Darrell Wallace Jr. the start of a ‘completely different’ Richard Petty Motorsports

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There are still a lot of blanks to be filled for Richard Petty Motorsports in 2018.

It’s not known what manufacturer logo will adorn the front of its famous No. 43 car when it’s unloaded for Darrell Wallace Jr. in February at Daytona International Speedway to begin his rookie Cup season.

In a Wednesday teleconference, Petty also gave no firm answer on a possible new technical alliance for the team.

On top of that, the team is still looking for a new home to replace the 80,000 square foot shop it’s vacating at the end of the year.

“All that stuff is still up in the air,” Petty said. “We’re doing one thing at a time. We decided just to go ahead and get Bubba all signed up, get that behind us, so that we can then sit down and say, ‘Okay, what is our next best move?’ Bubba will be involved in that part of it, too, because he’s going to be a big, big part of RPM for the coming years.”

There’s “a bunch of irons in the fire” for the team co-owned by the seven-time Cup champion, but “The King” proclaimed his organization is eager for all the changes.

“When you see us at Daytona … it’s going to be a completely different RPM than what it’s been in the past,” Petty said. “We’re looking forward to that.”

It all starts with Wallace. The 24-year-old driver will become to newest full-time pilot of the No. 43, replacing Aric Almirola, who has driven it since 2012 and won the 2014 Coke Zero 400.

RPM hired Wallace based off his four-race performance as a substitute for an injured Almirola this year. Wallace joins the team after three years with Roush Fenway Racing in the Xfinity Series.

“He really impressed me,” Petty said. “After seeing him operate with our crew chief and all the guys at the shop, with the sponsors and stuff like that, we want to have a whole new look at Richard Petty Motorsports for 2018 anyway. So we said, Let’s just look at Bubba and see if we can put him in the car. … A new page in the Petty deal.”

The new page is significant not just for RPM, but for NASCAR. Wallace will be the first full-time African-American Cup driver in NASCAR’s modern era, which began in 1972. He follows the likes of NASCAR Hall of Famer Wendell Scott, Bill Lester, Willy T. Ribbs, Charlie Scott, Elias Bowie, Randy Bethea and George Wiltshire. 

But Petty, who raced against Scott, said the color of Wallace’s skin was “the least of my considerations” when determining who would inherit the number he made famous.

“We looked at the talent,” Petty said. “We looked at how we thought he handled the fans, how he handled the press, how he handled sponsor deals, all this kind of stuff. I didn’t care what color he was, where he come from, any of that.

“If you look back at the Petty history and stuff, we’ve had a driver from Brazil (Christian Fittipaldi) that drove for us for awhile, one from Mexico (Carlos Contreras) that drove (a season in the Camping World Truck Series) for us. It’s not anything different than what we’ve done before.”

Wallace also succeeds Almirola, who is of Cuban decent. From 2011-14 Marcos Ambrose, a native of Tasmania, drove the No. 9 for RPM.

Wallace will be one of the latest additions to rapidly growing youth movement in the Cup Series. He will race against drivers and friends he came up through the ranks with since before his days in the K&N Pro Series East series. He joins fellow young guns Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, Erik Jones and more.

“This is a sport that a lot is based on patience,” Wallace said. “Everybody has different ways of getting to the level that I can now say that I’m at. It’s pretty special to be here. … We were all 10, 11, 12 years old running against each other here at Charlotte Motor Speedway, beating and banging with each other. Now we’re at the top-level. Each and every one of us have a different story of how we’ve gotten there.

“I’m just glad to share that spotlight with them.”

Wallace is also a graduate of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program, which produced Larson, who is Asian-American, and Daniel Suarez, who is from Monterrey, Mexico. Suarez became the first foreign-born driver to win a national NASCAR title last year in the Xfinity Series.

“We all have special, unique talent,” Wallace said. “It comes in many different shapes and sizes and forms. Myself, Suarez come up through there, it’s pretty special to see how that has made us who we are today. I’m excited for that, excited to be racing with those guys. We’ve been doing it for a long time now, but now we can all say we’re at the Cup level.”

Wallace’s place in the youth movement and the evolution of the sport was a prominent factor for Petty in giving him the keys to the company car when the company has a lot of question marks with its future.

“It’s ready for a change,” Petty said of NASCAR’s current landscape. “We wanted to be involved in that part of it, felt like that Bubba was going to be our best bet to be right up to the cutting edge of what’s going on.”

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Jesse Iwuji apologizes for wreck in Charlotte Truck race

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Tuesday night’s Truck Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway was eventful for Jesse Iwuji, but for all the wrong reasons.

The 32-year-old driver and U.S. Navy officer was put under a microscope due to a crash he triggered on Lap 81.

Iwuji, who was making his first Truck Series start of the year, was racing toward Turn 1 when his No. 33 truck moved up the track and made contact with the No. 52 of Stewart Friesen. The contact turned Iwuji into the No. 30 of Brennan Poole. The wreck also included the No. 26 of Tyler Ankrum. Poole and Iwuji were eliminated while Friesen finished 30th.

On Wednesday, Iwuji posted a lengthy explanation for the crash and an apology to Poole and Friesen, saying in a tweet, “1st time in over 2 yrs where our mistake collected someone else in a race, can’t let it happen again.”

Iwuji cited a “bad vantage point” for his spotter looking up the frontstretch and bad timing leading to the contact and crash.

While Iwuji said he reached out to Friesen and Poole privately on Instagram, Poole responded on Twitter, saying “Things happen. I know what It feels like to be doing everything you can with limited resources. I admire your perseverance and dedication to this sport. Never quit chasing what you love.”

Read Iwuji’s full post below.

 

Thursday’s Cup race at Charlotte: Start time, forecast and more

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Let’s try this again.

So is the motto for NASCAR after rain postponed Wednesday night’s Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway to Thursday night. This is the fourth Cup race in a 14-day period.

Kevin Harvick won the first race in this stretch May 17 at Darlington Raceway. Denny Hamlin then won the May 20 Darlington race. Brad Keselowski won last weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte.

Thursday’s starting lineup inverts the top 20 finishers from Sunday’s race, meaning Keselowski will start 20th in the 310-mile race. William Byron, who finished 20th on Sunday, starts on the pole.

Here is the info for Thursday night’s race:

(All times are Eastern)

START: Atrium Health Sports Medicine Teammates will give the command to start engines at 7:13 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 7:25 p.m.

PRERACE: Garage access health screening begins at 2:50 p.m. (teams are assigned specific times). Drivers report to their cars at 6:50 p.m. The invocation will be given at 7:05 p.m. by CH (LTC) Brian Koyn, 82nd Airborne Division Chaplain. The National Anthem will be performed at 7:06 p.m. by Season 3 winner of “The Voice” and Grammy-nominated singer Cassadee Pope.

PACE LAPS: At the direction of race control, drivers will have the opportunity to run one pace lap down pit road before the green flag for a pit road speed check. If a driver stops in the pit box for any reason, pull over or slow down, they will start at the rear of the field.

DISTANCE: The race is 208 laps (312 miles) around the 1.5-mile oval.

COMPETITION CAUTION: Lap 20

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 55. Stage 2 ends on Lap 115.

To the Rear Cars: Josh Bilicki (driver change from Sunday’s 600) and Reed Sorenson (driver change from Sunday’s 600)

TV/RADIO: FS1 will televise the race. Performance Racing Network will broadcast the race and also can be heard at goprn.com and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for showers with a high of 77 degrees and a 52% chance of rain at the race’s start.

LAST RACE: Brad Keselowski led the final five laps to win Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, which was extended to overtime. Jimmie Johnson finished second, but his car failed inspection after the race and was disqualified. Chase Elliott was scored second. Ryan Blaney was scored third.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for Cup starting lineup

CATCHING UP TO SPEED WITH NBC SPORTS COVERAGE:

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Bump and Run: Key connection between recent Cup winners 

Kyle Busch: Wearing a mask is way to “take care of our neighbor”

NBC Sports Power Rankings: Kevin Harvick remains unanimous No. 1

Take a bow: Chase Elliott celebrates Truck win Kyle Busch style 

Bristol Xfinity race rescheduled to 7 p.m. ET Monday

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The postponement of Wednesday’s Cup Series race at Charlotte to Thursday due to rain has impacted the scheduling of this weekend’s Xfinity Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

NASCAR announced that due to travel and setup challenges, the Bristol Xfinity race has been moved from Saturday afternoon to 7 p.m. ET Monday on FS1.

“In a year that’s been filled with unprecedented times, I think a lot of us have learned that patience and flexibility are keys to success in 2020, but we know that the best is yet to come when night racing at Bristol arrives early this year,” said Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway. “With the Alsco Uniforms 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway being rained out tonight, we’re looking forward to tuning into tomorrow to watch their Cup race. Then we’ll welcome the Food City presents SUPERMARKET HEROES 500 on Sunday at 3:30 followed by the Cheddar’s 300 presented by Alsco Xfinity Series race on Monday night June 1 at 7 p.m. ET under the lights. Tune in to both races on FS1, PRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio.”

The race will be the Xfinity Series’ third since it returned to competition last week at Darlington.

More: Procedures for next five NASCAR race tracks

Charlotte Cup race postponed to Thursday

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Rain forced NASCAR to postpone Wednesday’s Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway to 7 p.m. ET Thursday.

The race will air on FS1, Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

The wunderground.com forecast for the start time Thursday calls for scattered thunderstorms with a high of 77 degrees and a 45% chance of rain.

NASCAR also announced that Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway has been moved to 7 p.m. ET Monday and will be on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

William Byron is set to start on the pole for the race after NASCAR inverted the top 20 finishers from Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600.

It rained throughout the day Wednesday, including heavy at times in the evening at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

NASCAR announced on Wednesday that all cars had passed pre-race inspection without any penalties.

This was a look at track conditions 15 minutes before the announcement was made that the race had been postponed: