Bubba Wallace will have a new ride for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season.
The 26-year-old will not return to Richard Petty Motorsports after November’s season finale at Phoenix Raceway. The only full-time Black driver in the highest levels of NASCAR is a free agent to be after spending his first three-plus seasons driving the iconic No. 43 made famous by seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Richard Petty.
“Earlier this morning, Darrell ‘Bubba’ Wallace Jr., informed Richard Petty Motorsports he will not be returning for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season,” RPM said in a statement. “We will complete the season with Wallace behind the wheel of the No. 43 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE.
“We look forward to the next chapter in the making for the iconic No. 43 team. We will announce our new driver in the near future.”
“This was not an easy decision as I have nothing but the utmost respect for Richard Petty and his family, but I believe it’s time for someone else to take over the reins of the No. 43,” Wallace wrote in a statement. “Thank you to the King and everyone at Richard Petty Motorsports for giving me the opportunity to start my Cup Series career. I’ve grown so much as a driver and as a person since joining them. We’ve got nine more races together and I hope we can finish the 2020 season on a high note.”
Wallace has become one of the most marketable personalities in NASCAR over the summer — signing personal service agreements with Beats by Dre and Urban Outfitters. His increasing popularity has led to new team sponsorships for Richard Petty Motorsports with DoorDash and Columbia.
The decision to leave Petty at the end of the season likely means that Wallace will soon land with a more competitive team. Chip Ganassi Racing and Hendrick Motorsports have two of the highest profile availabilities in the division right now.
Wallace first joined Petty in 2017 for four races when Aric Almirola was injured in a crash at Kansas Speedway.
He then took over full-time when Almirola departed for Stewart-Haas Racing in 2018. Wallace has three top-5s and nine top-10s in 103 Cup Series starts with a best finish of second in the 2018 Daytona 500.
The Petty team has struggled to secure funding prior to this season and has operated out of the Richard Childress Racing campus. The loss of Wallace will challenge the team to replace the sponsorship opportunities provided by Wallace over the past summer.
Erik Jones and Corey Lajoie are amongst the drivers already openly looking for new rides in 2021.
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