Tha Sports Junkies 101

Can a First-Timer Get It Done In The Desert?

Photo by NASCAR Media


This weekend, NASCAR rolls into Phoenix, Arizona. The second stop on the NASCAR Goes West schedule is at ISM Raceway (formally Phoenix International Raceway). This race marks the first on a track below a mile-and-a-half in length. Two new drivers to the series want to make themselves known this weekend.

Darrell ‘Bubba’ Wallace, Jr., from Mobile, Alabama, is in his first full-time season in the Cup Series. Even though this is his rookie season, he does have some Cup experience. Bubba first raced in the series when filling in for the injured Aric Almirola one season ago. While racing in the Richard Petty’s #43, Wallace was able to finish a career-best 11th at the time.

This season, Bubba is the full-time driver of the #43, as Aric Almirola is now driving the #10.

So far this season, he’s finished a career high of second in the Daytona 500. This weekend will mark his first in a Cup car at ISM Raceway.

Previously, Bubba has finished in the top 10 twice at ISM in the XFINITY Series. In 2015 he finished 8th, and in 2017 he bettered that with a 6th-place finish.  Wallace still hasn’t led a lap at the track.

Another guy new to the series is rookie William Byron from Charlotte, North Carolina. Byron has taken over what used to be the #5 car, and what is now the #24 for Hendrick Motorsports. This season, William has yet to finish in the top 10 but is looking to make this weekend his first.

This season Byron is partnered with crew chief Darian Grubb. Grubb is a championship-winning crew chief who most recently won in 2015 with Carl Edwards.

Byron seems to be the best pick for the rookies headed into this race. In 2016 he dominated the truck race, but a blown engine would knock him out of contention. In the Xfinity Series the following season, Byron finished 4th, then later backed it up with a win in the second race later that year.

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