LONG POND, Pa. (AP) — Bubba and the King are sticking together.
Richard Petty Motorsports has signed rookie driver Darrell Wallace Jr. to a two-year contract extension through 2020. More commonly known by his childhood nickname "Bubba," Wallace was second in the Daytona 500 for the highest finish for a black driver in the race.
"We like a little bit of what he's doing so I think we're going to hire him again for next year," Petty said Saturday at Pocono Raceway.
Wallace has only one other top-10 finish in his first 20 races and hasn't finished better than 14th over his last 13 races driving the No. 43 Chevrolet for RPM. He has led laps this season at Bristol, Pocono and Talladega Superspeedway.
"This lets me kind of relax a little bit and really digest and focus on the race cars," Wallace said. "There's no need to go out and search. It's just a matter of making this team better."
The 24-year-old Wallace made his second-tier Xfinity debut in 2012 and made his first four Cup starts last year for RPM as a fill-in for an injured Aric Almirola. He won six races in the Trucks Series.
He became the first black driver since 1969 to start the Daytona 500 and is one of just a small number of black drivers to race in NASCAR's top series. Wendell Scott, who made the last start for a black driver in the Daytona 500, is the only one to win a Cup race — in 1963.
Wallace said the Daytona 500 raised expectations on his race team that he knew would be difficult to match in the first season with a new team, new manufacturer and some sponsorship struggles.
"For us to go out and finish second, yeah, it was a great day, but we knew going into (the next race), there was no way we were going to run second," Wallace said. "We had already scaled it back but the fans and I think some of the media had really pushed it out as, 'Oh, the next best thing. He just finished second, watch out.' Then we finish 20th and it's like, OK."
Petty crafted a Hall of Fame career in the No. 43 car and won a NASCAR record 200 races.
"Richard is the King for a reason and he wants to see his cars back in victory lane," Wallace said.
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