Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. will officially be behind the wheel of a new ride with a new team for NASCAR’s 2021 season, but we still don’t know which one yet.
However, Wallace confirmed Thursday on Twitter that he told Richard Petty Motorsports, his current team, that he will not be returning to the No. 43 Chevrolet.
Wallace — the only Black driver in the premier Cup Series — could become a free agent at the end of the 2020 season in November, and he had an offer to return to Richard Petty Motorsports, which included partial ownership of the team. However, the 26-year-old driver has also previously said he has an offer from Chip Ganassi Racing to pilot the No. 42 Chevrolet, which Matt Kenseth is currently driving after taking over mid-season for fired driver Kyle Larson.
Confirming the news of his departure after three full-time seasons with the team — news that The Athletic first reported Thursday — Wallace wrote:
“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. 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.”
Particularly this season, Wallace has emerged as a leader in the NASCAR industry and was integral in successfully getting the governing body to ban the Confederate flag from all events. He’s also been vocal about racism in and out of the sport and police brutality disproportionately impacting Black people.
In June on the same day NASCAR officially banned the Confederate flag, Wallace and Richard Petty Motorsports ran a Black Lives Matter paint scheme.
Wallace has been with Richard Petty Motorsports for his entire Cup career. After being a substitute driver in the No. 43 car for four races in 2017, he took over the full-time ride. But he’s still looking for his first career Cup Series win.
He’s had just one top-5 finish in each of the last three seasons, two of which have been at Daytona International Speedway. In the 2020 regular-season finale nearly two weeks ago at Daytona, Wallace finished fifth in the Coke Zero Sugar 400, and in the 2018 Daytona 500, he came in second, which was the highest finish in the race by a full-time rookie.
In 2020, Wallace’s average finish is about 20th, but this season has been an overall improvement for the No. 43 team with five top-10 finishes so far, compared with one in 2019 and three in 2018.
In a statement via FOX Sports’ Bob Pockrass, Richard Petty Motorsports also confirmed Wallace will be leaving the team:
As far as his future goes, Wallace recently told FrontStretch.com he’s looking for a family atmosphere with a team, and on that level, Richard Petty Motorsports has “half the puzzle there.” But he’s also looking for a team capable of actually winning races, and “we just have to get our cars better and more competitive to seal that deal.”
In addition to Ganassi’s No. 42 ride, another option for Wallace in 2021 could be the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet with seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson retiring from full-time racing at the end of the season.
NASCAR has nine races remaining in the 2020 season, starting with Saturday’s race at Richmond Raceway, where Wallace will start 30th.