Richard Petty Motorsports announced Saturday that Bubba Wallace will return as driver of the No. 43 Chevrolet, signing the 24-year-old rookie to a multiyear extension.
RPM made the announcement Saturday after opening Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice at Pocono Raceway. The organization indicated in a news release that it had exercised its option to keep Wallace behind the wheel.
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Both Wallace and team owner Richard Petty indicated earlier this week that Wallace’s return to the team was all but certain. Wallace described talks as having a “positive look” at the Tuesday unveil of the team’s Darlington throwback entry, and Petty said that he hoped to keep Wallace to steady the learning process.
“This definitely helps,” Wallace said. “If you take a step back and help sponsorship efforts, knowing that we have a set future ahead, we can sell that. That’s the biggest thing as a whole, how we want to make our program better from the outside looking in. That goes a long way. So, for us, we’re still in here turning wrenches and trying everything we can to get our race cars better.”
Wallace will make his 25th Monster Energy Series start in Sunday’s Gander Outdoors 400 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM). The 2.5-mile track was the site of Wallace’s premier-series debut last season, when he subbed in for the injured Aric Almirola for a four-race stint with RPM.
Wallace sits in a tie for 24th place in the drivers’ standings as a Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate. In addition to the new face behind the wheel, RPM is adjusting this season to a new manufacturer in Chevrolet and a new technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing.
Petty indicated that he’s hopeful the team will grow closer with a long-term commitment. He also showed optimism about building a foundation with one of the sport’s most expressive young drivers.
“I see NASCAR changing as far as all the drivers and stuff are becoming younger, all us old guys, and the ones coming now is moving on,” Petty said. “So, we’re going to have a new chapter with the racing crowd and the drivers. So, we wanted to get in on the ground floor on this. If you look back, a lot of the drivers I’ve had kind of went through their deal and then we picked them up on the back end (of their careers). We want to start out a little bit different this time. We’re going to start out on the front end. Bubba was a logical choice for us.”
Wallace has two top-10 finishes in 20 races this year, topped by a career-best runner-up finish in the season-opening Daytona 500.