Photo: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images

2018 Cup Series Season Preview: Darrell Wallace, Jr.

By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor

Editor’s note: Motorsports Tribune will be previewing the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season for the top-30 drivers in the series leading into next month’s 60th running of the Daytona 500.

Age: 24

Years in Cup: Rookie

Career Wins: Six Truck Series wins

Wallace began the 2017 season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for Roush-Fenway Racing, but a sponsorship shortfall caused his season to come to a premature end after just 12 races. After Aric Almirola was injured at Kansas in May, Wallace got the call from Richard Petty Motorsports to fill-in for him while he recovered.

In the four races he ran the famed No. 43 car, Wallace posted better finishes as the weeks went along, culminating in an 11th place finish at Kentucky before Almirola returned to the seat.

After impressing the team in the races he ran while filling in for Almirola, RPM elected to give Wallace his big break, bringing him on board to pilot their flagship car full-time in 2018.

“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,” said Wallace when the deal was announced late last year.  “I believe in what Richard Petty Motorsports is doing and their desire to win races. I believe this team, its partners and fans are ready to see some great things again.  I’m humbled that they have chosen me to take that next step with them. I’m ready for next season to begin and to prove to people that we can compete at the level we all expect to be at.”

Career-wise, Wallace has found the most success in the Truck Series, where he scored six wins over three seasons, most recently at Michigan in last August. In his 85 starts in the Xfinity Series, he has yet to visit victory lane, but did finish in the top-five six times, along with 35 top-10 finishes and two poles.

Looking ahead to 2018, Wallace will have veteran crew chief Drew Blickensderfer staying on board with the team, while also swapping to a new manufacturer in Chevrolet after the team formed an alliance with Richard Childress Racing to run Camaros this upcoming season.

As far as sponsorship, Wallace will have Mid America Mortgage, Inc.’s “Click n’ Close” brand on board for three races, including the Daytona 500, as well as STP and the United States Air Force for two races apiece. Further sponsorship to fill out the remainder of the year has yet to be announced.

Wallace will be one of three rookies competing for Rookie of the Year honors, joining Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron and Ray Black, Jr.

With all of the changes for 2018, if Wallace and Richard Petty Motorsports can bring home a handful of top-10 finishes, it would be a successful year for the pairing and set them up to do even greater things in the future.

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.