Models has changed. To have a NASCAR License, one must be at least 14 years of age.
Someone that has come through the racing ladder system in a more traditional way is Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Darrell ‘Bubba’ Wallace, Jr. He drove Legends Cars and Bandoleros in the Summer Shootout Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the quarter-mile Legends Oval.
After that, Wallace advanced to Late Models, K&N Pro, and so on. He didn’t make his first start in Late Models until 2007, when he was 14-years-old. In recent years, the age limit to compete in Late Models has changed. Racers at some short tracks have been as young as 9, 10, and 13-years-old in some cases. This part of the motorsports youth movement has caused some debate.
“I miss racing legend cars and stuff out here,” Wallace said. “I hate to see the path that it has kind of gone down. The age limit of getting into super late-models and late-models has definitely hurt this process of going through these ranks. I’ve always said when I have kids… I would definitely throw them through kind of the same path that I went through instead of coming out of quarter midgets or go-karts and jumping straight into a full-size stock car. I feel like that kind of hurts you. You don’t really learn car control and you put yourself in a lot of bad spots early on and I guess you can learn, the learning factor comes up a lot quicker in that process but being out here a part of this.”
Meanwhile, when Wallace was 10-years-old, he was running in the Summer Shootout, which is celebrating its 25thAnniversary this year. Wallace competed with Chase Elliott, Daniel Hemric, and Ryan Blaney, all of whom have made it to the top levels of NASCAR.
“I remember coming out when I was 10 years old running the shootout and I remember this night specifically running on pole night,” Wallace reminisced. “We used to have the big screen right here on the front stretch. Hell, one race I had a big enough lead or I was watching myself going down the back stretch and I’m like ‘oh okay we have about a 20-car lead here in the bandolero’. And I would over drive the next corner messing up trying to watch all that. Good times for sure, being over in Turns 1 and 2 watching the Cup cars qualifying after we got done racing and winning in front of a crowd. There are a lot of good memories that come out of this place and it’s always fun to talk about with (Daniel) Hemric and other guys that we ran with (Ryan) Blaney and Chase (Elliott). Chase had the ugliest car ever when he raced. Green car with green wheels just absolutely horrible, but there are a lot of good memories that come out of it.”