Darrell Wallace Jr. will drive the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford in 2018, the team announced on Wednesday via a video on Twitter.
The video starts with Richard Petty draped in black and blue light, juxtaposed with b-roll of career highlights. Following a few shots of other drivers in the 43 car, it cuts to Wallace in the exact same setup. It ends with the number 43.
Not long after, the team put out a press release making the announcement official.
It stated that Drew Blickensderfer will sit atop the pit box and sponsor(s) will be announced at a later date.
“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.”
The move up to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series to drive the No. 43 car was in the rumor mill since the team announced that Aric Almirola was leaving at the conclusion of the 2017 season. Adding to that was that Wallace drove in place of Almirola during most of his time out of the car with a spinal injury.
In Wallace’s four-race stint as the substitute driver of the No. 43 Ford, he earned finishes of 26th at Pocono Raceway, 19th at Michigan International Speedway, 15th at Daytona International Speedway and 11th at Kentucky Speedway.
A graduate of both the NASCAR Drive for Diversity and NASCAR Next programs, Wallace rose to prominence with an eighth-place points run in his rookie season in the 2013 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season. The season included 12 top-10’s and a win, the first by an African American driver in a NASCAR national touring series since Wendell Scott in 1963, at Martinsville Speedway.
He followed up his rookie season with 14 top-10’s and four wins, on his way to a third-place points finish.
Following sponsorship struggles, he left the Toyota camp and joined Roush Fenway Racing to race in the XFINITY Series in 2015.
His record in the series was hit and miss, with points finishes of seventh in 2015 and 11th in 2016.
Entering the 12th-race of the 2017 XFINITY Series season, Wallace was fourth in points. However, sponsorship difficulties forced Roush Fenway Racing to shut down the No. 6 team, leaving him without a ride.
Despite no mention of sponsorship until a later date, team co-owner Petty said, while the team has “hired a lot of different drivers” over the years, “Wallace brings a lot of youth and talent to our team.”
“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.”