Darrell Wallace Jr. remains a free agent.
The 23-year-old driver was last seen guiding the No. 43 Ford to an 11th-place finish at Kentucky Speedway, where his tenure as a fill-in driver for Aric Almirola in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series officially ended. As the summer winds down, Wallace is following the action from his couch, just like the rest of us, and has yet to gain any insight on where he might race next year.
Wallace’s representatives at Fuel Sports Management Group are working to keep him front-of-mind for any potential employers and sponsors, however, so it appears likely he’ll have a ride in 2018. With that in mind, we broke down a few potential landing spots for the popular — but currently unemployed — NASCAR driver.
Richard Petty Motorsports
It’s well known that RPM — not to mention “The King” himself — came away from their four-race relationship highly impressed with Wallace as a driver and a teammate. Still, that probably won’t be enough to unseat Almirola in the No. 43. RPM does have another car in its stable, a No. 44 last raced in Cup by Brian Scott in 2016, and the team reportedly is seeking sponsorship to put Wallace in a full-time ride.
Wood Brothers Racing
Ryan Blaney might have outgrown the team from Stuart, Va. Despite being one of the iconic cars in the sport, the No. 21 in recent years has become something of a developmental stop-over for younger drivers looking to race their ways onto larger teams, and Blaney’s victory at Pocono Raceway this year may have convinced Team Penske to welcome him in. Paul Menard’s name has been floated as a replacement if Blaney bolts, but parent manufacturer Ford can’t go wrong with a personality like Wallace piloting its flag-bearer machine.
For a team that has put two of its four cars in victory lane this year, there’s a lot of uncertainty at SHR. Danica Patrick’s sponsorship and competitiveness issues are nothing new, and Kevin Harvick fans can’t stop clamoring to get “Happy” back in a Chevrolet. If the No. 10 comes open, expect a rush to fill the seat with a driver who can offset some of Patrick’s marketability while also improving its finishing position. Again, Wallace’s relationship with Ford could play a role here.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. hasn’t even retired from full-time racing yet, but the No. 88 is already filled. The announcement that Alex Bowman will take over Earnhardt’s ride — and, more importantly, his Nationwide and Axalta sponsorships — eliminated one route onto NASCAR’s premier Chevy team. But not even Kasey Kahne’s win in the Brickyard 400 on Sunday could silence murmurings that the No. 5 could have a vacancy at year’s end. The bad news for Wallace is that several free-agent drivers, headlined by Matt Kenseth, would vie for that spot, and there have been no rumors tying Wallace to Hendrick Motorsports.
Germain Racing/JTG Daugherty Racing/Furniture Row Racing/Other
No offseason goes by without significant driver juggling, particularly with teams outside the mainstream. Ty Dillon has impressed as a rookie with Germain, but if his grandfather Richard Childress decides to bring him into the family shop, a spot in the No. 13 could become available. Meanwhile, JTG is currently leasing a charter from Roush Fenway Racing to field Chris Buescher, another driver who RFR developed but eventually had no room for.
Furniture Row’s No. 77 is soon to be vacated by Erik Jones, who will head to Joe Gibbs Racing, but nothing has tied Wallace to the Denver-based group — or any of these teams, for that matter — yet. For now, Wallace just has to hope an opportunity opens up, maybe even one nobody has so far considered.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images