LONG POND, Pa. (June 10, 2017) – Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. made his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start this weekend when he filled in for the injured Aric Almirola at Pocono Raceway. During his first day in the No. 43 Smithfield Ford, he qualified 16th. Sunday, he started from the 16th position and tried to get into a rhythm early in the race.
By Lap 19, the team made their first green-flag pit stop. Tight in Turns One and Three, the Smithfield team changed four tires and made a chassis adjustment. Unfortunately, Wallace was caught speeding on pit road and had to come in for a drive through penalty. Still getting used to the digital dash since they use an analog dash in the XFINITY Series, the XFINITY regular once again sped on pit road. This time, he had to make a stop-and-go.
When he returned to the track, he held the 37th spot, one lap down, and Crew Chief Drew Blickensderfer reminded the rookie that there was a long race ahead of them. The changes on the last stop helped, but the Ford Fusion was still tight. Wallace raced up to the 31st spot before the end of the first stage. Blickensderfer saw that the splitter wasn’t on the ground, so he called for four tires and an adjustment to help the car’s handling. This adjustment did just that. Wallace restarted 33rd and raced into the 30th spot before making another green-flag pit stop.
Needing some help off of Turn Three, the team changed four tires and made a small chassis adjustment. NASCAR Officials called a caution on Lap 97 for the No. 48 and No. 1 cars. Wallace radioed that the car was a little edgy now but felt better. The red flag displayed for 23 minutes for clean up, and the field returned to green-flag racing on Lap 99. Wallace restarted 27th and held the spot one lap later for the conclusion of the second stage. Wallace received another speeding penalty during the pit stop at the break and restarted 29th at the tail end of the field. The team continued to fight for their lap back, but the cautions didn’t fall in their favor. Wallace finished 26th.
“I’m just so bummed out and frustrated with myself,” said Wallace. “I know my family is going to be hard on me after this not to be so hard on myself, but I’m competitive and I want to win races and I want to lead laps. Just wanted to have a good showing, and to speed four, five times, same segment, that was pretty tough to swallow, and then this race just going green the whole time. It just wasn’t our day. I didn’t have everything lined up, and thought I had the right mindset going into it. I told our spotter Joel to be a little conservative to start out with pit road, and we’ll creep up to it. I guess we were already there.”
“I’m so used to analog tachs and everything, and this digital stuff, I’ve got to figure out. I’ve just got to figure out what I’ve got to do better. But aside from that, I will cheer up, and thank everybody involved in this process. This was a wonderful day for me, a wonderful day for the sport. I wish we could have got a little bit better finish in our Smithfield Ford, but I’m just thankful for the opportunity. I’ve been dreaming about this since I was a little kid, being in the Cup Series, and now it’s here. I made a name for myself. I thought I ran a pretty decent race, just kind of running there by myself, passed a couple people, tried not to make anybody too mad, and hopefully earned a lot of respect from those guys out there. I definitely had a blast. At the same time I was a little frustrated. But we’ll build off of it. I’ll practice more with the dash and go debrief with the team, and we’ll just get better.”