On Wednesday, Richard Petty Motorsports announced that Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. will drive the No. 43 car full time in the Cup Series during the 2018 NASCAR season. He becomes the first African-American to drive full time in the Cup Series since Wendell Scott back in 1971.
“That’s big,” Wallace said on Wednesday when asked about the societal impact of his deal. “For me to take on that role, there’s a lot of pressure. But we’re just going to continue to do what we do on and off the track.”
Wallace originally got a tryout of sorts from Richard Petty Motorsports when he filled in for the injured Aric Almirola for four races earlier this year. His best finish in those four races was 11th at Kentucky. He also finished 26th at Pocono, 19th at Michigan and 15th at Daytona, showing steady improvement throughout.
“I think I impressed Richard a little bit,” Wallace said.
It’s important that he did, not only because he was driving for Petty then, but also because of the car he’ll be driving in 2018. Petty, known as ‘The King,’ made the No. 43 famous during his racing career, winning seven NASCAR championships.
Petty said his first impression of Wallace was that he crashed too often, but a short conversation between the two of them fixed that. Then, during that brief trial period, Petty said he was impressed by Wallace’s talent and ability to handle sponsorships.
As for the fact that Wallace is African-American, Petty said he was only concerned about his ability to contribute to Richard Petty Motorsports. Earlier this year, Petty said he would fire any driver who refused to stand during the national anthem, in response to the ongoing protests in the NFL at the same time.
“I didn’t care what color he was, any of that,” Petty said of picking Wallace. “That was the least of my considerations.
“He’s gonna be a big, big part of RPM for the coming years.”
As for what to expect from Wallace on the track, he has the potential to challenge for Rookie of the Year honors in 2018. Growing up with current Cup Series drivers Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and others, he certainly has the pedigree to compete. His last two full-time seasons in the Xfinity Series (he’s run limited races this year due to sponsorship issues), he finished seventh and 11th, although he has not won an Xfinity Series race in his career.
Wallace’s sponsors have not been announced yet, and neither has his manufacturer.
“This is a dream come true to race for ‘The King,’ Richard Petty Motorsports, the iconic No. 43 and for all the fans and partners that have and continue to support this team,” Wallace said. “I’m humbled that they have chosen me to take that next step with them.
“I’m ready for next season to begin.”