Darrell Wallace Jr. admits that each race brings a little bit more frustration about the No. 43’s performance, but he’s focused on “carrying a positive light.”
Wallace is 28th in points going into the Food City 500 (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, FS1). His average finish after seven races is 26th with a best finish of 17th two weeks ago at Martinsville Speedway. Last year, Wallace had three top-10 finishes with an overall average finish of 24.5. He finished 28th in the standings.
His second full season with Richard Petty Motorsports has largely been a struggle, and the the reason why is simple: Money. Wallace isn’t hiding from the fact that his team is behind in performance because they are behind on funds.
“I think the biggest thing is dollar signs. Over the years we have kind of tip-toed around that, but that’s enough of that,” Wallace said. “We’re behind on money. It’s all about being up front and being blunt. It’s coming down to a crucial time — we just have to start running better. I always sit there and talk to other people, and I’m like, why would new companies want to come in and sponsor the 43? You can play the race card all you want. You will get a lot of attention, sure. But, for me, I’m competitive and look at results, and new companies don’t understand that the more money you spend, the better you do. It is hard to get their heads wrapped around that.
“Not knocking the partners that we have now. We’re very thankful for every opportunity that comes our way — World Wide Technology jumping on for a majority of the season; Air Force is there, that’s nice. I keep saying we are doing a lot with a little.”
In addition to WWT and Air Force, the car was sponsored by Aftershokz at Daytona, McDonald’s Team Bacon at Atlanta, and PlanBSales.com in Fontana. Responding to a post on Twitter, STP said it would remain a season-long associate sponsor for the team, but “would not be on the hood” for races like Martinsville as it had been for many years.
Last year the Petty team pieced together sponsorships throughout the season, including a three-race deal with Click n’ Close. That company did not return for this season. When Wallace’s Chevrolet is wrapped in Medallion Bank or Petty’s Garage colors, it means the race package wasn’t sold as both companies are operated by RPM co-owners Andrew Murstein (Medallion) and Richard Petty (Petty’s Garage).
“We look at practice speeds and we’re bottom half of the 20’s. It doesn’t look good at all for sure — it drives me up a wall — but we have to look at who we are around, and we’re kind of around the cars we are racing with in the points,” Wallace continued. “So, will we ever have the speed of the big teams? Yeah, when we go to Talladega [and] Daytona, when we’re all equal. Other than that, we’ve just got to keep doing what we can.”
And keep remembering the words of his mother, Desiree, who often texts her son when she sees his body language and emotions on television.
“I go back to what my Mom always says: ‘Don’t give the media anything negative to talk about,’” Wallace explained. “So I keep putting a smile on my face no matter how pissed I am.”