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LONG POND, Pa. — Standing on pit road alongside Richard Petty Motorsports’ famous No. 43 Ford, Darrell Wallace Jr. was simultaneously grateful to have made his first start in NASCAR’s big leagues and his own worst critic about his 26th-place performance.
In fact, while leaning against his car to discuss his debut with reporters, Wallace closed his eyes, fainted and was helped to a sitting position before quickly drinking some water and coming around again.
As a precaution, track paramedics tried to transport him to the track medical center before his scheduled time with assembled media. But Wallace, 23, literally jumped off the medical golf cart as it drove past Pocono Raceway’s Victory Lane. Then, he ran into the crowd to congratulate his friend, 23-year-old driver Ryan Blaney, who was celebrating his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win.
By the time Wallace arrived to speak to the media 20 minutes later, he seemed to have recovered from the heat and was more aggravated with a tough learning curve on track than worried about health issues.
He was, however, extremely proud to have become the first African-American driver to compete in NASCAR’s big leagues in more than a decade.
“I’m very hard on myself and I’m super pissed off at myself, and I’m just so mad I just pass out; competitive,” Wallace said smiling. “It’s a heck of a way to start my weekend and heck of a way to end my weekend — passing out.
“I’m just so bummed out and frustrated with myself. I know my family is going to be hard on me after this not to be so hard on myself, but I’m competitive and I want to win races and I want to lead laps.”
However, Wallace conceded the big picture is much brighter than a tough first day learning curve.
“Aside from that, I will cheer up and thank everybody involved in this process,” Wallace acknowledged. “This was a wonderful day for me, a wonderful day for the sport. I wish we could have got a little bit better finish in our Smithfield Ford, but I’m just thankful for the opportunity. I’ve been dreaming about this since I was a little kid, being in the Cup Series, and now it’s here, and I made a name for myself.
“I thought I ran a pretty decent race, just kind of running there by myself, passed a couple people, tried not to make anybody too mad, and hopefully earned a lot of respect from those guys out there. I definitely had a blast.”