Darrell Wallace Jr. answered questions about his move from Roush Fenway and Richard Petty Motorsports Fords to a Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet. The team is now operating from a shop on the Richard Childress Racing campus using ECR engines. The Charlotte Motor Speedway Media participants peppered Wallace with questions.
Q. What about 2018, are you excited?
BUBBA WALLACE: I’m beyond excited. I might not show it, but man, this is it. We’re here. We’re at the Cup level. I’m one of the Cup guys walking around today on media day. I’m not an XFINITY guy, like oh, where’s such‑and‑such, he’s in the Cup Series. I’m there now, so it’s good. I’m ready to go. We’ve got a lot of stuff that has obviously changed over the off‑season, switching over to Chevrolet, the new Camaro ZL1 is awesome looking, looks great, especially with our colors on there, that Petty blue touch to it. Moving up camp to RCR, being on campus with them, so I’m adjusting to it all, and it’s all coming together pretty good.
Q. In 2017 you had an opportunity to run some races; talk about your comfort and how you see your responsibility?
BUBBA WALLACE: Yeah, going into those four races last year, it was like, okay, this isn’t my car, this isn’t my ride, no need to throw that extra little bit out there. Let’s just get through, and we ended up having some of the best races. We were on the cusp of fighting for a top 10 there at Kentucky. Just got edged out by my good friend Blaney there, so that was ‑‑ it was good to learn in that whole process. I just wish there was that one more that year to see what we could have done at Loudon. Coming back into this year, it’s been so nice to walk into the shop and be like, hey, man, good to see you again. No restarting over. Maybe just learning names of the people that I didn’t meet from behind the scenes, front office people, parts room, stuff like that. That’s a new process for me. It’s one of those deals like, okay, we’ve got a good thing going here, so I’m excited about that. We’re ready to get to Vegas is our first on‑track test coming up here in two weeks, and then Daytona.
Q. Aric Almirola was asked yesterday, any advice for Bubba taking over the ride; he said, “Just don’t make the King mad.”
BUBBA WALLACE: No, it’s funny that Aric wants to give advice. I still have the text he sent me before my debut, which wasn’t advice. But no, I haven’t seen that side yet of the King. Working with the King is special like I’ve said over in TV, I’ve worked with a lot of cool bosses and owners, and there’s no one like Richard Petty. I mean, he has just this aura around him. When he walks in the room, it’s like, that’s Richard Petty right there, and you still get star struck. I don’t care if I’ve been around him for three days doing production shoots, I’m still like, here we go, what’s he going to say today. I’m enjoying it. He wants to see the 43 back to its winning ways. He wants it to be a more competitive car, and at the same time, we all know realistically that it’s going to take a little bit. It’s not going to happen overnight with the things we’ve got going on, like I said, switching over everything, we’ve got some pieces of the puzzle that ‑‑ how are we going to be. That’s how I’m going into it; how are we going to run it once we get to Atlanta and Phoenix, what’s our package going to be like.
I think Vegas will give a little bit of somewhat direction that we need, and Daytona is Daytona, and then we can go into the season and see what we’ve got.
BUBBA WALLACE: Yeah, I’ll tell you, it’s different, walking through the RCR shop where they’re building our cars, and a couple of RCR employees were pushing a car around, just bare skin, body on it, and on the back glass it had a “Wallace,” and I’m like, that’s cool. That’s mine right there. I got my crew chief to send a picture over yesterday of my name on the door now, so it’s the real deal. It’s here. We’ve got a couple weeks out before we’re actually on track, but it feels like Daytona is tomorrow, Vegas is tomorrow. I’m just so excited about the opportunity and so thankful, and I think I’ve put in my efforts and the time is now, and try to go out and capitalize.
Q. Any expectations performance‑wise in 2018?
BUBBA WALLACE: No. I mean, this team knows how to win. They’ve done it before. I want to win. I lost track of how to do that over the last years until I went to Michigan in the truck, and I was like, all right, I’ve still got it a little bit.
But I don’t think there’s any unrealistic goals. Our realistic goal is to win a championship. I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t say that. And so I know what it takes to ‑‑ I have an idea of what it takes to win a championship, and we have to capitalize and minimize mistakes and capitalize on our good days and try to get the most out of that.
We’ll see what happens, man. We’re just along for the ride. I’ve learned a lot from those four starts that I’ve had, to not let the emotions get too high, and just take everything lap by lap.
Q. How do you balance your expectations but also trying to be Bubba and that aura of Richard Petty?
BUBBA WALLACE: Yeah, it’s a fine line you have to walk a little bit, but you look back in time, things are so much different from when they were racing to how the schedule is now. Those guys were running 60 races a year, so that’s a little bit different, so I for sure believe that that 200 number will never be reached, and that’s something special that he’ll always have with him. But for me to share a little bit of his history and his past and all of his accomplishments, you know, in my rookie season, it’s like, this is like, who would have ever thought this story would happen. I’m just looking at it as don’t mess up, don’t be a hero like he told me before climbing in the car at Pocono. There’s no need to be a hero, just go out there and do what I can do.
Q. How well established is the new shop, and are you spending a lot of time there?
BUBBA WALLACE: I’ll tell you, we’re turning in a lot more gas receipts. A lot farther drive. But no, we’re coming together. Right before the holidays, we were moved in. We had stuff in the shop. It was here, there, everywhere. Come back after the new year and stuff was organized. We just started getting cars on the floor to be able to assemble and build last week, two weeks ago, so it’s all coming together in a timely manner. But we also know that it’s also crunch time, and we have to really get moving.
Q. What’s the thing that stands out the most about Michigan that day?
BUBBA WALLACE: Yeah, I’m always going back and watching footage from that race or from a lot of races, even the ones I haven’t won, just races that we ran good at. It’s like, wow, we did that. We were there on that day, and looking back, it’s like, holy cow, that’s five years ago. It’s been a long journey. It’s been a tough road, tough hill to climb. But it’s all part of it. It shapes who you are.
That day will always be one that sticks out the most, just getting that first truck win, getting established in the sport, getting that grandfather clock. I’ve just looked back, and I just can’t wait to go to Martinsville again.
Q. What was your reaction to Kyle Busch’s comments yesterday about the marketing of young drivers?
BUBBA WALLACE: You’ve got video of this? That was so dumb. So stupid. I know Kyle, and I’ve raced with him, and I know how he is. I don’t care ‑‑ it’s just like ‑‑ I don’t know how old he is, 30 something, right? 32? Damn, he’s that old? Getting up there, bud. He was in the same kind of spot we were. I mean, they had, what, the Gillette Young Guns back then. He’s still got the baby face now. Not sure what he’s trying to say, but he had kind of some of the same treatment we’re going through, and I will say when certain drivers ‑‑ you guys can ‑‑ if I ever get to this level, pinch me and try to bring me back home, but when they get to this certain level, they stop doing stuff. We get requests all the time, some stuff we turn down, some stuff it’s like, okay, how does this help me, does it help, good, let’s do it. It’s kind of pulling teeth when you get well‑established in the Cup Series, and a lot of us are like that. It’s one of those things where I look at how is it going to promote my brand, promote the sport, promote the youth movement, and if I’m promoting the sport, that means I’m promoting everybody in this room, right? We’re all part of the sport together. So it’s actually like you’re welcome for doing the dirty work. And I wouldn’t really call it dirty work because some of it’s fun. We get to go to LA and hang out and be on Nickelodeon and doing all this stuff, and we like doing that. I don’t have the M&M’s sponsor to carry me full‑time. I have 13 races, so I have to put myself out there. I have to sell myself. And if NASCAR is going to do that and I don’t have to pay for it, hell yeah, sign me up. There’s my take.
BUBBA WALLACE: See him getting slammed? I would have loved to have seen that, but Truex got that.
Q. The off‑season, do you want to rest? What’s the balance? Do you want to stay at home, play video games?
BUBBA WALLACE: It’s tough. I’ll tell you, I’ve been busy ‑‑ January 4th is when off‑season for me was over with, and it’s been nonstop ever since. And it’s been okay. I’ll get some days where I’m stressed out to the max, and I’m probably a jerk and don’t want to do anything, but then I sit back and reality kicks in, and it’s like, dude, you could be a lot worse. Your video games will come later ‑‑ I sound like my mom right now, it’s weird. Video games will get there when you get home. But it’s like, okay, I’ve got a little bit of time to do this, go back to sleep, and it’s like, oh, we’ve got to be up at 7:30 in the morning to do this all over again. It’s like, geez, it’s one of those things I was used to, and then once you get everything pulled away from you and you’re on the sidelines, you lose track of being in a routine, doing all that stuff over and over again. It’s like, yeah, this is cool, but as soon as you stop for months at a time, you lose track.
It’s something that it’s good to get back in that routine, good to get back going. Those early alarms are getting up, and it’s not getting old anymore. It’s starting to become second nature. I still cuss a lot when the 7:30 alarm goes off, but whatever, I do that every day. But it’s good to get the juices flowing, especially for this rookie year. I mean, there’s a lot on the line for it.
BUBBA WALLACE: Yeah, he was blown away by a lot of things in the race shop. He jumped on the simulator to go racing Daytona, and he spent about five, six laps, which he thought he had run 50 by that time, and he set a time, and in my mind, I’m like, all right, I’ll blow this out of the water in one lap. It took me two laps to beat his time, and I was only barely a tenth faster than him, like man, that’s pretty good. Then we went to Martinsville, and I kind of had him by two seconds. But that’s part of it.
Q. Is it neat when you see guys in other sports (indiscernible)?
BUBBA WALLACE: Absolutely. I mean, there’s ‑‑ I don’t know their schedule, but I know what they go through. It looks like what they go through is very hectic, being on the road training every day, in the gym, shooting around or on the fields throwing passes, catching passes, tackling people, to have a little bit of time to come out and see what our world is like is pretty neat.
Q. For fans looking for a driver, what would be your sales pitch?
BUBBA WALLACE: That deal I just talked about, Kyle Busch. That should sell them right there, right? I love Kyle to death, but damn, dude, come on. For me, I’m just different, man. We’re sitting up here, and this is a big moment, and I just like cutting up and having fun with you guys, but also trying to get the message out there and the points I need to say in the right way. Talking about Richard Petty, talking about our new sponsors. Click n’ Close, you never seen them on a race car before, never seen them in the sport, and they’re on my car for my rookie season, so I can’t thank them enough, and our Camaro ZL1 looks great with those colors on there, so we’re excited to hit the track. But aside from that, you know, hell yeah, it’s race season again. I’m in a car. I’m driving again. I’m going out there to put it all on the line, and I don’t take to take any flak from any drivers. I know you have to earn the respect to get the respect, but it’ll be a fun process to see how that works out. I mean, sorry in advance if I piss you off, but I’m trying to win a race, too.
Q. I think you mentioned the number, 13 races you said earlier; is sponsorship still a concern? The King pretty much seems committed to running the whole season. Is there any concern?
BUBBA WALLACE: No, we’re running the full season. I know that for sure. That was one of the selling points of signing that contract to make sure we’re running the full season. We don’t know about the other races who’s going to be on the car. Some races might see my pretty face on the hood of that thing. Hopefully, they don’t charge me. But it’s a tough process, tough sport. The economy has changed so much over the last couple years, and it’s hard to get that multimillion-dollar sponsorship. I’m trying to do everything under the sun to land that, whether it’s going to the meetings, making the phone calls, going out to LA, doing fun stuff like Nickelodeon and creating those new relationships and partnerships and becoming brand ambassadors of certain outlets. I’m trying to do all that to sell myself.
Q. Earlier you mentioned a text message from Aric. Could you elaborate on that?
BUBBA WALLACE: We’ll save that for a later date.
Q. You just talked about all the fun stuff you’ve got to do. What’s been the most fun thing away from the track?
BUBBA WALLACE: The most fun we had, we went on a cruise, Blaney and I, Amanda, my girlfriend. We went on a cruise with a couple of our other friends. There was like eight of us, nine of us. His sisters went. I think there was nine. We had a blast there. But ever since then, it was Christmas, and then it was New Year, and then it’s been busy ever since. It was a fun off‑season. It was short. I knew once this January rolled around it was a little bit different. Preseason doesn’t really start for me until this day, but with all the production days and all that stuff, it started a little bit earlier, so it was good to get back in the flow of things.
Q. Is performance going to be crucial in finding sponsors?
BUBBA WALLACE: Oh, for sure. We’re out there. It’s not a tryout, but we’re trying to sell ourselves, too. RPM had this image painted about them for the last couple years of just a mid‑pack car, and they’ve gotten their wins at superspeedways and stuff, and they’ve shown potential at certain races last year that it was good to see. It was good to look at, okay, man, they ran really good at Phoenix, had some good races at other places, and you text Drew, and it’s like, all right, cool, let’s build off that. So we got a lot of good stuff to work with. Drew feels like with what they were lacking last year versus what we have this year from equipment‑wise to just data sharing and everything, we’ll be a lot better.
Q. When you were on the sidelines, did you ever have serious thoughts that your NASCAR racing career might not continue, and when you found out that this opportunity was going to be presented, did it in any way kind of reinforce or show you how much you really wanted to do this?
BUBBA WALLACE: Yeah, that was a stressful time. I’ve been stressed out before, but nothing like that. Not sleeping, not eating, not being my normal self, just because it was always what in the heck am I going to do. I didn’t know ‑‑ I had no idea what I was going to do. I was like, I hated school. I didn’t want to go back. But I didn’t go to college, so I’d have to go back. It was a year of uncertainty. Spell that out, change 2017 to uncertainty for me because that’s what it was, just ‑‑ I did not know what was going to happen. So going through those races and trying to balance that, I don’t know how in the hell I did it. A balance of no ride to one ride here and there, win Michigan, run really well at Chicago, and be like, okay, now you have a ride for 2018. I never would have thought it. It’s just what you go through in life. Life is tough, a tough world, and it’ll chew you up and spit you out in heartbeat, and you have to be ready for it, and I wasn’t ready for it at the time, but if this ever happens again, then I’ll try not to get as stressed, but I’ll just have to go out and win another race, I guess.