Bubba Wallace won’t return to Richard Petty Motorsports for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season and has been linked to a new landing spot for next year.
Amid mounting speculation about his future in the NASCAR Cup Series, Bubba Wallace recently announced that the 2020 season will be his third and final season as the full-time driver of the #43 Chevrolet for Richard Petty Motorsports.
The 26-year-old Mobile, Alabama native has not confirmed where he will compete next year, although he has several sponsors which he has acquired over the last few months to take with him wherever he goes.
He has been mentioned as one of the (many) candidates to take over behind the wheel of the #48 Chevrolet at Hendrick Motorsports once seven-time Jimmie Johnson steps away from full-time competition at the end of the season, and he has even confirmed that he has been offered a deal by Chip Ganassi Racing. But now a new landing spot has emerged, one that technically doesn’t exist yet.
Germain Racing recently revealed that GEICO has opted not to renew their primary sponsorship deal of the #13 Chevrolet for next year after serving as the team’s primary sponsor since 2009, leaving the team in a bind that may force them to be sold after the 2020 season ends.
Enter Denny Hamlin?
There had been mounting speculation that the driver of the #11 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing would be investing in Richard Petty Motorsports and that they would switch to Toyota and form a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing, especially since team co-owner Andrew Murstein has continued to promise “major announcements” in the near future pertaining to potential investors.
But with Wallace having announced that he won’t return there next year, those rumors kind of went out the window — the Hamlin connection, that is. It is still believed that Richard Petty Motorsports have some major announcements coming in the near future investor-wise, including the confirmation of a new driver.
Plus, Richard Petty Motorsports have a technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing, and a manufacturer switch would mean that they would no longer be able to operate out of the latter’s campus. A switch just one year before the Gen 7 car is introduced also doesn’t make a ton of sense from a financial standpoint.
However, even with that out of the picture, the talks of Hamlin investing in a team have not dissipated, and now those talks have shifted to the purchase of Germain Racing, with an ensuing Toyota deal.
Despite a rule preventing drivers who compete for a four-car team to own a separate car, this is still reportedly an option, as Fox Sports’ Bob Pockrass noted that NASCAR president Steve Phelps has left the door open for Hamlin to do just that since this would not technically make his car the fifth car of Joe Gibbs’s organization.
Hamlin is a teammate to Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Erik Jones at the four-car Toyota team, with Jones set to be replaced by Christopher Bell next year.
As far as Wallace’s relationship with Toyota, he has raced and won for the manufacturer before, despite having driven for only Ford and Chevrolet while at Richard Petty Motorsports since making his Cup Series debut as the replacement for the injured Aric Almirola in 2017.
He competed for Kyle Busch Motorsports full-time in the Truck Series in 2013 and 2014 and for Joe Gibbs Racing as a part-time driver in the Xfinity Series in 2012 and 2014. Additionally, he competed for Rev Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing in K&N Pro Series East in 2011 and 2012, respectively.
So perhaps there is a reason why Wallace has not yet accepted the deal offered to him by Chip Ganassi over a month ago now, despite the fact that this would be a huge upgrade in terms of the competitiveness of his team.