Next year, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace will become the first black driver since Wendell Scott in 1971 to run the entire Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
As announced last month, 23 year-old Wallace will team with Richard Petty Motorsports in a collective quest to get Petty Blue back into Victory Lane. RACER spoke to him to find out how his preparations are ramping up.
Q: Last month you were on pins and needles as far as hoping something would come together for 2018. Was it ever touch and go as far as getting everything to fall into place with RPM?
BUBBA WALLACE: Well, it was a huge sigh of relief when it came together. We were back and forth and back and forth, and finally once we got that call that we were ready to go I was like, cool, I get to sleep tonight and hopefully sleep through the whole night and not have to think about what’s next for next year.
Q: Did you expect it to be such a big story? In the NASCAR media, in particular, you were front and center for an entire week.
BW: Yeah, I’ll be the first African-American Cup driver since 1971. That’s pretty big, and that’s going to speak volumes and carry a long way. I’m excited about that. Last week was great. It was a week of being on Cloud Nine and being able to talk about my experiences and what’s coming up, and now it’s here.
Q: Did you hear from any of the more traditional stick and ball media outlets who may have wanted to hear more about your story?
BW: I haven’t, actually. That’s something that we have to work on from our standpoint. We need to get our word across the whole sports world to really get people latched on.
Q: Are you already working with the guys in the RPM shop in anticipating what’s to come?
BW: There are still a lot of things from the team standpoint that we’re trying to figure out. We’re still trying to figure out what direction we are going to go on some things. We’re definitely in conversations about that and seeing what’s best to get the number 43 and Richard Petty back in winning ways. That’s been going on for a couple weeks, if not months, now. That’s probably the biggest thing, so I’ll continue to focus on that and also just focus on getting myself back into shape and making sure I’m ready 100 percent for when Daytona comes back around. But as far as the team and 2018, yeah, we’re continuing to have conversations with people every day to try and figure out what the next move is.
Q: Do you know when you’ll be able to get in the 43 car and begin putting laps in?
BW: I think that will be after the first of the year when January rolls around. They still have a couple of races to get through. I’m new to the Cup scene so I don’t know if there is any testing in December or what-not. We’ll find that out soon.
Q: And you’ll race upwards of 38 weekends during the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Are you looking forward to long, and perhaps, arduous, season?
BW: Oh yeah. I’m looking forward to it. I wish it started this weekend. That’s how much I’m ready to go. I’m going to get myself 100 percent in shape mentally, physically and emotionally and I’ll be ready to tackle it.