DAYTONA BEACH, Fla – For the second straight year, the iconic No. 43 was back inside the top five of the finishing order in the Daytona 500. This year though, it just feels different. This year, it feels as if the team has a new identity.
Richard Petty Motorsports is with Chevrolet not Ford now. They merged with Richard Childress Racing and moved into their building too. They also have a new young driver in Darrell Wallace Jr. who is garnering a lot of attention.
Wallace, 24, has a big following but has always struggled to find the right amount of funding to get to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series level. But, RPM gave him a shot in four races last season as a replacement to an injured Aric Almirola. He’d improve every week, finishing 26th, 19th, 15th and 11th respectively. Then, Almirola came back. Then, he left again, this time for a new ride and taking his sponsor with him.
The team took a chance on Wallace, knowing they didn’t have a lot of funding to do so. Fast forward to the last lap of Sunday’s Daytona 500. Midway down the backstretch, Almirola, in his new car, was leading, Wallace was not far behind. Austin Dillon got into Almirola crashing him, Wallace skated by and finished second.
It capped a great Speedweeks for Wallace, as he finished third in his Duel on Thursday night and second in the Great American Race on Sunday. In between, he was fastest in final practice on Saturday.
Now, the team leaves Daytona with a ton of momentum and new identity. Wallace, is bringing them a breath of fresh air as Speedweeks for RPM was as good as its been in a long time.