Darrell Wallace Jr. endures challenges Sunday at Pocono Raceway
Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. suffered a few growing pains in his Monster Energy Cup Series debut.
With just two practice sessions at Pocono Raceway this weekend, Wallace, who is filling in for the injured Aric Almirola, had little time to acclimate to the digital dash in the Cup car and less time to rehearse pitting.
The 23-year-old was a bit overwhelmed in his maiden voyage behind the wheel of the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford — particularly after being busted for speeding the first and second of three times. Still, Wallace recovered to finish 26th. The excitement got to the young driver. Before he could finish his post-race obligations outside of his car on pit road, Wallace passed out.
“It’s a heck of a way to start my weekend and heck of a way to end my weekend, passing out,” said Wallace, who was taken to the Infield Care Center. “Patting myself on the back for that. I’m just so bummed out and frustrated with myself.
"I know my family is going to be hard on me after this not to be so hard on myself, but I’m competitive and I want to win races and I want to lead laps.”
Wallace qualified 16th. He was running 20th after the first 10 laps, but then was busted for speeding entering the pits on Lap 19. He served his pass-thru penalty on Lap 22 and sped again. He served a stop-and-go penalty on Lap 25 and fell off of the lead lap. Despite a third speeding penalty between the second and third stages, Wallace lined up at the tail end of the field for the final 55-lap run.
“Just wanted to have a good showing, and to speed four, five times, same segment, that was pretty tough to swallow, and then this race just going green the whole time and just ‑‑ it was just not our day,” Wallace said. “I didn’t have everything lined up, and thought I had the right mindset going into it. I told our spotter Joel (Edmonds) to be a little conservative to start out with pit road, and we’ll creep up to it. I guess we were already there.
“I’m so used to analog tachs and everything, and this digital stuff I’ve got to figure out. I’ll say I’m not a fan of it right now. It’s jumping around too much. You just don’t get a true feel of what you’re running down pit road. A lot of other guys say it’s fine, so I’ve just got to figure out what I’ve got to do better. But it’s just frustrating on my part.”
Wallace pitted eight times throughout the course of the race. He admitted after the race that after his first experience he dreaded coming to pit road.
Despite Wallace’s frustrations, his teammates on the No. 43 Ford, including crew chief Drew Blickensderfer, felt the driver had a great first outing.
“For the things that are really difficult — like drive the race car — I’d give him an “A”,” Blickensderfer told motorsport.com. “For the things that are small — and make Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth the champions they are like getting on pit road, those are still things we have to work on. But the hard part he has.
“He had more speed when we unloaded than we expected and we had a car that could have run 15th if we hadn’t had those two penalties, probably. We only had one 55-minute practice on Saturday to help get the car dialed in and work on pit road. He wasn’t quite comfortable with out dash, so we had to change it for today. It’s just something he hasn’t seen before, how it refreshes. It’s something he’ll get better at. He’s beating himself up for it now, but everybody on the 43 team is pretty pumped up to have him driving our car.”
Wallace was already contemplating how to be better when he rolls into Michigan Speedway next weekend. He joked about spending first practice running up and down pit road. But he’s looking forward to the opportunity. And although Wallace didn’t score the finish he was hoping for at Pocono Raceway, he was able to savor the moment.
“This is a wonderful day for me and a wonderful day for the sport,” Wallace said. “I’ve been dreaming about this day since I was a little kid. I knew jumping into this that it wasn’t going to be easy. I’ve always said you shuffle ‑‑ you get shuffled back in trucks and XFINITY, you lose seven, ten spots. You shuffle here, you get 25th to 30th. These guys are good. These guys are here for a reason.
“There’s no more climbing. I’ve been in the ladder rungs for the last couple years and now I’m at the top. There’s nothing else I can do but just to go out there and just get better and better and learn how this sport works and how this series works. It was tough. You know, running where I was, we were running for the Lucky Dog spot and I was driving my tail off, and those guys were just pulling away. So just some things I’ve got to focus in on and then remember.”
Watch Wallace talk about his first Monster Energy Cup Series race below. Click on the image to watch:
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About this article
|Drivers||Darrell Wallace Jr.|
|Teams||Richard Petty Motorsports|