Darrell Wallace Jr. was naturally enthused after his third-place finish at Indianapolis considering it was a performance he said was not supposed to happen. Meaning: Wallace and Richard Petty Motorsports are not supposed to be running with the big dogs like Stewart-Haas, Penske, and Gibbs.
But Wallace did — for much of Sunday afternoon. With a fast No. 43 Chevrolet, Wallace even overcame chaos on pit road early when a chain reaction accident resulted in some damage and he lost all of his hard-won track position, falling outside the top 25.
He later challenged former champions Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano on restarts. And he was in a position to maybe pull off an improbable win to steal a playoff spot.
To that, Wallace laughed and said, “It would have been awesome; it would have been great.”
Though not a win, Wallace still had a great day by the expectations of the Petty team. So much so that, for the first time since placing second in the 2018 Daytona 500, Wallace received a big bear hug from team owner Richard Petty.
“All we do is continue to climb up that Mt. Everest hill,” said Wallace.
“Out of a five-star field we’ve had four ever since Charlotte, and that last one would flash for a second and then go away, and we’d be running good and not have the finish we deserve. This one was that fifth star — flashing, solid from the time we unloaded ’til the time the checkered flag fell.
“If we can just have moments like that and weekends like that, we can start to put together runs and generate more funding and resources and get our cars better,” Wallace continued. “We’ll go back and debrief, see what we learned from it and see what we can do to get it back on track soon.”
Charlotte was where Wallace put on a determined performance in the Monster Energy Open to win the second stage and advance to the main. He finished fifth in the All-Star Race.
While Indianapolis is Wallace’s first top-10 finish of the season, it is the fourth of his career and second top five. Pleased after Saturday’s two practice sessions when he felt he had a 12th-place car, he tweeted he had never felt this good about a car since he began driving for RPM.
“Then we qualified 15th, and I was like, ‘All right.’ We got up to 10th or 11th, and we were riding for a little bit, and our balance was close,” he said. “If we had the perfect balance … I think we were pretty damn close to the perfect balance there at the end, it’s just we still don’t have enough speed in our cars to compete for the win like that.
“But all in all, hell of a day.
“Looking at the guys we race around every week, I don’t even see them on the pylon, so it’s a good. Good day for us. Win-win.”
And one more thing: “I meant to say it on TV,” said Wallace. “My mom told me yesterday, she’s like, ‘When you win, tell them haters to kiss them bricks.’ So, kiss my bricks.”