With NASCAR focused on increasing minority participation in the upper echelons of stock car racing, 12-year-old Darrell Wallace Jr. of Concord, N.C., appears poised to eventually help the sanctioning body achieve its goals.

Wallace Jr. competes each Tuesday night in the National Guard Legends Car Semi-Pro division of the Summer Shootout Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway and the young African-American racer has been turning heads since making his series debut in 2004 behind the wheel of a Bandolero.

Among those who have been impressed by Wallace Jr.'s on-track prowess are officials of a championship-winning NASCAR NEXTEL Cup team who have added him to their roster of developmental drivers.

"Darrell is part of the driver development program with Roush Racing," said Wallace Jr.'s father. "Right now, their tentative plan is to run him in Legends Cars for another year or so, then steadily move him up the ladder as he progresses. Once he turns 18, he'll hopefully be ready for a partial schedule in either the Truck or Busch Series."

Like a majority of his fellow Summer Shootout competitors, Wallace Jr., who goes by the nickname "Bubba," began driving race cars at an early age.

"I started when I was 9," he said. "We went to see a friend of ours race go-karts and afterward my dad asked if I wanted to give it a try. I said, 'sure, we can give it a shot and see how it goes.' And it just kind of took off from there."

Wallace Jr. has enjoyed success during every step of his young career and he dominated the Lucas Oil Bandolero Bandits division during last year's Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway, winning five of the 10 races.

After those victories, Wallace Jr. and his father decided to move up to the larger and more powerful Legends Cars.

"I've really wanted to make the jump to Legends Cars for a while now," Wallace Jr. admitted. "I've always liked these cars, plus I was just ready to experience something new."

Jumping from the Bandolero Bandits, which features drivers ages 8 to 11, directly to Legends Cars is quite a transition, but the elder Wallace knew his son was up to the challenge.

"I knew he'd do fine," Wallace said. "We rented the track in Concord (Concord Motorsports Park) just to let him test the Legends Car before we made the switch, and I was shocked by how well he ran that day. After 200 laps, he was running faster times than the guy who won that night's race, and never once did he spin the car out. That blew me away."

Driving a Legends Car formerly piloted by NASCAR NEXTEL Cup rookie Reed Sorenson, Wallace Jr. continues to learn each time he climbs behind the wheel.

He won nine races at tracks across the Southeast early in the season, but has had a tougher time during the first half of the 10-race Summer Shootout Series. After missing the National Guard Semi-Pro feature on opening night, Wallace Jr. has made steady progress, recording top-10 finishes during weeks four and five.

While it appears Wallace Jr.'s racing future is already mapped out, the middle school student and his parents realize the importance of finishing his education.

"His teachers know that he's a racer and they really work with us on his assignments and homework," the elder Wallace explained. "Early on, we had a meeting with the principal and Darrell's guidance counselor, so they're well aware of his responsibilities on the track and they try their best to help us."

Even though he is just a rookie in the Legends Car, Wallace Jr. is already thinking about the next step in his career.

"You have to be at least 14 years old before you can compete on a limited schedule in late models, which is the next level I'd like to race," Wallace Jr. said. "So for now, I'm sticking with Legends Cars. But in the meantime, I think we're going to go ahead and buy a late model so I can at least start practicing. That way I can be ready when the time comes."

The 13th annual Summer Shootout, which runs each Tuesday night through Aug. 8 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, features three classes of Bandolero racing, three divisions of Legends Cars and the Thunder Roadsters.

Adult tickets are just $5 for adults with children 6-12 admitted for $3 and kids under 6 are free. Tickets are available in advance at the speedway ticket office and at Gates 4 and 5 the night of the event. Parking is free.

Spectator gates open at 5 p.m. with preliminary action at 5:30 p.m. Feature racing begins at 7:30 p.m. and is scheduled to conclude by 10:15. For more information, call the speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS.