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Darrell Wallace Jr. to drive No. 43 in place of injured Almirola

RELATED: Drivers of the 43 throughout history | Inside look: Petty Hall of Fame exhibit

Darrell Wallace Jr., who began his NASCAR racing career as part of the sanctioning body’s Drive for Diversity program, will fill in for an injured Aric Almirola in the iconic No. 43 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports.

Wallace, 23, will make his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut this weekend when the series travels to Pocono Raceway for Sunday’s Axalta Presents the Pocono 400 (3 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR).

According to the team, he will serve as the organization’s interim driver until Almirola’s return.

“Driving the famed 43 car is an unbelievable opportunity for any race car driver,” Wallace said. “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. 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.”

 

WATCH: See the wreck that injured Almirola

The Mobile, Alabama, native has 83 career starts in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, and a best finish of second, in 2016 at Dover International Speedway. He’s driven in the series for Roush Fenway Racing since 2015.

He is fourth in points following an eighth-place finish this past weekend, also at Dover, in the No. 6 Ford for RFR.

Wallace began his NASCAR career in 2010 competing with Rev Racing in the K&N Pro Series East as a member of the D4D program. He won six times in the series and made his XFINITY Series debut in 2012 for Joe Gibbs Racing as part of that organization’s driver development program. He made six starts with JGR through 2014, with a best finish of seventh.

While competing part time for JGR, Wallace raced full time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports in 2013-14.

He became the first African American since NASCAR Hall of Fame member Wendell Scott to win a race in one of NASCAR’s three national series when he won at Martinsville in 2013 in the Truck Series. The following year, he won four more times in the series — at Gateway, Eldora, Martinsville and Homestead.

Scott competed as an independent during the 1960s and early ’70s. He earned his only win in 1964 at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Florida. He was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2015.

Willy T. Ribbs made three Monster Energy Cup Series starts in 1986 and competed full-time in the Camping World Truck Series in 2001 for Bobby Hamilton Racing.

Bill Lester made 142 career Truck Series starts from 2000-07, as well as two Cup Series starts (2006) and one XFINITY Series start (1999).

Wallace is the second driver to fill in on an interim basis for RPM following the injury to Almirola last month at Kansas Speedway. Almirola suffered a fracture to the T5 vertebra when he was involved in a three-car crash during the Go Bowling 400. He is expected to be out eight to 12 weeks.

Regan Smith stepped in for Almirola at Charlotte in the Monster Energy Open, a qualifying race for the series’ annual All-Star Race, as well as the Coca-Cola 600. He finished fourth in the Open and 22nd in the 600.

This past weekend at Dover, Smith, again in the 43, was running 14th when a tire problem caused his car to shoot up the track and bounce off the wall to bring out a late caution. He finished 34th.