Darrell Wallace Jr. faints after finishing 26th in NASCAR Cup debut

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Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. marked his NASCAR Cup debut, driving the iconic No. 43 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports, in a rather unique way.

He fainted.

Wallace finished 26th in Sunday’s Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway, filling in for the injured Aric Almirola. Wallace will drive until Almirola returns from the compression fracture he suffered May 13 at Kansas Speedway. At the time, Almirola’s timetable for a return was listed as two to three months.

Shortly after Wallace climbed out of his car Sunday and in the middle of a media interview, he passed out. He went to victory lane to congratulate close friend Ryan Blaney on his win.

“I was looking at something, set to go to victory lane,” Wallace said. “This is the third time this is happened. I get so pissed off at myself that I just pass out. … Yeah, I’m good.”

All things considered, it was a typical rookie debut. Wallace did the best he could, but there were some things he has to work on.

About 25 laps into the race, Wallace pitted, only to receive a pair of penalties.

First, he came onto pit road and drove through pit road sections 1, 2, 4 and 7, earning a pass-through penalty.

Then, he sped on sections 2 and 4, earning a stop-and-go penalty.

“First trip down pit road cost us and put us behind the eight ball the rest of the day,” Wallace said. “I like stage racing, but it just didn’t work out for us.

“I was really conservative today. A lot of people said it’s not my job to set the world on fire or do everything under the sun. My job was to do as good as we could and come out with a clean race car.”

He was also caught speeding later for three such penalties in the 160-lap event.

Wallace then ran a relatively quiet rest of the race, with the exception of banging fenders with Matt DiBenedetto with 12 laps to go.

But there’s no question Wallace, who finished one lap down, wanted more from his finish.

“If we could have got back on the lead lap, I definitely think we had a top-20 car,” he said. “If I had finished 26th without any mistakes, it would have been pretty embarrassing on my part.”

When he took the green flag for his first Cup race, it was somewhat of a surreal experience, Wallace said.

“Climbing in that thing, I thought I handled my emotions very well,” he said. “Green flag went well and then we were off.

“We settled in, got a pit stop and got her right. I didn’t want to come down pit road all day. If I could have stayed out all day, I would have.”

He even took a slight humorous dig at former Truck series owner Kyle Busch in his post-race interview: “I like to win. I can drop the mic and pick my nose, but I won’t do that.”

Still, even with the mistakes he made, Wallace was fairly happy with his debut.

“I knew jumping into this it wouldn’t be easy,” he said. “These guys are good, they’re here for a reason. There’s no more climbing. I’ve been in the ladder runs the last couple years. There’s no higher to go.”

Wallace added “I was driving my butt off. This is a first step, we ran a good, clean race, that’s all you can ask. Didn’t wreck the car. That’s good.

“It was a really cool, really fun day. This was a bad-ass day. … We’ll just get better.”

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Check out Southern 500 paint schemes for Erik Jones, David Ragan and Landon Cassill

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Monday saw the reveal of three paint schemes for the Sept. 3 Southern 500 (on NBCSN). Here’s a look at the cars for Furniture Row Racing’s Erik Jones and Front Row Motorsports’ David Ragan and Landon Cassill.

Jones, who is in contention for the Rookie of the Year award in the Cup Series, will honor previous winners of the award with his paint scheme. Specifically, the No. 77 Toyota will pay tribute to the Rookie of the Year recipients from 1984-89.

The scheme will feature pictures of Rusty Wallace (1984), Ken Schrader (1985), Alan Kulwicki (1986), Davey Allision (1987), Ken Bouchard (1988) and Dick Trickle (1989).

Ragan’s No. 38 Ford will be sponsored by Good Sam. Ragan’s paint scheme is an ode to the RV company’s early days. It was founded in 1966.

Cassill’s paint scheme probably looks familiar. It’s the same one the team used for the last Southern 500 when Chris Buescher drove the N0. 34. The team had to call an audible after Michael McDowell and Leavine Family Racing beat them to the punch on a Kulwicki tribute scheme. Fortunately, Cassill was cool with it.

MORE: Retro Rundown of 2017 Southern 500 paint schemes.

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Bump & Run: Taking stock of the NASCAR season

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What has surprised you the most about this season?

Jeff Burton: My biggest surprise is that there really hasn’t been a flaw in the new stage racing format. I believed that something would happen that revealed a flaw that no one had anticipated but we have yet to see it.

Nate Ryan: Martin Truex Jr.’s emergence as the championship favorite. It was expected he would run well and be a playoff contender and winner, but Furniture Row Racing regularly outrunning Joe Gibbs Racing as the best-in-class Toyota team has been a surprise – as has Truex’s runaway lead in the playoff points standings. He and crew chief Cole Pearn have become the crew chief-driver combination that is setting the pace in every way possible, whether it’s lap speeds, setup decisions or strategy calls.

Dustin Long: That there have been 14 different Cup winners (13 eligible for the playoffs) at this point in the season, which is already the most number of winners in an entire Cup season since 2013.

What driver has impressed you the most this season?

Jeff Burton: Martin Truex Jr. Speed and consistency is hard to achieve. He has been the guy that seems to be in the battle every single week. 

Nate Ryan: William Byron. His promotion to the Cup Series is well deserved, because he has proven the past two years to be an absolute prodigy with his acclimation to Xfinity and trucks. It makes one wonder if he already would have been a Cup winner if he had started his racing career in earnest before becoming a teenager.

Dustin Long: I’m amazed what William Byron has done for his relative lack of experience compared to drivers who started before they hit first grade. His ability to handle pressure situations has been noteworthy. While the challenges will increase next year, I’m already interested to see how he will do in Cup.

What storyline most intrigues you for the coming weeks?

Jeff Burton: I’m intrigued about the playoffs. There will be a big time driver and team that doesn’t advance into the playoffs. Watching who can take control and who can’t step up will be very interesting to witness.

Nate Ryan: The impact of playoff points on the championship race and how it affects who advances in each round. The suspicion here is that there will be much second-guessing and re-examination of decisions made during the regular season that had unanticipated repercussions months later.

Dustin Long: I’m intrigued to see if Kyle Busch and his team can finally eliminate the mistakes that have plagued them throughout the season and prevented Busch from possibly an epic season. With two wins in the last four races, he’s on the verge of a breakout that will lead to a dominating title run. Will it happen?

SunnyD extends sponsorship deal with Roush Fenway Racing

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SunnyD has extended its contract with Roush Fenway Racing to sponsor Ricky Stenhouse Jr.‘s team through the 2019 season, the organization announced Tuesday.

SunnyD will add races as primary sponsor each season, although how many was not announced.

The company has been the primary sponsor of Stenhouse’s car in three races this season – Atlanta, spring Bristol and Indianapolis. SunnyD will next sponsor Stenhouse in October at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“We’ve had a great time partnering with SunnyD the last two years,” Stenhouse in a statement from the team. “It’s one of the coolest paint schemes on the track, and we’ve had a lot of fun promoting their classic brand. I’m excited that we have extended our relationship, and I can’t wait to see how much fun we can have with SunnyD in victory lane.”

“We are very excited to announce that we tore up the old contract and signed a new one that extends for another season and adds additional races with Ricky and Roush Fenway,” said Henk Hartong, Chairman of Harvest Hill Beverage Company, owners of the SunnyD brand, in a statement. “I’m very proud of our relationship with Jack Roush, Steve Newmark and the entire Roush Fenway team. It is something that we wanted to lock in for the foreseeable future. Ricky is one of the rising young stars in NASCAR and we have seen great response to the program from the passionate NASCAR fans.  We are pleased to bolster our association with him and Roush Fenway.”

Stenhouse has two wins this year and will be in next month’s playoffs.

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Martin Truex Jr. continues to dominate NASCAR Cup playoff grid

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Martin Truex Jr. continues to dominate the weekly NASCAR Cup playoff standings.

Truex did not gain any extra points during Saturday night’s Bristol Night Race, so he remains with 35 points, but that’s still a large spread over those chasing him.

Bristol winner Kyle Busch jumped from fifth to second place in the standings with 20 playoff points.

Kyle Larson fell back to third place (18 points), Jimmie Johnson fell to fourth (16) and Brad Keselowski is fifth (14).

As for the playoff bubble, Chase Elliott is 69 points ahead of the cut-off line, followed by Matt Kenseth (+61) and Jamie McMurray (+58) with two races left until the playoffs.

Outside the playoff cut line is Clint Bowyer, who dropped from 31 to 58 points down and Joey Logano from -98 to -117. Erik Jones climbed from -130 to -127, and Daniel Suarez dropped from -139 to -163.

 

Here’s this week’s playoff standings grid: