Wallace, a sophomore who started racing at age 9 in the Thursday Thunder series at Atlanta Motor Speedway, made his NASCAR racing debut on March 31, competing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East stock car race at Greenville Pickens Speedway in Greenville, S.C.
Both Jacob and his proud father Tracy were ecstatic to be a part of that series.
“The whole experience was positive and everything was cool in South Carolina,” said Tracy, who co-owns Griffin restaurants Slices Pizzeria, El Toro Loco (fully owns) and has now added the Bank Street Cafe to his list. “Everything went smooth on March 31 in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.”
It was smooth sailing early for straight-A student Jacob, 16, during practice for the race as he drove the 15th-fastest time at Greenville Pickens Speedway and looked to be in great position for the race. Unfortunately for Jacob, race qualifying was rained out and the drivers were lined up in order of last year’s points. Since this was Jacob’s debut race, he had no points and was in danger of having to pack his No. 50 Monte Carlo SS and head back to Griffin.
But the race officials met and decided to give the newbie a shot, but he would have to start in 30th — last — place. The last-place start didn’t faze Jacob, as he got as high at 12th before a caution restart and a slow group forced him to finish 16th overall in the race, which will be shown Thursday, May 3 at 3 p.m. on Speed Channel.
“I had a positive outlook on the race from the start. I felt it was an opportunity to show how fast my car could get up in the pack,” said Jacob, who’s old enough to get his Georgia drivers license. “It felt great to race there and I had a lot of fun.”
Jacob said the biggest thrill in the Greenville race was beating a few of the Sprint Cup teams along the way, including driver Travis Pastrana, who was racing for Michael Waltrip Racing.
“I nudged Travis out in turn 3 as I was getting close to the end of the race,” Jacob said. “Earlier, I let him in just to be nice, but he slowed down later so I had to get him out of the way.”
Jacob said his goal in the race was to “let the car roll to the turns, slow down then go back up the turn and get on the gas down the straightaway.”
Tracy said Jody Wilkerson, team spotter for Jacob Wallace Racing, said he was impressed with Jacob’s calm and cool demeanor during the race.
“I was nervous before I got to the race track,” Jacob said. “Once I got to the track, I felt great. I feel I’m in my element once I get on the track.”
The NASCAR K&N officials felt that Jacob was in his element because Monday after the Greenville race, he was approved to race in five more Pro Series events.
“That usually doesn’t happen for a new driver. Our car chief Wayne Hansard told me that new drivers to the series get approved for one race at a time,” said Tracy. “They saw that our little race team had a fast car and that Jacob was a patient driver — he didn’t hurt anyone and he didn’t drive recklessly.”
Jacob will now be racing on June 9 at Gresham Motor Speedway in Jefferson, Ga., June 23 in Langley, Va., Sept. 3 in Greenville again, Sept. 28 in Dover, Del., and Nov. 3 in Rockingham, N.C. All the races will be shown on a tape-delay on Speed Channel.
Tracy said the plan for Jacob is to race in the K&N Pro Series East for this year and next until he turns 17 and then they will be able to do a test run at Daytona International Speedway.
“We’ll start looking at investing in a truck by then,” Tracy said.
A driver can’t race in the NASCAR Truck, Nationwide or Sprint Cup Series until he or she is 18 and Jacob said he wants to start in the Truck Series when he turns 18.
“I believe you should work your way up, starting with the Truck Series, then Nationwide, then Sprint Cup,” Jacob said. “Hopefully we can get a sponsor or two by then.”