Darrell Wallace Jr. to drive No. 43 for Richard Petty in Cup Series in 2018

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Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. will drive the No. 43 full-time in the Cup Series next year, Richard Petty Motorsports announced Wednesday.

Wallace, 24, succeeds Aric Almirola in the No. 43 after making four starts in his place earlier this year when Almirola injured his back in a crash in May at Kansas Speedway. Almirola has driven the No. 43 since 2012.

“This is a dream come true to race for ‘The King’, Richard Petty Motorsports, the iconic No. 43 and for all the fans and partners that have and continue to support this team,” Wallace said in a press release. “I believe in what Richard Petty Motorsports is doing and their desire to win races. I believe this team, its partners and fans are ready to see some great things again. I’m humbled that they have chosen me to take that next step with them. I’m ready for next season to begin and to prove to people that we can compete at the level we all expect to be at.”

Drew Blickensderfer will return as crew chief of the No. 43.

“I’m looking forward to working with him and him being the crew chief and having that position,” Wallace said on Facebook Live. “The guys he’s surrounded himself with on that 43 car this year is a great group of guys. We had a lot off fun each and every time I showed up to the race track. They made it a lot easier for me and it didn’t seem like it was my first or second race. It just seemed like, ‘hey, we’re at the race track this weekend, let’s go out and get the job done.'”

Wallace said he asked Blickensderfer for the team to have a dinner prior to his Pocono start in order to get to know them.

“It took us 30 minutes and it was just like family,” Wallace said. “That’s how Richard likes to run it. Just like family.”

The team did not refer to a car make for the No. 43 for next season. The team is affiliated with Ford this season.

“We have hired a lot of different drivers in the past, but Wallace brings a lot of youth and talent to our team,” Richard Petty said in the press release. “He’s proven at a young age to be able to be consistent on a weekly basis, give feedback to the team to help improve the car and race hard to get the best finish possible. He knows how to win, too. His records leading up to the top levels of NASCAR speak for themselves. We feel that Bubba can immediately come in and compete. He’s really eager to show what he can do and that he belongs in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.”

The team said sponsors for Wallace and the No. 43 will be announced at a later date. Sports Business Journal reports that team president Brian Mofftt said the U.S. Air Force and STP will be sponsors on the car next year. STP was the primary sponsor for the spring Martinsville race and the Southern 500 this season.

Wallace, a native of Mobile, Alabama, made his Cup debut at Pocono Raceway and finished 26th. He was the first African-American driver to start in the Cup Series in more than a decade. Bill Lester was the last to do it in 2006.

Wallace improved in each Cup start, culminating in an 11th-place finish at Kentucky Speedway in July.

Those four Cup races came as Wallace’s three-year tenure at Roush Fenway Racing ended after 79 Xfinity starts due to a lack of sponsorship for his No. 6 Ford.

He returned to the Xfinity Series in September for one start with Biagi-DenBeste Racing at Chicagoland Speedway in the No. 98 Ford. He placed 10th.

Wallace is winless in the Xfinity Series, but has claimed six top fives, 35 top 10s and two poles.

After his four races with RPM this season, Wallace made one Camping World Series Truck start at Michigan in August with MDM Motorsports and won the race after leading the final 11 laps.

A graduate of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program, Wallace spent two full-time seasons in the Camping World Truck Series with Kyle Busch Motorsports from 2013-14, where he earned five wins in 44 starts.

The announcement by RPM comes the day before the fourth anniversary of Wallace winning at Martinsville in October 2013, becoming the first African-American driver to win in any of NASCAR’s national series since Wendell Scott in 1963.

When Wallace arrives at Daytona International Speedway in February, he will be doing so as the first full-time African-American up driver in NASCAR’s modern era, which began in 1972.

“It’s big. There’s been a lot of people to come up through the ranks and tried to carry on the legacy that Wendell Scott had laid down for us,” Wallace said in a Wednesday teleconference. “For me to step in that realm and take on the role, there’s a lot of pressure. But we’re going to go out there and continue to do what do on and off the race track. That’s to represent the brand of myself and Richard Petty and his image in the best way I can. To continue to grow together and that’s how we’re going to accomplish that.”

Wednesday also marked the third anniversary of Wallace’s second Martinsville win, when he drove a paint scheme honoring Scott’s induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

“I remember those races very well,” Wallace said. “It’s ironic timing that it’s around this same day, just years later. I remember the last one I was driving the No. 34, turn that number around and now I’m driving the 43. It’s great how things work out.”

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Sunday Cup race at Las Vegas: Start time, TV channel

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The second round of the Cup playoffs begins with the Sunday Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The 1.5-mile track kicks off the Round of 12. Winning the race and stage points are a premium for playoff drivers before the races at Talladega and the Charlotte Roval.

Kevin Harvick, who won at Bristol, starts from the pole.

Here is all the info for the Sunday Cup race at Las Vegas:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given by Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis at 7:07 p.m. The green flag waves at 7:17 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at Noon. Drivers report to their cars at 6:50 p.m. The invocation will be given at 7 p.m. by Motor Racing Outreach Chaplain, Billy Mauldin. The national anthem will be performed by Sierra Black at 7:01 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 267 laps (400.5 miles) around the 1.5-mile track.

COMPETITION CAUTION: Lap 25

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 80. Stage 2 ends on Lap 160

TV/RADIO: NBCSN will televise the race. Coverage begins at 6 p.m with NASCAR America, followed by Countdown to Green at 6:30 p.m. Race coverage begins at 7 p.m. Performance Racing Network’s radio coverage will begin at 6 p.m. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the broadcast.

STREAMING: Watch the race on the NBC Sports App

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for sunny skies with a high of 96 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST RACE: Kevin Harvick beat Kyle Busch to win at Bristol and claim his ninth win of the season.

LAST POINTS RACE AT LAS VEGAS: Joey Logano beat Matt DiBenedetto and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in February.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the lineup.

CATCH UP ON NBC SPORTS’ COVERAGE:

Kurt Busch seeks first Las Vegas win but without hometown fans

Michael Jordan excited for NASCAR future with Denny Hamlin

Carolina Blue: Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan bonded by NASCAR

Germain Racing sells charter, will exit sport at end of season

Charlotte Roval to host limited number of fans

Friday 5: Team’s departure adds to ‘extremely stressful’ time

NASCAR fines Hendrick Motorsports $100,000

NTSB releases final report on Dale Jr. plane crash

Bubba Wallace to receive Stan Musial award for extraordinary character

Long: 100 days left in 2020, what else can happen?

Kurt Busch seeks first Las Vegas win, but without hometown fans

Kurt Busch
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A win by Kurt Busch in tonight’s Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7 p.m. ET on NBCSN) couldn’t come under more bittersweet circumstances for the Chip Ganassi Racing driver.

Should Busch claim the victory on the 1.5-mile track, he’d go from being the last driver on the playoff grid (3,001 points entering the race) to the first driver to advance to the Round of 8.

While it would be his first victory of the year, it would also be his first NASCAR win at his home track in 23 starts across the Cup and Xfinity Series.

More: Stage points critical at Vegas

“The Vegas track has definitely been one of the tough ones for me over the years with results and finishes not where I would have expected them to be,” Busch said this week. “And the teams that I’ve raced for just have never quite found that right magic set-up or combination. And then for me, it’s a track that I just have that trouble with.

“There are a few tracks like Indianapolis and Martinsville; those are a few places where I struggle. And so with Vegas, I always put that little extra hometown pressure on myself and I would love to win there.”

The 42-year-old Las Vegas-native rolls off ninth on the 1.5-mile track. It’s his fourth while driving for Ganassi.

In his 21 Cup starts in Las Vegas, Busch’s best result is third in 2005 when he competed for Roush Fenway Racing. He has just one other top five. That came in last year’s spring race when he drove a throwback paint scheme to his 1999 NASCAR Southwest Series championship.

That day he led 23 laps. It was only the seventh time he’d led laps there and just the third time he’d totaled more than six laps led.

In February, Busch finished 25th.

If Busch were to finally make it to Vegas’ Victory Lane, the celebration would be somewhat muted.

It was announced last weekend that fans would not be allowed to attend the races at Las Vegas due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would love to win through the spirit of the camera and everything on NBC Sports; and I know the fans there, local, will be watching and cheering on the Busch brothers,” Busch said. “So, that’s where I would connect. And hopefully do it through the TV side of it. We’ll get fans back one day and we’ll come back and race.”

Busch enters the Round of 12 having earned just one top 10 in the first round, an eighth-place finish at Darlington. He finished 13th at Richmond and 15th at Bristol.

“What I like is we have had better lap times at all three races so far compared to maybe the five or six races leading into the playoffs,” Busch said. “We know that our cushion is gone. We ended Bristol with 33 points to the good. And now we start Vegas minus four (points behind Austin Dillon in the cutoff spot). So that’s just part of the system and now we have to be perfect. We have to get every point possible that we’re able to get on our own at Vegas, Talladega, and the Roval. And, that should help us advance.”

Carolina Blue: Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan bonded by NASCAR

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Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan were teammates from 1982-84 at the University of North Carolina and Eastern Conference rivals throughout the 1980s and ’90s in the NBA.

But their friendship was about more than just hoops. While growing up on opposite ends of the Tar Heel State, Daugherty and Jordan both developed a passion for following NASCAR.

Tobacco Road meant fast cars and hard-driving heroes for these two North Carolina natives.

LIFELONG FAN: Michael Jordan explains why he’s partnering with Denny Hamlin

In a NASCAR on NBC feature, Daugherty recalls how NASCAR impacted his life and Jordan’s and led both into team ownership. Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin announced they will form a team to field cars for Bubba Wallace next season.

Daughterty notes in the feature that Wallace “has led a dynamic transformation as NASCAR banned Confederate flags and recommitted to inclusion amidst times of great unrest. This is a huge moment for NASCAR, a cultural momentum shift. This is people of all colors coming together to create an all-American race team already with championship lineage.

“With proper funding, equipment and crewmembers, this will be the best chance ever for a Black driver to win – and while driving for a Black owner. An opportunity to shock the world like Muhammad Ali once did.”

Watch the feature above on Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan or by clicking this link.

Las Vegas Xfinity results, driver points

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Chase Briscoe‘s victory Saturday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway sends him into the next round of the Xfinity playoffs.

Noah Gragson led a 2-3-4 finish for JR Motorsports. Gragson was second and followed by Daniel Hemric and Justin Allgaier. Ryan Sieg finished fifth.

Briscoe dominated the race, leading 164 of the 200 laps.

Click here for Xfinity race results

POINTS

Ross Chastain finished 16th, last among the playoff drivers, and fell out of a transfer spot to the second round. He’s two points behind Harrison Burton for the final transfer spot. Michael Annett is 10 points behind Burton. Riley Herbst is 14 points behind Burton. Brandon Brown is 20 points behind Burton.

Click here for driver points report