Darrell Wallace, Jr. to make Cup debut in RPM No. 43

(Photo: Brett Moist/NKP)

By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

Darrell Wallace, Jr. may be losing his NASCAR XFINITY Series ride after the upcoming race weekend, but he’s gaining another incredible opportunity in the process.

Richard Petty Motorsports announced Monday that Wallace, 23, will take over driving duties of the team’s iconic No. 43 Ford, effective immediately. Wallace will make his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut in Sunday’s race at Pocono Raceway.

Wallace will be the first African American to compete in the highest echelon of stock car racing since Bill Lester’s final Cup series start for Bill Davis Racing in 2006. The Mobile, Alabama native will substitute for Aric Almirola, who broke his back in an accident at Kansas on May 13.

Wallace replaces Regan Smith, who drove for the team at Charlotte and Dover.

“Driving the famed 43 car is an unbelievable opportunity for any race car driver,” Wallace said in a release. “With all that Richard Petty has contributed to the sport, I’m honored to start my first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event with this team. I’m incredibly grateful that Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports and Smithfield have the confidence in me to help fill the seat until Aric (Almirola) fully recovers, which is the most important piece of this. Moving up to the Monster Energy Series is a tremendous challenge, but I am ready to represent this organization, help the 43 team get the best results possible and prove that I belong at this level.”

The move comes amid a tumultuous time for the eighth-year NASCAR competitor. Despite sitting fourth in the XFINITY series standings, Wallace only has enough funding at the moment to secure his No. 6 Ford with Roush Fenway Racing through this weekend’s race at Pocono.

As part of Monday’s announced move, RFR will shutter their No. 6 team, focusing on Ryan Reed’s No. 16 operation and the upcoming part-time schedule for prospect Ty Majeski. The organization also noted in a release that they and Wallace “will continue to evaluate additional potential opportunities for Wallace to run in NXS races.”

“We are very proud of Bubba and his development at Roush Fenway Racing,” RFR team president Steve Newmark said. “We believe that Bubba has tremendous potential and will continue to excel in NASCAR’s top series.  He has been a great representative of our organization both on and off the track and we’ve enjoyed being part of his growth as a driver.  Our entire team is excited to see him take the next step in his career and make his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut in the No. 43.

“The transition shows the strong collaboration we currently have in the Ford stable. We believe this will be a great opportunity for both Bubba and RPM, and will continue to strengthen the overall Ford program.”

The move keeps Wallace under the Ford umbrella, and affords him an opportunity to gain experience in the Cup series as Almirola recovers.

“We are excited for Bubba to get this opportunity to drive the iconic No. 43 Fusion for Richard Petty Motorsports,” Ford Performance global director Dave Pericak said.  “We couldn’t be happier with the progress of Aric Almirola’s recovery and can’t wait to get him back. In the meantime, this is a great opportunity for Bubba to show what he can do at the top level of the sport, and we are committed to helping RPM win races. We are proud of the collaboration between RPM, Roush Fenway and Ford to make this driver transition happen, and it’s a great example of the One Ford mentality we have in order to make the overall Ford NASCAR program better.”

A graduate of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program, Wallace has competed in the NASCAR ranks since 2010, winning six K&N Pro Series East races and five Camping World Truck Series events during brief stints in each series. The Alabaman has competed full-time for RFR in the XFINITY series since the beginning of the 2015 season, earning a career-best finish of second in the spring 2016 race at Dover.

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