Darrell Wallace. Jr.’s rookie Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season got off to rousing start with a runner-up finish in the Daytona 500 but it’s slowed down quite a bit since.
In the three races since Daytona, Wallace’s best finish is 21st and he hasn’t finished on the lead lap.
It’s quite early in the season, but he’s dropped from third to 18th in the series standings.
“Atlanta was bad luck. I thought we were pretty decent in practice and we had some mechanical stuff go on right before the race that we didn’t find out. Vegas, we missed it. We were a very good short-run car and we just fell on our face,” Wallace said Friday at Auto Club Speedway.
“And then, Phoenix, I thought we were really good. I learned a lot over night from practice to the race and was able to put that to work. We were making some ground until we hit pit road (to for loose wheels).”
The struggles are not necessarily a surprise. In his interviews after his Daytona finish, Wallace acknowledged the true tests of his Richard Petty Motorsports team would come on the intermediate tracks on which much of the Cup series season is decided.
Wallace called his personal growth as a Cup driver “a learning curve.”
“We are trying to figure everything out. I’m laying my head down at night not leaving a stone unturned, so in that regard I give myself an A-plus,” he said. “But, we are just not hitting on all cylinders right now as a team.
“We are still figuring everything out from the switch, so it’s going to take us a couple of races. We are going to have some really good races, we are going to have some bad races, but we are going to keep our heads up and keep digging.”
RPM moved its headquarters to the campus of Richard Childress Racing in Welcome, N.C., in the offseason, which included a change in manufacturers from Ford to Chevrolet.
Wallace ran four races with the team last season as a fill-in for Aric Almirola but did not run full-time in a NASCAR series in 2017.
Wallace has not let the disappointing finishes since Daytona dampen his enthusiasm, however.
“I’m like a kid in a candy store. I’m racing against the guys I used to watch on Sunday and that is pretty badass,” he said. “It’s all like kind of surreal still, but not letting that overshadow what we need to focus on.
“But, it’s a hell of a ride right now despite the finishes that we’ve had, I’m still keeping a positive mindset looking forward to each and every race because it’s a reset for me. Each and every track there is no need for me to hang my head over the last finish because I don’t know what the hell is next until we get to Pocono, Kentucky, Michigan and Daytona.”