For Darrell Wallace, Jr., the 2017 season has been a rollercoaster of a ride and on Saturday at Michigan International Speedway, Wallace capitalized on his first race back in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series since 2014.
Since winning five races in the Truck Series in 2013 and 2014, Wallace had moved onto the NASCAR Xfinity Series with Roush-Fenway Racing starting in 2015, but earlier this season, sponsorship woes forced the team, which had shown success early on, to have to suspend operations after 12 races, leaving Wallace’s career in limbo.
Wallace would get the nod from Richard Petty Motorsports in June to fill in for the injured Aric Almirola behind the wheel of the legendary No. 43 car in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series while he went through his recovery. In his four starts, Wallace turned some heads, bringing in increasingly better finishes in each of his races and knocking on the door of his first top-10 before Almirola returned to the seat at New Hampshire.
Though he had success in his debut races in the Cup Series and Richard Petty Motorsports noted that they would love to have him drive one of their cars in the future, Wallace was without a ride once again now that Almirola had returned.
Just days prior to the LTi Printing 200 at Michigan, Wallace was able to ink a one-off deal with MDM Motorsports to drive their No. 99 truck, bringing new sponsorship from Maestro’s and New Era for the race. Even though it was just one race, Wallace made the most of it.
Persevering through a pit road penalty on lap 55 for his crewmembers jumping over the wall too soon that sent him to the back of the pack, Wallace was able to climb his way back toward the front before making contact with Cody Coughlin on lap 66, leading to a crash and damage to a total of four trucks.
Despite some damage on the right rear of Wallace’s truck, he did not let that slow him down, making a bold pass for the lead with 11 laps to go and never relinquishing the lead, even as the more powerful trucks of Kyle Busch Motorsports hunted him for the top spot. In this race, the driving abilities that Wallace showed outshined the stronger equipment in his rear-view mirror.
In victory lane, Wallace was emotional about winning a race for the first time in three years, especially given the ups and downs he has faced throughout the year.
“This is so cool,” said Wallace. “It’s been so long since I’ve been in victory lane. I try to hold a positive mindset over it. Everybody in my family knows it eats at me every day. Emotional victory lane, for sure. First time back in three years, it’s so cool.”
“This is a sweet victory. I’ll take it and cherish it, for sure.”
After his successful turn in the Cup Series and Saturday’s win, Wallace’s name has been thrown around for other driving opportunities and a possible return to NASCAR’s premier division in the future. His crew chief, Shane Huffman, certainly thinks he belongs there.
“Bubba did an amazing job, said Huffman. “The kid needs to be in a Cup car. He’s just that good.”