Charlotte, N.C. (AP) – Darrell Wallace Jr. will become the first black full-time driver at NASCAR’s top level since 1971 when he takes over Richard Petty’s iconic ride next season.
The 24-year-old Wallace, more commonly referred to by his nickname of “Bubba,” became the first black driver to race at NASCAR’s top level since 2006 when he replaced an injured Aric Almirola earlier this year. At the time, Petty recalled, he wasn’t sure he wanted Wallace as a replacement.
“We went round and round when Aric got hurt about who we was going to put in the car,” Petty said Wednesday. “Bubba had been running some races and stuff. He was bad about wrecking, I thought, so we had to have a little talk with him, say, ‘You know, just go out and finish the races and stuff.'”
Wallace, an Alabama native and graduate of NASCAR’s diversity program, has tried not to make race part of his climb through the ranks.
He won the Truck Series race at Martinsville in 2013 to become the first black driver to win at a national NASCAR series event since Wendell Scott in 1963. NASCAR says there have been at least seven black drivers in its series previous to Wallace, including Scott, who raced from 1961-73 in Cup, Willy T. Ribbs, who did three Cup races in 1986, and Bill Lester, who raced sporadically from 1999 until 2007 at all three national levels.