For one night, Darrell Wallace Jr. had everything go right.
“Tons of fun tonight,” Wallace said after finishing fifth in the All-Star Race. “I honestly haven’t had this much fun in a long time. I guess dating back to Bristol spring race last year. Since then it’s been a struggle, but just a big night for us. Big night of momentum. When you don’t have anything on the line, I guess it means something different.”
The Richard Petty Motorsports driver admitted Saturday afternoon – after winning Stage 2 of the Monster Energy Open – that he’s felt like a failure for quite a while. The No. 43 team has struggled mightily this season with Wallace 29th in the standings.
He has been frank about the team needing more money to compete effectively, and that he’s been personally struggling with it all. In a TV interview at Charlotte after the Open race, he repeatedly said, “It’s been tough.”
But at Charlotte, Wallace wasn’t going to be denied. Fighting hard with Kyle Larson at the end of Stage 1 in the Open, Wallace had cleared Larson off the final corner but left the bottom open for William Byron to make a charge and nip him at the finish line. The second stage was also a repeat with Wallace finding himself in the same position, only this time he closed the deal to advance into the All-Star Race for the first time.
“Ever since I was a kid they said I drive better pissed off, so I was pissed off,” Wallace said. “I was really pissed off after that — I let that one go and I thought that was it. and then the caution came back out again, same scenario, and I was like, ‘All right, not giving it up this time,’ so you go to do what you got to do.”
In the main show, Wallace lined up eighth for the final restart having quietly hung around through the first three stages and staying out of trouble. He climbed to as high as fourth, but his RPM Chevy was no match for the cars from Ganassi, Gibbs, and Stewart-Haas.
“When I held it wide open on that second lap of that last restart, and those guys pulled away, I was like, ‘Yep, we’re done,’” Wallace said. “We ended up fifth. It’s just a different class, a different animal when you get up there.
“We’re going to have a hell of a time tonight, celebrate, and come back next week.”