At one point in during Saturday’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway, Darrell Wallace Jr. let his team know he was having fun.
“If this is my last one, it’s been a kick-ass time,” Wallace said over the radio.
With Richard Petty Motorsports scheduled to give an update on the condition of injured driver Aric Almirola on Wednesday, it’s possible Wallace made his final start in the team’s No. 43 Ford Saturday night.
It was his fourth race relieving Almirola, who suffered a T5 compression fracture in his back in a violent crash at Kansas Speedway on May 13.
If it was Wallace’s last start, he made it count. Though he was one-lap down, the 23-year-old driver posted his career-best finish of 11th. He placed ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Clint Bowyer, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Danica Patrick.
It bested Almirola’s best finish of 12th in five Kentucky starts.
Wallace took to Twitter Sunday morning, stating the last month had been the “best month of my life.”
Wallace’s first start in the No. 43 coincided with his potential last start of the year in the Xfinity Series. With no sponsorship backing in place, Wallace made his last scheduled start for Roush Fenway Racing in the No. 6 Ford at Pocono Raceway. The next day he became the first African-American driver to start in the Cup series in a decade.
He finished 26th after multiple speeding penalties. The next week at Michigan he placed 19th. After Billy Johnson drove the car at Sonoma, Wallace returned to the cockpit at Daytona, where he finished 15th. Late in the race, he briefly contended for the lead with Ryan Blaney, his friend who drives the No. 21 Ford for Wood Brothers Racing.
“We kept improving, each and every time on the race track, each and every race,” Wallace said Saturday after the Kentucky race. “We kept improving, I kept improving. I am getting more and more comfortable with these cars. It was a good run for our Smithfield Ford. We had a lot of fun tonight. … We fell back on that one restart. We were able to manage and maintain and work out some track position on that green-flag stop, and we were 14th and fired off right around there for the last restart and was able to hang on. It was a good day. I am having a great time in the Monster Energy Cup Series. Hopefully, there will be more.”