An Unemployed Darrell Wallace Jr. Is What’s Wrong With NASCAR

Darrell Wallace Jr. is more than likely out of a ride as the NASCAR circuit rolls on to New Hampshire next weekend. Aric Almirola’s replacement lost his Xfinity ride following the Pocono race last month due to “lack of sponsorship.” Now with Almirola likely to return this weekend barring no setbacks during his test Tuesday one of NASCAR’s bright young stars is going to be left on the sideline.

NASCAR has turned into a sport built on how much money can you bring rather than how much talent do you have. In his fourth Cup start Saturday night in Kentucky Bubba Wallace brought The King’s #43 home in 11th place. He finished 11th in an RPM car in a race that saw very little attrition among perennial front runners. That’s a hell of an accomplishment. For comparison Almirola’s best Kentucky finish in the #43 is 12th in 2015. A hell of a run and the best finish on a 1.5 mile track for the #43 since Darlington 2015.

Yet this upcoming weekend Wallace will be watching from the sidelines. Watching guys with far less talent race because they have money. Watching guys with no business in the sport but the owner is happy with them. Watching nepotism turn laps while he is stuck on the side wondering what in the hell he has to do to get a ride.

Wallace without a ride exemplifies what is wrong with NASCAR. Not only from a money v. talent stand point but from a lack of diversity stand point. NASCAR shouldn’t use Wallace as their token black guy and I’d bet money Darrell wouldn’t want that either. He’d rather his talent speak for him than his skin color. But for a sport that has strived to build their diversity program to allow a damn good racer go by the wayside is preposterous. Letting any talent sit out races while pay drivers fill spots is asinine. It’s business but it still dilutes a product that needs as much help as it can get.

Here we have an incredibly marketable guy with a hell of a personality who plugs his sponsors and answers all the questions. A guy who is phenomenal with the fans and doesn’t take anything for granted. On top of that he’s a wheelman. Given the right opportunity and some decent equipment he can win. We saw him do that at KBM in the truck series, he straight up out ran Kyle Busch. None of his other drivers outside Erik Jones have been able to out duel him. So the kid can drive. His time at Roush was exactly what it should have been given the status of Roush equipment. Then with 4 Cup starts under his belt he’s knocking on a Top 10 in RPM equipment, not many people can do that/have done that.

Why Isn’t He Getting A Better Shot?

It’s so hard to say. Obviously teams want drivers to bring more and more money to fun the cars. Darrell isn’t one of those guys. Neither were Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney and Erik Jones so there is hope for him still. Roush Fenway Racing has historically struggled to find sponsors, especially for their Xfinity teams. So this isn’t indicative of his talent level.

Wallace should be an easy sell to sponsors. Maybe he just needs a proper sales and marketing team behind him to show a sponsor how valuable he truly is. Darrell could appeal to fans and people outside of the sport, all of these young guys can. Yet, NASCAR and their marketing team do a terrible job showing off these young guys.

Unfortunately some fans are rather unpleasant. NASCAR has a fair amount of racist fans, there’s no hiding that. At Kentucky this weekend I counted over 30 rebel flags flying. That has to be weird for african-american’s that come to the track. It’s not an inclusive place and maybe that’s why Wallace has been left out. Or maybe it’s a little of everything just mixed into one.

What everyone can agree on though is this kid deserves a shot in competitive equipment. Whether that’s Xfinity or Cup, he has earned a shot to prove what he can do. Hopefully he won’t be sidelined for too long either. His name was made for NASCAR. Darrell Wallace, Rusty Wallace, and Dale Jr all wrapped into one.

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