The path for Bubba Wallace to reach the NASCAR Cup Series wasn’t a straight line, but he’s apparently found a home for now with The King’s iconic team.
For whatever reason, Bubba Wallace and Richard Petty Motorsports just felt like a good match from the time it was announced they would be teaming up for the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series season. Now it appears that pairing has been beneficial enough for both sides that it will continue past this year.
Racer reports that while nothing official has been announced, Bubba Wallace will return to drive the No. 43 Chevrolet for RPM next season. The deal that brought Wallace in to replace longtime Petty driver Aric Almirola, who departed for Stewart-Haas Racing, was thought to be for only the 2018 Cup Series campaign.
Wallace was already in the fold last year, when he filled in for an injured Almirola after the Roush Fenway Racing XFINITY Series ride he thought was good for all of 2017 closed up shop suddenly. Though Wallace has had an up and down year competing for Rookie of the Year honors, finishing second in the Daytona 500 but managing just one top-10 finish since then, he’s currently 24th in Cup Series points, a few spots better than Almirola managed in his last injury-free RPM slate in 2016.
That’s been good enough to convince Petty that he’s on the right track, and while The King would like to see the learning curve for driver and team accelerate, he’s also aware it’s hard to expect everything to come together in one calendar year.
"We feel like it’s going to take a little while to make it gel. Hardly ever any team comes in and does really good, to begin with, it takes two or three years for everybody to sort settle in. Hopefully, we get settled in so we’re ready for next year."
One thing that could benefit Wallace is some more seat time in the lower NASCAR series. He does own six NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts and has two full seasons there and in the XFINITY Series under his belt, but he’s only made three starts in those two circuits combined since halfway through 2017.
Regardless, once a deal is officially confirmed to have Bubba back in the 43 again, it will be a weight off his shoulders compared to the uncertainty he experienced not so long ago, and his return should prove popular with NASCAR fans as well.
“It’s a positive look for us — we just started this deal, and we formed this relationship back as soon as I stepped foot on the grounds for Pocono last year,” Wallace said to Racer. “So we’re in a good spot for sure. We’re still working on all the details, but I’m excited to be where I’m at right now.”