Filling in for the injured No. 43 driver Aric Almirola, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. will get his debut in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series this weekend at Pocono Raceway.
Almirola was involved in a high speed crash at Kansas Speedway, along with Danica Patrick and Joey Logano. Patrick and Logano walked away, but Almirola had to be cut out of his car complaining of back injuries, later diagnosed as a compression fracture to his T5 vertebra.
Bubba Wallace Cup Series 2017
Wallace said driving the famous No. 43 car was an unbelievable opportunity for himself or any driver.
“With all that Richard Petty has contributed to the sport, I’m honored to start my first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event with this team,” Wallace said.
“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. Moving up to the Monster Energy Series is a tremendous challenge, but I am ready to represent this organization, help the 43 team get the best results possible and prove that I belong at this level.”
Almirola is expected to be out of the car for anywhere between eight and 12 weeks. A best case scenario would have him back racing at the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway, but he’s more likely to be back around the last weekend in July for the second Pocono Raceway.
Looking at the schedule though, on the conservative side, the weekend following Pocono Raceway is the Watkins Glen road course. If Almirola is borderline coming to the end of July, RPM and Almirola may opt to get him back in the car the weekend following Watkins Glen — the Michigan International Speedway’s Pure Michigan 400.
Xfinity No. 6 Team Implications
Wallace’s substitution in the No. 43 has also meant the Roush Fenway Xfinity Series No. 6 that Wallace has driven part time will be spinning down. While the team is currently in fourth place, they have struggled to get sponsorship. RFR has said they will continue to explore dates and sponsorship for Wallace to run in the Xfinity Series, but it in no way sounds like a constant or guaranteed thing for Wallace or the rest of the team.
In past years, RFR in general has struggled to find speed and success, though in 2017 the remaining cars have run slightly better and No. 17 driver Ricky Stenhouse celebrated his first Cup win at the 2017 running of the Geico 500 at Talladega.
RFR’s Cup teams are down from three full-time entries in 2016 to just two in 2017 — Stenhouse and the No. 6 driven by Trevor Bayne. In 2016, RFR also ran the No. 16 driven by Greg Biffle.
With RFR down to two cars, both with young drivers, Wallace’s substitution seat time in the No. 43 marks his best shot to audition for a ride in 2018 and beyond. Being able to adjust to the Cup series quickly and produce good results for the RPM team could produce the visibility for him to continue in the series next year.
Wallace has five years of experience in the NASCAR Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series. He has a total of five wins, 20 top fives, 60 top 10s and five pole awards.
Jayski.com – Bubba Wallace to make Cup debut at Pocono
Richard Petty Motorsports Bubba Wallace to Drive Iconic No. 43 Ford While Almirola Recovers from Injury