Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. is living proof that dreams really do come true.

The rising star is transitioning to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series as the rookie driver of the famed Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43. He is carrying the most iconic number in NASCAR history on his roof and doors for the man who won 200 races and seven championships in a career that spanned from 1958 to ’92.

A select few drivers have driven Petty’s No. 43 in Cup Series competition and Wallace is excited to be a part of that elite group.

“Yeah, that’s pretty special,” Wallace said. “When you have one of the most iconic numbers, one of the most iconic guys in the garage walking around, and he decides I’m the one that’s going to be driving his car, it’s pretty special.  Definitely gives you goose bumps, raises a couple hairs on the back of your neck. It’s special.”

Wallace’s 13-year journey through Bandoleros, Legend Cars, late models, the K&N Pro Series East, Camping World Truck Series, Xfinity Series and four events in the Monster Energy Cup Series serve as his platform to a full-time ride in NASCAR’s premier series. His role as relief driver for Richard Petty Motorsports for four events in 2017 opened a door with the team, which entered an alliance with Richard Childress Racing and relocated to Welcome, N.C., during the offseason.

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Wallace is enjoying his latest challenge following a year full of uncertainty.

“I’ll tell you, it’s different, walking through the RCR shop where they’re building our cars,” Wallace said. “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’m just so excited about the opportunity and so thankful, and I think I’ve put in my efforts and the time is now to go out and capitalize.”

[caption id="attachment_258369" align="alignleft" width="300"] Wendell Scott is the only African-American driver to win in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.[/caption]

Wallace is the first African-American driver to race full time in the Cup Series since 1971 when NASCAR Hall of Famer Wendell Scott operated his team out of Danville, Va. Wallace also follows part-time African-American competitors Randy Bethea (1975), Bill Lester (1998-2012), Willy T. Ribbs (1986) and Charlie Scott (1956) to the Cup Series. In addition, Elisa Bowie ran one premier series race in 1955 and George Wilshire made two starts in 1971.

Wallace is the second African-American driver to win in one of NASCAR’s three national touring series. Scott picked up his lone Cup Series victory on Dec. 1, 1963, in Jacksonville, Fla. Wallace won his first of five NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on Oct. 26, 2013. Wallace also owns six NASCAR K&N Pro Series East victories.

Wallace is honored to follow in his predecessor’s footsteps.

“Yeah, it’s big,” Wallace said. “There have been a lot of people come up through the ranks and try to carry on the legacy that Wendell Scott laid down for us. For me to step in that realm and take on that role, there’s a lot of pressure.

“We’re going to go out there and just continue to do what we do on and off the race track, that’s to represent the brand of myself and Richard Petty and his image the best way I can, continue to grow together,” Wallace added. “That’s how we’re going to accomplish that.”