Darrell Wallace Jr. always wanted this day to come. He knew it would come at some point, but he didn’t think the pieces of the puzzle would come into place so easily.
When Aric Almirola’s injury was revealed to the public, rumors swirled about the Roush Fenway Racing XFINITY Series driver taking the helm of the No 43 Ford. Following Regan Smith’s stint in the car, it was time for a change.
Richard Petty Motorsports is opting to go with Wallace, who will become the first African American since Bill Lester to start a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race since 2006 on Sunday at Pocono Raceway.
“A lot of people want to see how I will run and how I will do against the Cup guys,” Wallace said in a press conference. “In year’s past, there was a lot of pressure on myself. Today, I feel great. I feel great. I’ve been in the car and I don’t have to overdrive the car. I don’t have to do anything special. For us, it’s just to get the balance right.”
As Wallace sat in the media room, his calm presence took over. Relaxed and ready to roll, he is clearly ready to get the weekend going.
But with pressure on his shoulders, knowing that his No. 6 team is closing its doors after Pocono’s XFINITY Series contest, it is crucial for the Alabama native to perform well.
“We decided to pick the weekend with the least amount of practice possible,” Wallace said. “We only get one session today and one on Saturday. There are a lot of big factors going into this. As far as pressure, there’s a little bit but nothing big.”
With Almirola’s return date unknown, Wallace understands that each opportunity in the Cup Series is one he needs to make the most of.