Darrell Wallace Jr. earns first top 10 since Daytona 500

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After taking the checkered flag in Sunday’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway, Darrell Wallace Jr. gave crew chief Drew Blickensderfer a reassuring message.

Wallace joked that he shouldn’t listen to the Twitter “trolls.” Blickensderfer still had a job for another week.

Wallace was in a good mood. For the first time since his historic second-place finish in the Daytona 500, Wallace had finished in the top 10.

The No. 43 Chevrolet placed eighth in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500. It’s his only finish higher than 20th in the six races since Daytona.

“Hell yeah, we needed that,” Wallace said. “The guys did a hell of a job all weekend long. I thought we had pretty decent speed and a lot of people in the garage were like ‘Your car is pretty good, so just don’t mess it up.’ ”

Wallace started 15th and thanks to attrition and wrecks throughout the day, stayed just outside the top 10 most of the race.

Late in the final stage, Wallace, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ryan Newman were the only drivers left in a green-flag run who had not pitted.

Newman slammed into the Turn 1 wall with 34 laps to go. After pitting, Wallace restarted fourth before falling to eighth.

“Drew did a great job doing some pit strategy on that last call to get us out there to fourth,” Wallace said. “I don’t know if we were on the splitter on that last run, but she just wouldn’t turn going down into the corners and gave up a couple of spots. I will beat myself up over that one, but still walking away with my (second) top 10 in the Cup Series is pretty good. Really good day for us. We had some prospects on the box, so I think that went a long way as well. But man, what a good day, what a good weekend.”

Wallace also finished on the lead lap for the first time since Daytona.

The early stretch of his rookie season bottomed out two weeks ago at Martinsville, where he placed 34th, 14 laps down after multiple unscheduled pit stops and a visit to the garage for repairs.

Wallace drew attention midrace when he jockeyed for the free pass spot with Kevin Harvick.

“I will see if I get a text from him later, but I think he knew the circumstances there,” Wallace said. “He knew I wanted that more than him, and I think we ended up both getting it.  I don’t know how. That was fun. That shows how much speed we had in our car, but it also shows the product of racing here at Texas because it’s hard to pass.”