NASCAR Race Weekend Central
(Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

Fire on Fridays: What Happens to Richard Petty Motorsports If Bubba Wallace Leaves?

With Brad Keselowski and Christopher Bell officially off the free agency market, that leaves Bubba Wallace as the next major silly season piece to fall, and the rest of the driver lineups will widely shape around whatever decision Wallace makes.

Does Wallace replace the retiring Jimmie Johnson in Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 48 in the NASCAR Cup Series? The folks from Ally Financial seem to like him, and it’s likely the most competitive ride available to Wallace. Plus, Wallace could even bring additional sponsorship to maybe help out in funding Alex Bowman‘s car.

Will Wallace replace Matt Kenseth in Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42? Kenseth’s comeback tour in this car is not going well, and I have a hard time believing the future NASCAR Hall of Famer returns to it in 2021. In fact, Ganassi recently confirmed it offered Wallace the ride, and it would make sense given the McDonald’s and Chevrolet connections.

Or does Wallace choose loyalty over much more competitive rides? Does he accept Richard Petty Motorsports’ offer to stay in the legendary No. 43 and have an ownership stake in the team?

Wallace could choose RPM, as he wouldn’t be in the position he is today if the team hadn’t taken a chance on him back in 2017 when he filled in for the injured Aric Almirola. But barring the signing of a major sponsor or having a big investor step in (which isn’t out of the realm of possibility), it’s Wallace’s least likely option, as well as his least competitive option.

But if Wallace does leave Petty for greener pastures, what happens to Richard Petty and the team he leaves behind?

Sponsor-less Talent

At that point, Erik Jones and Matt DiBenedetto would be the best two drivers available for the team. Jones was recently informed Joe Gibbs Racing would not bring him back in 2021, and DiBenedetto could be the odd man out should Team Penske and Ford want a spot in the Cup Series for Austin Cindric.

Corey LaJoie has a stable ride with Go FAS Racing, but he is looking for more competitive rides. RPM is a step up from GFR, so LaJoie could try for the No. 43. Clint Bowyer is another driver not yet signed for 2021, but I believe he would retire before taking a less-competitive ride, should Stewart-Haas Racing choose not to bring him back.

The problem with Jones, DiBenedetto and LaJoie is none of them bring a lot in the form of sponsorship. RPM had a lot of sponsor holes this year until Wallace’s sudden burst of popularity reeled in a few supporters. If Wallace leaves, the team will be left with very little sponsorship, as I would not expect CashApp, World Wide Technology or Coca-Cola to stick around. So Petty couldn’t just sign Jones or DiBenedetto without a major sponsor stepping in. It’ll fold without getting a sponsor from somewhere.

So RPM would then probably have to turn to a driver who brings funding. Even though he’s a free agent, I don’t see an Almirola reunion happening, as Petty had a nasty split with Smithfield. But there are a few other options out there for RPM.

Daniel Suarez

Daniel Suarez could be an option, as the No. 43 would be a better ride than Gaunt Brothers Racing No. 96. Suarez has sponsorship from CommScope and Coca-Cola, the latter of which would give RPM the chance to stay in the Coca-Cola Racing Family.

There’s been no indication that Suarez would leave GBR or that Toyota would let him leave, but I’d feel much better about Suarez staying in the No. 96 had Gaunt bought the charter that Leavine Family Racing recently sold to Spire Motorsports. Also, now that Toyota has one less team following LFR shutting down, maybe it makes a play for Petty.

Brandon Jones

Brandon Jones is another driver who brings funding, thanks to his relationship with Rheem, Menards and the companies with which they do business. He’s currently in his fifth full-time season in the Xfinity Series, and his stock has never been higher, winning two NXS races and his first Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race this season.

If Jones is ever going to move to the Cup Series, 2021 has to be the year to do it, else he could soon be labeled as an NXS lifer. The stable is full at JGR, so he will have to go to another team if he’s ever going to Cup. And the only way he stays with Toyota and moves to Cup is if Toyota recruits another team (again, maybe RPM). Even if RPM stays with Chevrolet, Jones going to the No. 43 is something that could help the team stick around.

Ross Chastain

Last year, Ross Chastain was viewed as one of the top prospects in NASCAR after he won four races across the Truck and Xfinity series and finished runner-up in the Truck championship. He seemed destined to drive in Cup for Ganassi.

But now, the Chastain train has slowed down a little bit. He’s third in Xfinity points, but he has yet to win a race in that series or Trucks. And he’s driven six Cup races, three filling in for Ryan Newman at Roush Fenway Racing and three for Spire (with Ganassi support), with a best finish of 17th (twice).

He’s still a good prospect and hasn’t forgotten how to drive. But talk has cooled about Chastain, and it doesn’t seem that Ganassi is that big on him anymore. He didn’t hire Chastain to drive the No. 42 after Kyle Larson was fired (maybe Xfinity sponsor commitments got in the way), and now he’s offered the No. 42 to Wallace for 2021 instead of Chastain.

If Wallace takes the No. 42 ride, Chastain will certainly have to look elsewhere if he wants to go Cup racing. He could go full time with Spire, which would plummet his stock at this point in its existence, or he could take over the much-more-competitive No. 43. Going to RPM would allow Chastain to maintain his relationship with Chevy, and he’d still get to enjoy a technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing, which he currently has at Kaulig Racing.

Most importantly for Petty, Chastain has Nutrien Ag Solutions in his corner and even brings funding with his own Melon Man Brand and the Florida Watermelon Association. So the team would be getting an up-and-coming talent and money. Chastain might be RPM’s best-case scenario without Wallace.

Justin Allgaier

Justin Allgaier deserves a second chance at Cup, this time at a team that’s not a complete disaster like HScott Motorsports was. RPM isn’t exactly a top-tier team, but the No. 43 is still better than what he drove his first Cup foray. At 34 years old, many would say Allgaier is too old to get a second chance in Cup. But pre-1990s, most drivers didn’t get a good Cup ride until they were in their 30s. Besides, the two best drivers in Cup this year are over the age of 38.

He hasn’t won in Xfinity this year yet, but Allgaier is consistently a threat for the championship. In the past, Allgaier has seemed content staying in Xfinity. But after five straight seasons driving for JR Motorsports in Xfinity, as well as filling in for Johnson in the Brickyard 400 this year, maybe Allgaier wants to try his hand at Cup again.

In addition to talent, Allgaier has had Brandt backing him in Xfinity or Cup since 2011, and it would probably follow him wherever he went. The odds of Allgaier going to the No. 43, let alone go to Cup again, are slim-to-none. But signing him would certainly help RPM stay afloat and be competitive.

The King’s Farewell 

If Wallace does leave the No. 43 and the team doesn’t sign a funded driver or have some type of organizational change, it is more than likely going out of business. A big sponsor isn’t going to fall out of the sky. Petty and majority owner Andrew Murstein can try their hand at starting the season with a talented driver and their own businesses on the hood, but I doubt Murstein’s businesses are even doing that well thanks to COVID-19.

Bob Leavine had to sell because his company took a hit thanks to the pandemic, and he said he’d “be lucky” to sell $50,000 in sponsorship for the rest of the season. Both factors, among others, led to him selling the team.

With how expensive it is to operate a team in NASCAR now compared to what the teams get from the charter money, RPM would be bleeding money like crazy if it tried to race 2021 without a major sponsor. So if it loses Wallace and then doesn’t sign a driver who brings money, this year might be the last time we see the iconic No. 43 on the track and the first time NASCAR has a season without a Petty involved in the competition in some kind of way.

Then again, there have been at least three occasions where I thought the old No. 43 was done for, only to come back strong the following season. But the going would be a whole lot easier if the team manages to keep Wallace and capitalizes on his popularity.

Support Frontstretch on Patreon

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

About Michael Massie

Avatar
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.

82 comments

  1. Avatar

    So are there rumors that Bubba might go to the 48 or was that just total BS (baseless speculation)?
    If true that’s the first I’ve heard of it.

    • Avatar

      who in the hell wants that drama.DANIKA WAS A BETTER DRIVER.MY GUESS HE WILL KEEP HIM FOR SPONSORS.JEEZE.NO,HE WILL NOT DRIVE 48.TO MUCH CAR FOR HIM.

    • Avatar

      RPM would be better without him. I also find it ironic that he has kept his Coca Cola Sponsorship. Coca-Cola was founded by a CONFEDERATE OFFICER!!! Hypocrisy much?

    • Avatar

      Bubba can t even drive a dam Billy goat to water let alone drive one of the top tier cars haley degan would be a better choice for any of those cars than bubba

      • Avatar

        You are absolutely correct 👍👍👍 I watched my last Nascar race of my life when the” noose” Crap made national news, removed the REBEL FLAG and no Retraction on the news. No NASCAR no Baseball no Football and I quit watching NBA when Larry Bird and Michael Jordan retired and I Don’t miss them at all. So many things to do with that time

      • Avatar

        You don’t know what he could do it might be a good idea

      • Avatar

        your right Richard was my favorite.drivet but this so called driver he’s got nowis damn worthless. Nascar is on verge of shutting down simply put

    • Avatar

      RPM will be a much improved organization when they are cancer free ! Yes I mean bubba !

    • Avatar

      He doesn’t deserve#48. He needs to leave Nascar period.

    • Avatar

      Trying to figure out why bubba would be offered a top tier ride? His performance on and off the track certainly doesn’t warrant it.

    • Avatar

      Why do people think anyone would want this trouble making mediocre driver? He brings nothing to a team except chaos. I’m sure Richard Petty would be happy to get rid of him.

      • Avatar

        the way nascar has missed a good opportunity to rebuild its fan base when it was the only sport on tv during this covid crap but they didn’t take advantage of 1 o’clock starts, stuck us with 4 o’clock starts for east coast don’t worry about petty nascar will be gone in 5years

  2. Avatar

    Brandon Jones in Cup? Please no!!!!!!! How many cars can a kid wreck?

  3. Avatar

    i thought last week it was blared all over the media that he was already part owner of the 43 team.

    please, i seriously doubt he’ll be in the 48. if he ends up there just cause he brought sponsorship, shame on rick hendrick. bubba has no consistent proven results.

    • Avatar

      He leaves , they sign another 2nd rate driver and continue to bring up the back of the pack. He stays , gets better cars and still dosent produce. Sponsors dont care , it’s all about getting your logo on TV. Not winning

      • Avatar

        Hi my name is Craig Stewart I’ve been in racing over 50 years and I can remember today when it used to be more about the driver then it was everything else except the driver now is what the driver can bring to the team instead of which team can bring to the driver is kind of got a hundred eighty degrees turn around it seems like to me I don’t know total chaos at the moment I guess we’ll just over 19 around anyway I hope the best for Bubba and whatever he chooses to do

    • Avatar

      Your just a hater Janice black lives matter all day and everyday fool get with the program

      • Avatar

        Why did jack rausch racing release him in Xfinity races, no wins and no much talent, so Nascar forced RPM to sign a minority driver to stay in cup so the new driver will be the south of the border driver for RPM! Maybe he can assume the 42 ride!

      • Avatar

        Wallace isn’t black. His white father raised him as a privileged white boy after the divorce and his black mother raised her daughter. Wallace knows nothing of oppression some black men have dealt with.

    • Avatar

      Can’t wait till Bubba comes to California Fontana Speedway so all of us homies from Los Angeles Watts and we’re going to be deep will show all the white NASCAR fans black lives matter🏁

  4. Avatar

    Here is another issue for Ford besides Austin Cindric, and that is Chase Briscoe. Cindric is a shoe-in at Penske, as I believe his dad is the President, same as Cole Custer getting the break in the Haas car. Eric Jones, Matt (can’t try his last name!) are your two best drivers available along with Ross Chastain. Wallace, try as he might, will probably stay with the 43 team. I can see Eric Jones at Ganassi, but everyone is assuming there are no negotiations to bring back Matt Kenseth. Would Boyer, if forced out, go to Hendrick?

    Follow the money. It is fun to speculate but I bet Johnson’s replacement is already chosen, Ganassi has a pretty good idea what he is going to do, and same at Penske/Wood and Stewart-Haas.

    And no, Kyle Larson will not be granted a license by NASCAR, and it was refreshing to see him out of the discussion!

    • Avatar

      why wont kyle larson be granted a licence he completed his penance to asscar he should be reinstated i doubt he wants to

      • Avatar