Darrell ‘’Bubba’’ Wallace Jr. is making history again.
He is set to become the first African-American driver to race at NASCAR’s top level since 2006, starting this weekend at Pocono Raceway.
Wallace will fill in for the injured Aric Almirola in the No. 43 Ford, according to a Richard Petty Motor sports team release, giving Wallace his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start.
"Driving the famed 43 car is an unbelievable opportunity for any race car driver," Wallace, a graduate of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program, said via release. "…I'm incredibly grateful that Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports and Smithfield have the confidence in me to help fill the seat until Aric fully recovers, which is the most important piece of this. … I am ready to represent this organization, help the 43 team get the best results possible and prove that I belong at this level."
Wallace, 23, has been competing on the lower-tier NASCAR Xfinity and Truck series for the past five years. He scored his first of five wins in the Camping World Truck Series in October 2013, at Martinsville Speedway, becoming just the second African-American driver to win a NASCAR national level race. Wendell Scott, who was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2015, was the first, earning a Cup Series victory on December 1, 1963.
Wallace is only the fourth African-American driver to race one of NASCAR’s top national series. Scott raced from 1961-73 in the Cup Series, Willy T. Ribbs compted in three Cup races in 1986 and Bill Lester raced sporadically from 1999 until 2007 at all three national levels.
Wallace currently drives for Roush Fenway Racing in the Xfinity Series, but the team announced that he will transition from its Xfinity car to RPM. Without Wallace, Roush Fenway will suspend the No. 6 Xfinity team at Pocono. The team and Wallace will evaluate opportunities for him to run other Xfinity races this season.
Almirola broke his back in a crash at Kansas Speedway on May 13. When speaking to the media the following Friday, he said doctors told him to expect to miss eight to 12 weeks.
"We're excited to have Bubba in the No. 43 car and to give him his first Monster Energy Series start," said Brian Moffitt, CEO Richard Petty Motorsports, via release. "He has shown success in NASCAR's national series and we look forward to him continuing to display his abilities in our car. We're fortunate to have someone with Bubba's potential in the Ford Performance family who can step in for us until Aric is healed."
Wallace will have practice sessions Friday and qualifying to work with the No.43 Ford team before the Pocono 400 on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1).
Contributing: Associated Press
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