Darrell Wallace Jr. has caught a lot of eyes through his first three Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races, and Richard Petty Motorsports’ Drew Blickensderfer believes he knows why.
Blickensderfer, who’s been Wallace’s crew chief while he’s been filling in for Aric Almirola, claims the 23-year-old racer’s driving style is similar to that of Jimmie Johnson, according to Motorsport.com. As a result, he said getting this shot at the Cup really helped Wallace showcase what he’s capable of.
“Bubba is one of those guys that maybe needed to have more horsepower and less downforce to perform at his highest,” Blickensderfer told Motorsport.com. “We didn’t see Jimmie Johnson potential until he got to Cup.”
Wallace hasn’t notched a win in his 78 races driving Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 6 Ford Mustang in the Xfinity Series, but Blickensderfer has no doubts about his speed after working with him. He noted that Wallace’s first Cup race was at Pocono Raceway, which he says is his worst track, yet he qualified 16th.
“Maybe I just sucked in the Xfinity Series. I couldn’t pull one off. My best was second. But it’s been a different challenge finishing out these cars,” Wallace said, via Motorsport.com. “I think the biggest thing is you can make speed with these cars at the big tracks. In an Xfinity car, you really can’t make speed. Maybe that’s where I was struggling and I just didn’t know it.”
With Almirola’s seemingly imminent return, Saturday’s Quaker State 400 could be Wallace’s last start of the year, as his No. 6 team has suspended operations. Blickensderfer, though, reportedly said Wallace’s pace, combined with how well he works with the team, show he’s ready to compete at the top level of NASCAR.
Thumbnail photo via Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports Images