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Hanging with the King: Richard Petty teaches Darrell Wallace Jr. life’s lessons

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Axalta presents the Pocono 400 - Practice

LONG POND, PA - JUNE 09: NASCAR Hall of Famer and team owner Richard Petty speaks with Darrell Wallace Jr., driver of the #43 Smithfield Ford, in the garage area during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Axalta presents the Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 9, 2017 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

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A month into his first full season driving for Richard Petty Motorsports, Darrell Wallace Jr. still is struck by who his boss is.

“I’m still in shock of racing for The King, honestly,’’ Wallace said Friday at Auto Club Speedway. “Being around him and in his presence is unreal. Just to see how he interacts with the fans, how he interacts with just people and family it’s the coolest thing ever.’’

Wallace got some time with Petty this past week at Petty’s place near the Teton Mountains in Wyoming. He joined Petty and others for a few days or rest, relaxation and snowmobiling.

“I had never been to Wyoming, checked that off the list,’’ Wallace said. “Landed in Idaho, so I checked that off the list, so it’s been good. Ever since Daytona all the way up to that was just crazy madness and now I’ve been able to kind of relax and stay focused on what we need to do without any extra cameras or attention or anything.”

Just as memorable was a car drive Wallace and Petty had together the night before the Daytona 500.
“That was a 20-minute conversation about life and about racing,” Wallace said. “The whole time I was like ‘this is badass, this is cool.’ ”

Asked what type of life lessons he’s learned from Petty, Wallace said:

“You can overcome a lot of things if you put your mind to it and you have the will to do it, but you can never overcome fate. That is the biggest thing that has stuck out to me. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. If it’s not then, move on.”

That’s the approach Wallace has taken from week to week in his rookie Cup season. After finishing second in the Daytona 500, he has not placed in the top 20 since.

“It’s a hell of a ride right now despite the finishes that we’ve had, I’m still keeping a positive mindset looking forward to each and every race because it’s a reset for me,’’ Wallace said. “Each and every track there is no need for me to hang my head over the last finish because I don’t know what the hell is next until we get to Pocono, Kentucky, Michigan and Daytona.”

Wallace said “Atlanta was bad luck,’’ noting some mechanical issues that slowed them. At Las Vegas, he said “we missed it’’ on the setup. Phoenix he felt much better about. Of those three tracks, though, his best finish (21st) came at Las Vegas.

Even with those results, Wallace said the Richard Childress Racing alliance has helped the team this season.

“We are all sharing notes and trying to figure out how we can be the best organization out there and get our cars better,’’ Wallace said. “Some races the No. 3 (Austin Dillon) and the No. 31 (Ryan Newman) is what we are leaning on because we are still trying to figure things out. But, it’s been a great alliance so far. They have been very open to wanting to help us out.’’

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