After replacing Aric Almirola in four races this season when he was injured, Richard Petty Motorsports announced today that Darrell Wallace, Jr. will compete for Rookie of the Year in the organization’s iconic No. 43 in 2018.
Wallace, one of the sport’s most popular young drivers, is a graduate of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program. The six-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race winner will become the first full-time African-American driver in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series since Wendell Scott in 1971.
“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. “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.”
RPM’s future was in disarray for since September when its long-time sponsor Smithfield Foods announced its intention to leave the team for Stewart-Haas Racing in 2018. Along with Smithfield’s imminent departure, Almirola, who had been with the team full-time since 2012, announced he would be leaving the team. This left RPM with sponsors to fill, and a driver.
While no sponsors aside from STP and the U.S. Air Force have been confirmed for the 2018 season or a confirmed manufacturer, the team has been actively lobbying for sponsorship.
The team’s veteran crew chief Drew Blickensderfer, who worked with Wallace in his limited starts in the No. 43 this season, will also return to the team in 2018.
“We have hired a lot of different drivers in the past, but Wallace brings a lot of youth and talent to our team,” explained Petty. “He’s proven at a young age to be able to be consistent on a weekly basis, give feedback to the team to help improve the car and race hard to get the best finish possible. He knows how to win, too. His records leading up to the top levels of NASCAR speak for themselves. We feel that Bubba can immediately come in and compete. He’s really eager to show what he can do and that he belongs in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.”