Photo: Stephen A. Arce/ASP, Inc.

2019 Cup Series Season Preview: Darrell Wallace, Jr.

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

Editor’s note: Motorsports Tribune will be previewing the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season for the full-time drivers in the series leading into February’s 61st annual running of the Daytona 500.

Age: 25

Years in Cup: One

Career Wins: Zero

What started off on an absolute high turned out to be a nightmarish rookie campaign for Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, Jr. Heading into his second season, Wallace is among one of the drivers that’ll seek for an improving campaign after finishing 28th in points, with just a single top-five and three top-10 finishes.

In his first Daytona 500 start, Wallace was one of the positive headlines after eking out Denny Hamlin by inches to finish runner-up behind race winner Austin Dillon. This led to an emotional post-race press conference, where his mom hugged him and reflected on his roller coaster journey over the past two years that included losing his grandmother and being let go by Roush Fenway Racing in the Xfinity Series before the halfway point of the 2017 season.

While the season started off well, the rest of the season was a struggle that was plagued with six retirements and having absolute rotten luck on all three road races. Most notably, his savage crash in the Gander Outdoors 400 at Pocono, where heading into Turn 1 on the 154th lap, Wallace lost his brakes and slammed the barriers. The accident brought out the 10th red flag of the season, but he took down the window net and escaped unharmed. He even showed his sense of humor after the crash, saying he didn’t have twins after an ultrasound in the Infield Care Center.

Despite having an average finish of 24.5, Wallace did have additional highs such as leading in three races for 19 laps. In the Food City 500, Wallace scratched his way towards the front and passed Brad Keselowski for the race lead. The No. 43 STP Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 led six circuits and ended up 16th that race, which he described as devastating on social media.

The 25-year-old’s other top-10s took place at Texas, the race prior of leading for the first time in his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career, where he got eighth and later at ISM Raceway in November, where he was able to avoid the chaos that dashed playoff drivers hopes of winning the championship and wound up in 10th.

This off-season, a minor blow occurred after three-race primary sponsor Click n’ Close, abandoned the sport and their partnership with Richard Petty Motorsports as new executive changes from the digital mortgage brand led to the departure.

In an era where sponsorships are hard to come by, there’s one that’ll stay heading into this season. World Wide Technology have extended their partnership with Wallace and RPM as they’ll become a sponsor in the No. 43 car and continue providing data analytics, consulting and technology solutions.

The sophomore driver described their involvement with the team has been beneficial thus far and is hopeful their extended partnership will allow his team to gain more information which can translate in better results.

“Our partnership with WWT allows us to use our own data in a way that is most useful for us,” said Wallace.  “This isn’t something that is shared, but rather data that Drew (Crew Chief Drew Blickensderfer) and our engineers now use during the race weekend and the actual race itself. This season was just the beginning for WWT, and I think we are just scratching the surface of their capabilities.

“They are also giving us the sponsorship that we need to be better on the track– that’s something that we’re all looking forward to. They are a great company and I’m looking forward to working with WWT more in 2019.”

In addition of keeping WWT, Alsco will also remain an associate sponsor for RPM. They’ll also remain a single-car team with technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing.

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From the Pacific Northwest, Luis is a University of Idaho graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media. Ever since watching the 2003 Daytona 500, being involved in auto racing is all he's ever dreamed of doing. He's also covered Idaho Athletics and high school football as both a writer and videographer. Additionally, he spent 2017 writing several racing columns as an independent journalist. Luis does video and photography, and is a fan of Seattle sports, a music critic and a motivator who wants to impact people's lives.