Home / 2-Headed Monster / 2-Headed Monster: Does Richard Petty Need A New Driver Or Bubba Wallace A New Team?
(Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

2-Headed Monster: Does Richard Petty Need A New Driver Or Bubba Wallace A New Team?

Bubba Wallace and Richard Petty Motorsports are not off to a good start in 2019.

The legendary No. 43 is 28th in points, with Wallace only ahead of three drivers who have ran every race. Wallace only has two top 20s and one lead-lap finish so far and has crashed out of two races.

This weekʻs question asks: Which party is to blame for these struggles – would RPM succeed with a new driver, or would Wallace be better served at a different team? Frontstretch’s Michael Massie and Vito Pugliese debate on this week’s 2-Headed Monster.

Give the King a New Knight 

If Wallace doesn’t mature faster, then Petty should look for a better driver.

Petty is one of the greatest drivers and owners the sport has ever seen, and it looks so bad to see the No. 43 struggle on a weekly basis. Yes, the cars are not anywhere near as fast and dominant as they were in the King’s prime, but Wallace should still be doing a lot better.

RPM has a technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing. It’s fair to say they’re not getting the same exact equipment as RCR, but they aren’t even doing anywhere near as well as another team with a Childress alliance, Germain Racing. Ty Dillon has piloted Germain’s No. 13 to five top 20 finishes so far this season, and he was 21st in two other races. Dillon has also won two stages and finished sixth in the Daytona 500. That team seems to get more competitive every week.

Petty, however, is taking the same stuff Germain and Dillon are exceeding expectations with and struggling. That sounds like a driver issue.

This past week at Talladega Superspeedway, Wallace’s lack of maturity was on full display. The race was on its 11th lap and he was racing like it was the final lap. Wallace mistimed his attempt to pass Ryan Blaney and bumped his friend in the left rear. Then, instead of wrecking Blaney, Wallace elected to wreck himself and a bunch of cars behind him, leading to criticism from veterans Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer, among others.

There were a lot of laps left. The No. 43 looked fast — Wallace was in third at the time of the incident. With more patience, Wallace could have gotten his team a top 10, maybe even a top five, which would be huge given the current status of RPM.

I’m not saying Wallace is a talent-less bust. He just needs to mature as a driver and realize that he’s in a 20th place car, not a winning car. Tearing up equipment is no way to impress the better teams.

Last year, Wallace kept having brake problems, with the biggest incident resulting in a violent wreck at Pocono Raceway. That’s a driver issue. That tells me Wallace was abusing the brakes. He needs to realize RPM doesn’t have the best equipment and take it easy on it in order to be around at the end, much like Dillon is doing at Germain.

Just because RPM isn’t the flashiest of teams doesn’t mean Wallace doesn’t have every opportunity to succeed there. Aric Almirola won a race for the team in 2014 and had an arguably better 2015 where he almost pointed his way into the playoffs. Almirola had so many good runs for the team that it resulted in him landing a ride at Stewart-Haas Racing. RPM certainly didn’t ruin his career.

Wallace is not a bad driver — in fact, he shows the potential to be a great driver. But he has a lot of maturing to do and he needs to take better care of his equipment. If Wallace can’t improve in those areas, there are plenty of other drivers in the lower levels who would love to get behind the wheel of the King’s chariot. -Michael Massie

 

Speed=Money; How Slow Are You Willing to Go?

To single out Wallace as the issue at Richard Petty Motorsports is to look for a scapegoat and ignore the obvious.

RPM has been a team on the brink for the last couple of seasons. When Almirola left RPM for SHR at the end of 2017, he took the bulk of the sponsorship dollars with him. Since then, RPM has failed to bring in additional dollars, all the while having one of the most marketable drivers in the entire series. STP — a brand and sponsor that is synonymous with the No. 43, even bailed as a primary sponsor the weekend of Martinsville Speedway — a race they were even sponsoring.

There’s only so much you can reasonably do with a shoestring budget. This is professional auto racing. Money buys speed, plain and simple, technical alliance or otherwise. Why else do you think that Martin Truex Jr. ended up at Joe Gibbs Racing, sporting virtually the exact same sponsorship alignment as the prior two years at Furniture Row Racing?

Things got off to a great start last year for RPM — runner up in the Daytona 500 and a rousing performance at Bristol Motor Speedway that saw him drive up and take the lead from Kyle Busch late in the race, only to fade due to a tire strategy that didn’t quite pan out.

The rest of the season, the No. 43 team was fighting the same demons as all of the other Chevrolet teams. Take away Austin Dillon’s Daytona 500 win (courtesy of a Turn 3 bumper job on, of all people, Almirola), and Chevrolet teams went 32 races without a win from Richmond Raceway 2017 with Kyle Larson to August 2018 with Chase Elliott. This year isn’t much different. Chevrolet simply hasn’t been fast enough to come close to contending for a win, unless it’s a superspeedway or a short track.

Let’s be honest folks, Jimmie Johnson hasn’t forgotten how to drive a race car. The Camaro just isn’t on par with the Mustang and Camry, yet.

To me the issues are two-fold: You have a manufacturer in Chevrolet that has struggled the past two seasons with 11th hour rules and configuration changes and is slower to adapt or share information among themselves compared to the Ford and Toyota teams.

Then, there’s a single car team, who is relying on a major organization in RCR to help provide technical assistance — except that team has one veteran driver in Dillon and a rookie, Daniel Hemric. Hemric is 26th in points, two spots ahead of Wallace, though he has one top 10: Talladega this past weekend. As Michael pointed out, Ty Dillon is ahead of Wallace, but wouldn’t Richard Childress see to it that his grandson’s team had the same data his older brother has at Pop Pop’s shop?

Yeah, Wallace wadded one up this weekend single-handedly. Big deal, he was up front racing with his best friend and got a little excited about not getting lapped by the end of stage one. Yes, he could have been more patient, but how much more patient should he be with a team and ownership group that hasn’t been able to replace — and now maintain — what have been long-term partners providing much-needed funding? For a team that is already at a tremendous deficit of resources, a driver change isn’t going to do much of anything at this point. – Vito Pugliese

 

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About Michael Massie

Michael Massie
Michael Massie is a writer for Frontstretch. Massie, a Richmond, Va. native, has been a NASCAR superfan since childhood, when he frequented races at Richmond International Raceway. Massie is a lover of short track racing and travels around to the ones in his region. Outside of motorsports, the Virginia Tech grad can be seen cheering on his beloved Hokies.

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19 comments

  1. Avatar

    Even if you could somehow clone Richard Petty in his prime and drop him into a 2019 Richard Petty car, he couldn’t do a damn thing with the junk. And Bubba Wallace is no Richard Petty.

  2. Avatar
    timfromchandler

    Petty thought Bubba would bring money because of… Oh we can’t say it. Its not politically correct. Turns out the people with money are not interested in Bubba or Petty or NASCAR for that matter.

  3. Avatar

    I don’t think the 43 v. 13 is a fair comparison. The 13 car has full season sponsorship from Geico which I assume is buying more support from RCR than Petty can afford. At this point, it might be better for Bubba to go back to Xfinity or Trucks if he can get a competitive ride and have Petty put a funded driver in that car if they can find one. It’s just a sad situation at that team.

  4. Avatar

    Bubba is a second tier driver in a third tier team. Let’s be brutally honest here, RCR hasn’t been a first tier team for years and at best are a second tier team and RPM definitely third. It’s embarrassing to see Petty’s team to do as badly week in and week out. I too wonder how long the financial backing for this train wreck will stick around.

  5. Avatar

    “Money buys speed”. Nice to see the plain truth printed. Money is the single most important aspect of becoming a “professional” race car driver. Most fans of racing have no clue how much money it takes and how difficult it is to find that money. Unless of course you’re one of the many well heeled/well connected rich kid racers whose folks inhabit the boardrooms of big corporations, which describes probably 60-70% of the drivers in any Nascar field to one degree or another. Even just getting to the entry level of Nascar touring series takes funds way beyond what the average person could get. Most of your hero “professional” drivers simply buy rides, if it were based on talent alone they’d be watching from the stands. That sad fact is one of the reasons racing has degenerated into the wreck fest it is these days.

  6. Avatar

    I wouldn’t be to fast to condemn Bubba. Richard has not been very successful as a car owner since he stopped driving. I don’t care whether it is Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick or Kyle Busch if the car isn’t good they aren’t good. Period. I site Jeffrey Earnhardt as an example, he has been a dud but look what happened when he got into a good ride. He did well. You can’t bring a mule to the Kentucky Derby. And that is what the 43 is. In addition it’s high time to stop blaming the Camaro for the Chevy team’s ills. Just like last year when the 42 raced well the number one is very competitive this year. And this share information bs is a joke too. It’s a competitive sport. Or so we’re told. Why would Ganassi want to share his secrets with Childress or Hendrick? It’s supposed to be every man for himself out there. Same as this bs like Logano bitching at McDowell about him not helping him to win the 500.because he drove a Ford too. If I were Mc Dowell I would have told him to look a mule in the ass.
    Back to Petty and Wallace take a look at RCR. They are no longer a top team either. Austin has two big wins. One because Johnson ran out of gas and another because he wrecked the car in front of him. Otherwise an average drIver at best or maybe it’s his car. Several teams have switched from RCR engines to Hendrick power plants. Have to wonder why.
    I agree that Johnson may not have forgotten how to drive but he may have lost his edge. Take a look at history. DW, RP and Jeff Gordon started to fade in their forties.

  7. Avatar

    He’ll finish out the year (unless something radical happens, use your imagination), then Petty will name a new driver. Nothing more complicated or dramatic than that, I think….

    • Avatar

      If there was a driver out there who has a lot of money to bring, he/she would probably prefer to go somewhere else. Too much uncertainty with this team.

  8. Avatar

    You’re not helping! This must be where all the hater’s hang out.

    • Avatar

      No not haters, just realists!

    • Avatar

      Helping what?

    • Avatar

      What are we supposed to help with SHERI? And sorry if facts annoy you. Get over yourself with the hate crap. Facts are not hate or hate speech. Grow up. Weird ass post for sure.

    • Avatar

      Yes, there is a lot of haters that reply on FRONTSTRECTH, but this is not hate about Bubba, just the facts.

    • Avatar

      First off, just because someone disagrees with your opinion doesn’t make them a hater. Secondly, most of the commenter’s agendas was to give a fair appraisal of why the Petty team is not having much success, what was your agenda?

  9. Avatar

    It may just be a combination of both factors IMHO….

    As much as we hate to admit it, Petty Racing is now a second-tier team. The budget is nowhere near the budget for, say for example, SHR or Hendrick. They just can’t compete with the big guys any more. The best thing that could happen is for someone to join with them to infuse money to help improve their equipment and talent.

    As for Bubba Wallace, his qualifications are nowhere near what is needed to drive in NASCAR. I wonder how much NASCAR’s Diversity Program played in him getting the seat at Petty Racing.

  10. Avatar

    I think they are perfect for each other. A second tier team with a second tier driver. They deserve each other.

  11. Avatar

    If my memory is correct. ARIC got the gig (like Danica) with SHR because of his big piggy bank from Smithfield. It was NOT because he earned a ride with SHR as a talented driver.

    And as for “Bubba”, he isn’t a young guy starting out at the rodeo. Where has he excelled at? Except that non win at Daytona(??) in some top 5 spot or whatever. Crap shoot. If my memory is correct. Point is, big whoop. Yeah the equipment is sub par, but so is he.

    • Avatar

      $$$$ buys a ride at SHR & elsewhere in nascar. Petty needs sponsorship money, but sponsors aren’t interested in forking over big bucks for a car never seen on tv.. Bubba talks a good game, but his talent can’t back it up. Petty ignored the zero wins in xfinity and now he’s paying the price. When does the plug get pulled by Pettys money man.