The morning after the news broke that Darrell Wallace Jr. would be driving the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports entry at Pocono Raceway, Wallace got a text from close friend Ryan Blaney.
The driver of the legendary No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford wanted to commemorate the occasion.
“It's funny, Blaney texted me this morning, actually woke me up this morning,” Wallace said during a conference call with reporters Tuesday. “He wants a picture this weekend. I was like, ‘OK.’ He was like, ‘We're driving the two most iconic cars in the sport this weekend. We definitely have to capitalize on that.’
“That's huge. That's awesome for me to get my first start driving the No. 43 for Richard Petty and everybody at RPM. Then the other side of it is the first African-American since 2006. That's a lot of history behind it.”
Yes, Wallace is driving the car that NASCAR’s “King” piloted to the lion’s share of his record 200 victories.
Yes, Wallace is the first African-American driver to compete in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series since Bill Lester ran two races for owner Bill Davis in 2006.
And, yes, when Wallace took the checkered flag in the October 2013 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Martinsville, he became the first black driver to win a national series event since NASCAR Hall of Famer Wendell Scott triumphed in the premier series at Jacksonville, Fla., in 1963.
Wallace knows the history. He got a call from Wendell Scott Jr. on Monday night, after the RPM announcement, and two days after Wallace led seven laps in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Dover and finished eighth.
“He was so pumped up,” Wallace said. “He said he was helping me drive the car this past weekend at Dover. He said that was our race, for sure. He was pumped up about this past weekend, obviously this opportunity. He kept it short and sweet.
“So that's huge when you still have that connection with the family, continue to carry on a legacy that their father laid.”