NASCAR Cup driver Bubba Wallace announced Thursday that he will part with his Richard Petty Motorsports team in 2021.
"This was not an easy decision, as I have nothing but the utmost respect for Richard Petty and his family," Wallace wrote on Twitter. "But I believe it's time for someone else to take over the reins of the No. 43. Thank you to the King and everyone at Richard Petty Motorsports for giving me the opportunity to start my Cup Series career."
Wallace's future team has not been announced, but the move comes during a year in which the current No. 43 Chevrolet driver saw an unprecedented level of new sponsorship signings and public exposure. His contract with RPM was set to expire after the season.
"Earlier this morning, Darrell 'Bubba' Wallace Jr., informed Richard Petty Motorsports he will not be returning for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series (NCS) season," RPM said in a statement. "We will complete the season with Wallace behind the wheel of the No. 43 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. We look forward to the next chapter in the making for the iconic No. 43 team."
The team said it will announce its next driver in the "near future."
Wallace, meanwhile, has said his goal is to get into competitive equipment next season. He's been in discussion with Chip Ganassi Racing, which shares McDonald's as a partner with RPM. CGR driver Matt Kenseth replaced Kyle Larson after Larson was dropped by sponsors for using a racial slur. Kenseth said earlier this week on SiriusXM that he is not expecting to return to racing next year, leaving the seat of the No. 42 Chevrolet open.
Wallace, 26, joined Richard Petty Motorsports as its full-time Cup driver in 2018 after rising through NASCAR's national series ranks. He started in the sport at the developmental level competing through NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program and is the only Black driver in NASCAR's top series.
Wallace is out of Cup playoff contention, but he has posted his best average finish so far this season (20.2) with one top-five finish at Daytona two weeks ago (fifth) and five top-10s. More than his finishing position, Wallace's impact off the track has propelled his celebrity to new heights.
In June, Wallace's national visibility skyrocketed when he embraced the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of social unrest after the killing of George Floyd, and sparked NASCAR's ban of the Confederate flag. He further made headlines as the subject of an incident in which a rope tied like a noose was found in his garage stall at Talladega Superspeedway in July. The FBI determined the act was not a hate crime, but before the report was released, NASCAR drivers and team owner Richard Petty rallied around Wallace, pushing his car to the front of the grid before the start of the race as a sign of unity.
Wallace was subsequently the target of online criticism, including a tweet issued by President Donald Trump who called on the driver to apologize for the rope incident.
Wallace has since signed partnership deals with Columbia Sportswear, DoorDash and Cash App, and has announced an endorsement deal with Beats by Dre, as well as partnering with Urban Outfitters for his merchandise.
"I've grown so much as a driver and as a person since joining (RPM)," Wallace's tweet concluded. "We've got nine more races together, and I hope we can finish the 2020 season on a high note."
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