Bubba Wallace won't return to Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 car in 2021

Bubba Wallace will be driving for a new team in 2021.

Richard Petty Motorsports announced Thursday that Wallace won’t be re-signing with the team. Wallace, the only Black driver racing full-time in NASCAR, is a free agent at the end of the season and has driven for RPM for the entirety of his Cup Series career.

Wallace released this statement about the move minutes after RPM announced it:

“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. “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.”

The move could have significant ramifications for both the course of Wallace’s career and the future of Richard Petty Motorsports. Wallace, 26, has become one of the most marketable drivers in NASCAR. He’s recently signed personal services deals with Beats and Urban Outfitters and landed sponsorship deals for his No. 43 car with Columbia apparel and DoorDash.

A move away from RPM likely signals that Wallace is going to a more competitive team. RPM has been mired in mediocrity for the last decade and needs a driver who brings sponsorship. Much of the sponsorship the team currently has is because Wallace is its driver. It’s far from a guarantee that those sponsors would stay with the team without Wallace.

For Wallace, he’ll likely end up in a more competitive ride. He’s previously said there have been overtures from Chip Ganassi Racing, a team that has an opening in its No. 42 car for 2021. CGR fired Kyle Larson this spring after Larson said a racial slur during a simulated race in April. It’s also worth noting that McDonald’s has been a longtime sponsor for Chip Ganassi Racing and Wallace has run a McDonald’s-sponsored car in a race in each of the last two seasons.

Wallace has driven full-time for RPM for the past three seasons. He first filled in for the injured Aric Almirola in 2017 and then replaced Almirola in the No. 43 when Almirola went to Stewart-Haas Racing. Wallace’s best finish for the team was a second in the 2018 Daytona 500 and he has three top-five finishes and nine top-10 finishes in 103 career Cup Series races.

Bubba Wallace stands for the national anthem before a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich., Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Bubba Wallace's tenure with Richard Petty Motorsports appears to be coming to an end. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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