Darrell Wallace Jr.’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career is being put on hold, but only for a week.
After substituting for the injured Aric Almirola in the No. 43 in the last two Cup races, Wallace will sit out Sunday’s Toyota – Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway, Richard Petty Motorsports announced Monday, via NBC Sports. He’ll return the following weekend for the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
Road racer Billy Johnson, who competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, will fill in for Wallace. Considering that Sonoma is a road course, the move makes sense for RPM.
“It’s been important for us to put ourselves in the most competitive spot while Aric is recovering,” RPM CEO Brian Moffitt said, via NBC Sports. “We’ve worked with Ford and Smithfield to put the best driver available in the car each week.
“Both Regan (Smith) and Bubba (Wallace) have done a great job for us the last five weeks. We feel that Billy’s experience on a road course will help us be competitive this weekend.”
Although Johnson has just five career Xfinity Series starts, and will be making his Cup debut in Sonoma, the team has high expectations. The 30-year-old has helped more than 20 Ford drivers in the last six years, Almirola included, hone their race craft on road courses.
“It is going to be awesome. It will be my first NASCAR Cup race and to debut in the (No. 43) car, one of the most iconic numbers to ever race in NASCAR, is a huge honor,” said Johnson in a statement from RPM, via NBC Sports.
“Richard Petty Motorsports is a great organization. To have the chance to make my Cup debut for the King is surreal, and I appreciate them putting me in the car.”
Almirola, who’s been out since being involved in a horrific crash at Kansas Speedway on May 13, says he hopes to return for the July race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Thumbnail photo via Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY Sports Images