The long rumored manufacturer change for Richard Petty Motorsports is now confirmed. The organization announced on Friday morning that they have switched from Ford power to Chevrolet. Hidden in that announcement is it will be the third manufacturer that RPM driver Bubba Wallace Jr. has driven for in NASCAR.
Wallace, was a Toyota development driver when he came on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series scene with Kyle Busch Motorsports in 2013. He’d win five races in two seasons with KBM and Toyota. After a third place finish in the points in 2014, he’d become a Ford development driver and head to Roush/Fenway Racing in the NASCAR XFINITY Series for the 2015 season. Wallace, ran 2 1/2-years with RFR in the series, making 78 starts with the team. He’d not reach victory lane, but he did finish seventh and 11th respectively in his first two seasons. The third year, this past one, was his best as he had seven top 10 finishes, six of which six place efforts in the first 12 races of the season. He was a true title contender. Unfortunately, the funding dried up and his ride went away as a result.
But, Ford worked feverishly trying to get Wallace into another ride. Luckily it landed him with RPM in a replacement role for an injured Aric Almirola. See, RPM was with Ford at the time and it made a ton of sense to let Wallace get his feet wet in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Wallace, would make four starts, each he improved his finish in. He came home 26th in his debut at Pocono in June. The next week, he’d finish 19th at Michigan. His next start was a 15th place run at Daytona, followed by an 11th place result in his final Cup start at Kentucky. The next week, Almirola was back and Wallace was sent to the sidelines.
He’d get a chance in a Ford in the XFINITY Series at Chicagoland where he finished 10th in September. The only other shot in 2017 he’d have was a ride with a Chevrolet team in the Truck Series at Michigan, a race that he’d win.
Other than that, Ford was searching for an opportunity. RPM made sense because Almirola was a free agent and set to join Stewart-Haas Racing. But, RPM needed financial backing as Smithfield was heading to SHR with Almirola too. Unfortunately, Ford couldn’t supply RPM the resources it needed to compete at a high level as well as the financial backing to allow Wallace to drive for RPM on a full-time basis. So, RPM went searching for help. In came Richard Childress Racing and Chevrolet.
RCR had space to house RPM and their single car entity. Chevrolet had resources to grow and help too. It would allow RPM to keep Wallace, even without a full season sponsor, as well as allow them to compete at a higher level.
Now, Wallace goes from a Toyota development driver in Trucks, to a Ford development driver in XFINITY, to a Chevrolet driver in Cup. A tough path but one that will pay off in the long run.
For a broader picture, think about this, NASCAR has some iconic numbers. The No. 3 was for Dale Earnhardt. The No. 43 was Richard Petty. Now, both iconic numbers will be housed in the same building. With Austin Dillon piloting the No. 3 Chevrolet for RCR and now Wallace the No. 43 Chevrolet for RPM, the two cars will be setup in the same RCR shop.
Earnhardt, made 11 starts in the number in 1981. He’d return to that number in 1984. 70 of his 76 wins came in the famed No. 3 Chevrolet.
All 200 of Petty’s wins came in the No. 43 entry, some though in different manufacturers.
Now, 276 race wins in two numbers are in the same building.