LONG POND, Pa. – Richard Petty took his first checkered flag at the top level of NASCAR in 1959. His father, Lee, was also in the race and took away the win after protesting a scoring error and was awarded the official victory.
Richard Petty then waited until 1960 to get his first official win during his third season on the circuit.
The King would win 200 career NASCAR Cup races, but even he had growing pains.
It was with that knowledge that Petty, now a part-owner of Richard Petty Motorsports, announced on Saturday a two-year extension for rookie driver Darrell "Bubba" Wallace, Jr.
Wallace, who this season became the first African-American full-time driver on the NASCAR Cup series since 1971, will be with RPM through the 2020 season.
"We like a little bit of what he's doing, so I think we're going to hire him for next year," Petty said of Wallace. "That's a big deal. From our standpoint, it gives us some stability.
"We're still learning Bubba. Bubba is still learning us. … We see improvements, although a lot of the times the finishes are not that much better."
Wallace, who will drive the No. 43 Chevrolet Camaro CL1 in the Gander Outdoors 400 on Sunday at Pocono Speedway, started the 2018 season by placing second at the Daytona 500 — the highest finish by a full-time rookie driver.
Expectations went through the roof, but reality quickly set in. Wallace, 24, has just one Top-10 and eight Top-20 finishes in the last 19 races.
"You have to look at the circumstances that went on in (the Daytona 500)," said Wallace. "We were able to avoid four wrecks that took out 20-something cars.
"The saying is that whoever enters Daytona or Talladega has a chance to win. It was a great day, but we knew going into (Atlanta Motor Speedway for the next race) there was no way we were going to finish second."
Richard Petty Motorsports may have one of the most famous names in NASCAR, but it does not have the deep financial pockets as some other teams.
RPM has just one car and it's a struggle to keep up with the better-financed teams.
"(Richard and I) are both competitive," said Wallace. "I'm running in the 20s and he'll ask, 'What's up?' I say I'm doing the best I can with what we've got.
"The differences are going to show when you have a $30 million budget compared to a $10 million one."
Petty knows his team's limitations and views the potential of Wallace in more than just race results.
"NASCAR is changing," Petty said. "We're going to have a new chapter with the racing crowd and drivers. We want to get in on the front end. Bubba is a logical choice for us.