By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
Entering last June’s race at Pocono Raceway, Darrell Wallace, Jr. was in new territory, making his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start with Richard Petty Motorsports with his driving future still up in the air.
A year later, Wallace returns to the “Tricky Triangle” as the full-time driver for RPM, his future secure behind the wheel of the No. 43 car as both driver and team have their sights set on improving their performance thus far in 2018.
“I was thinking about it in the bus this morning and how you creep up on things and definitely remember everything about this day last year,” said Wallace. “I remember just telling myself not to do anything stupid and mess us up. Knowing that it was kind of a tryout session because I didn’t anything else after that. Now, knowing that for sure I’m racing all year long, my name is on the car this time and it’s my guys and my team. So, I’m excited about that.
“I think that just helps out the confidence level so much. From the start of the season, I feel like I’ve gotten better and better in the car, trying to give better feedback and trying to be a better racer and a better driver and give guys respect and earn that respect, too. So, it all comes with it. You learn something new every day. So, I’m excited to see what’s on the plate for this weekend.”
After four Cup Series starts last season, Wallace and RPM have had a rollercoaster ride through the first 13 races of 2018 as they have not only been trying to acclimate to each other in their first full-time season together, but also swapping manufacturers to Chevrolet and moving to Welcome, NC in their partnership with Richard Childress Racing.
Wallace started off the season with a bang, finishing second in the Daytona 500, but has only been able to manage one other top-10 finish this season, with an eighth-place finish coming at Texas Motor Speedway. In those 13 starts this year, the rookie has led 11 laps at Bristol and Talladega, currently sitting 23rd in points with an average finish of 20.5.
In his Friday press availability, Wallace noted that some of those performance woes are on him and the team, while the others come from Chevrolet as a whole, which has struggled since moving to the new Camaro this season.
“The Chevrolets are kind of struggling as a whole,” Wallace added. “(Kyle) Larson is probably, on average, been the best Chevrolet. And then the next group of us are kind of running right there all together. So, we’re still trying to figure out some things on that forefront. I think from the OEM standpoint as well, we all see it as a big picture. We need to step it up, for sure. I think we’re missing a little bit on the new body. We’re trying each and every day to figure out stuff.
“The alliance of RCR, they’re trying stuff as well, so our debriefs are going in the right direction, I feel like. We’re all talking about the same things we need to fix. It’s not like I’m fighting one probably and everybody else is fighting something totally opposite. Nine times out of 10, we usually say the same things. So, we have some areas that we can work on and I think that will propel us to better finishes. We’ll see. You never know. As soon as you find something that works, you’ve still got 10 things to catch-up on in this sport. It’s a humbling and demanding sport. We’ll just keep plugging away and keep getting after it.”