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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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NASCAR Next’s Alon Day named Israel’s Athlete of the Year

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Israel named NASCAR Whelen Euro Series driver Alon Day its Athlete of the Year this week, marking the first time a driver has been recognized with the award.

Day, 25, was given the award by Israel’s Ministry of Culture and Sports. The winner of the award is determined by an online vote (49 percent) and a committee (51 percent).

Day, a native of Ashdod, Israel, and a member of the current NASCAR Next class, has competed in NASCAR’s Euro Series for the last two seasons. He’s recorded three wins and two poles in each season.

“(This award) rewards my hard work and this is the biggest lesson I have learned. Hard work pays off,” Day told Motorsport.com.

Day made his debuts in both the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series in 2016. He made two starts in each, driving for Carl Long in Xfinity starts at Mid-Ohio and Road America and competing for Carlos Contreras in the Truck Series at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Day’s best result was 13th in the rain-soaked Xfinity race at Mid-Ohio.

 

Great start: Rookie Grant Enfinger earns pole for tonight’s Truck season opener at Daytona

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Grant Enfinger’s rookie season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is off to a great start.

The defending ARCA Series champion, who will compete full-time in the Truck Series in 2016, will start tonight’s season-opening NextEra Energy Resources 250 on the pole.

Enfinger was one of only two drivers to exceed 180 mph. His best speed was 180.752 mph, while Johnny Sauter was at 180.086 mph.

Timothy Peters was third fastest (179.691), followed by Austin Theriault (179.158), Daniel Suarez (179.108), two-time champ Matt Crafton (178.948) and John Wes Townley (178.880).

The final field will be 32 drivers, meaning 11 others went home after failing to qualify for the race: Korbin Forrister, Ryan Reed, Clay Greenfield, Austin Hill, Norm Benning, Carlos Contreras, Reed Sorenson, Jennifer Jo Cobb, Ryan Ellis, David Levine and Mike Harmon.

Ben Kennedy, grandson of the late Bill France Jr., and son of International Speedway Corp. CEO Lesa France Kennedy, suffered what appeared to be an engine problem and was unable to complete a qualifying run.

The NextEra Energy Resources 250 is set to take the green flag tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET. The race is scheduled for 100 laps around the 2.5-mile superspeedway, for a scheduled total of 250 miles – barring any additional green-white-checker periods.

Here’s how qualifying played out.

 

Truck quals at Daytona_Page_1Truck quals at Daytona_Page_2

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Team from Mexico looks to make history in Camping World Truck Series

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A team from Mexico is slated to make history in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this season.

Although it will be based in Mooresville, North Carolina, Contreras Motorsports will become the first team with roots in Mexico, thanks to brothers and team co-owners Enrique and Carlos Contreras.

Carlos Contreras will drive the No. 71 Chevrolet Silverado in the season-opening Nextera Energy Resources 250 Truck Series race at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 19. It will be Contreras’ seventh career start at Daytona.

Contreras will be sponsored in that race by Bellator MMA, a mixed martial arts promoter.

Crew chief for the team will be Tim Andrews, son of NASCAR championship crew chief Paul Andrews.

A veteran of over 100 NASCAR starts in the Xfinity, Truck, Mexico and K&N series, Carlos Contreras will be behind the wheel for the team’s debut at Daytona.

But the team said in a media release it anticipates “providing opportunities for (other) up-and-coming drivers looking to break into NASCAR.”

“My brother and I have worked with many great people and teams over the many years we’ve been in NASCAR, and the many more years racing with my brother in Mexico and Latin America,” Carlos Contreras said. “We know it’s a process, and we are working to build an organization that will be competitive for many years to come. Bringing in the young and talented Tim Andrews was definitely a great start.”

Added Enrique Contreras, who will serve as team president, “Competing on behalf of Hispanics within the NCWTS is a new challenge in my life and it is a great opportunity to share it with my family.”

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