Darrell Wallace Jr. searching for sponsor support, relevancy for Cup chance

Susan DeVault/NKP

By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

JOLIET, Ill. — Darrell Wallace Jr. wouldn’t go as far as to confirm any opportunities with Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for next year at Chicagoland Speedway. Instead, he was open and candid about his struggles to find sponsorship and maintain relevancy as he searches for continued opportunities.

“I don’t know,” Wallace said of his future with RPM. “I can tell you about the 98. It is over in the garage right now. Things with the 43 are still shaking out.

“That is in RPM’s hands right now. Obviously the news that came out the other day, they are pushing hard to fight through some things and I am supporting them. Nothing is set in stone. We are still trying to figure out what we need to do.”

Despite failing to make the playoffs, RPM and current sponsor Smithfield Foods were the talk of the NASCAR paddock in the week leading up to Sunday’s postseason opener as the sponsor announced its leave of RPM in favor of Stewart-Haas Racing in 2018.

The reveal led to two controversial press releases – one from RPM owner Richard Petty alleging Smithfield had broken a handshake agreement with their move, and a response from Smithfield decrying RPM for what they called “false” allegations, saying the move was solely based on RPM’s lack of performance.

Partially lost in the kerfuffle between the teams was the omission that Aric Almirola will no longer compete for RPM next season, opening up the iconic (No.) 43 Ford for another driver next season.

The first driver on many minds to take that spot? Wallace, who competed for the team four times in place of the injured Almirola earlier this season, earning a best finish of 11th at Kentucky Speedway. RPM crew chief Drew Blickensderfer confirmed the team’s intention to bring Wallace while appearing on FOX Sports’ “NASCAR Racehub” on Sept. 12.

Wallace took the time to talk with the media about his future on Friday as part of an appearances of the many drivers running with support from Nickelodeon at Chicagoland Speedway. The 23-year-old was entered for the XFINITY Series race at the 1.5-mile oval, running in a one-off with RPM affiliate Biagi-Denbeste Racing with a special Nickelodeon green slime livery.

According to Wallace, who currently sits ride-less after losing his No. 6 Ford with Roush Fenway Racing in the XFINITY Series due to financial issues in June, the move hinges on the one thing he’s always struggled with – sponsorship.

“I believe them 100% that they are working hard to figure out something,” Wallace said. “What we did a couple months ago was pretty special and showcased what we can do as a pair, as a couple if we can get things worked out. I think we can bring them really good finishes, represent their brands the way they need to be and get them rolling off on the right start.”

While he waits for the right sponsor to come along, Wallace will continue to search for other opportunities to stay in the cockpit. The Mobile, Alabama native has his sights set on the Camping World Truck Series, where he scored an encumbered win at Michigan International Speedway in Aug.

“I am trying to get back in a truck again to do some races but I am not sure where,” Wallace said. “It would have been cool to do Loudon. We might do Homestead or Texas. Not sure. That is totally speculating there but hopefully we will be back in something.”

Above all else, Wallace just hopes to stay relevant.

“It is about staying relevant,” Wallace said. “If you don’t have a ride it is about what are you trying to do. This great partnership with Nickelodeon and them putting me in a car this weekend is keeping my name out there. That Cup platform did a lot. It definitely boosted my career. Those four races that we had. But that was a couple months ago and now we are just doing one-offs.

“We have to keep grinding, that is what we have been doing. It is part of the game.”

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