Aric Almirola Hopes A Ride For 2018 Materializes

Aric Almirola

As far as Richard Petty Motorsports is concerned, there are two known quantities where the legendary race team is concerned.

First, Aric Almirola will not be behind the wheel of the No. 43 RPM Ford next season. Second, sponsor Smithfield Foods has opted not to renew its support for RPM next year, choosing instead to shift its backing to Stewart-Haas Racing.

What remains to be revealed is the identity of RPM’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver for 2018. Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr., who spent four races in the No. 43 Ford while Almirola was recovering from a crushed vertebra sustained during a wreck at Kansas in May, hopes he gets the nod. And Wallace acknowledged on Friday at Chicagoland Speedway that he and RPM are working toward that goal.

“Things with the 43 are still shaking out,” said Wallace, who was impressive in his four-event stint as a sub. “That’s in RPM’s hands right now. Obviously, the news that came out the other day (about Smithfield’s departure), they are pushing hard to fight through some things and I’m supporting them.

“Nothing is set in stone. We’re still trying to figure out what we need to do.”

Though there has been speculation that Almirola will follow Smithfield to Stewart-Haas Racing—particularly now that Danica Patrick has revealed she will exit the No. 10 Ford at season’s end—Almirola declined to discuss his 2018 status during a question-and-answer session behind the No. 43 transporter on Friday afternoon.

“I am not going to comment on 2018,” Almirola said. “I am here to comment on finding out I am not going to be driving the 43 car.”

Almirola said team owner Richard Petty had notified him he wouldn’t be returning to the No. 43 Ford “many weeks ago.”

The answers to these questions, as well as a few more will be revealed over the next few weeks!


Two More Cup Seats Opens Up For 2018

Aric Almirola

Yesterday was not a good day for Danica Patrick and Aric Almirola.  It was announced that both drivers will not return to their previous employers.  Danica posted on her Facebook page that she will not be returning to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2018. Likewise, Richard Petty Motorsports announced that not only would they be losing one of their primary sponsors to Stewart-Haas Racing, Smithfield Foods, but also that Aric Almirola would not return as the driver of the famed RPM No. 43 Ford Fusion.

Is Danica’s NASCAR driving career over?  It would appear that it is, at this point.  Over her NASCAR career she has been unable to be competitive on a weekly basis.  These days she drives the same equipment that Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer does but she has continued to finish near the back of the pack, 20th-32nd each week.  Those finishes will not generate the necessary sponsorship dollars required to keep a Cup team financed for 36 races.

After GoDaddy left Danica two years ago, it became more apparent that it was going to be difficult to sell sponsorship to the 36 race schedule for her.  Coupled with the law suit that Nature’s Bakery levied against her and SHR, it added to the fact that the apparent return on investment (ROI) was not fulfilling to the sponsors, and that her time in NASCAR was drawing to a close.

Aric Almirola, as well as the entire Richard Petty Motorsports organization, has suffered from the same lack of performance that has plagued Danica.  After his mid season injury word began leaking out that Almirola’s job was not really secure.  This week the announcement that Smithfield is leaving RPM at season’s end has hit that team right in the pocketbook!  In turn, RPM announced that Almirola would not return to the organization in 2018.

After all, NASCAR is a performance driven profession and if the performance is not there you will be replaced in time.

Now the speculation is rampant as to who will fill these two vacancies in 2018.

There are several drivers that could fill either of these two cockpits.  Both Kasey Kahne and Matt Kenseth are available for employment in 2018.  Either driver may be a good fit to replace Patrick at SHR, as well as a replacement at RPM.

However, do not overlook the SHR Xfinity driver, Cole Custer.  Custer has had a very good rookie season with the rookie SHR entry into the NXS.  Custer appears to be in a good place to qualify for the NXS playoffs.  I think that you may see this young man stepping up to fill the empty seat vacated by Patrick’s exit from SHR.

As mentioned above Kahne and Kenseth could move over to RPM, but I think that would be highly unlikely for either since the No. 43 is not a very competitive team, presently.  Additionally, their requested salary may be outside RPM’s budget.

Therefore, my thought is that RPM may be trying to get enough sponsorship together to put Darrell Wallace, Jr. into the cockpit for 2018.

Over the next couple of weeks these seats will be filled and the work on getting the requisite dollars to cover the 36 race schedule for 2018 will be announced.


Smithfield Foods And Richard Petty Motorsports Still Negotiating

Aric Almirola
Smithfield Foods is working toward a return to Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series team Richard Petty Motorsports, according to sources. The Virginia-based company is in a contract year with RPM, and the company has been pursued by several competing teams.

While a deal with RPM is not finalized, Smithfield is said to be in talks to return there. Team co-Owner Richard Petty has expressed mixed messages in his public comments about trying to keep Smithfield. He told NBC Sports last month that he was “confident” about it, but that came just a week after he told Racer magazine that the team was “struggling” to earn the renewal.

Smithfield has been linked with moves away from RPM, most notably with Stewart-Haas Racing’s #10 Ford that is currently driven by Danica Patrick. The company signed a three-year extension with RPM in 2014 through this season, and it is believed to be spending in the $10-12M range annually as the team’s most visible sponsor.

Sources said that the company is looking at recalibrating its spend next year in the form of cuts to the program. Retaining Smithfield would be a vital development for RPM, which industry execs have feared could land in financial trouble if it lost the company.

Smithfield has turned into one of the sport’s most active brands, securing media buys on both Fox and NBC, as well as initiating an at-track activation presence. The company has heavily leveraged working with Petty, the sport’s most winning driver of all time. RPM declined comment; Smithfield did not return a request for comment by presstime.

The #43 Ford sponsored by Smithfield is driven by Aric Almirola, and the Cuban-American driver’s contract is up after this year.

RPM has said that it is working to find additional sponsorship for a full-season effort in the #44 car for Bubba Wallace, who drove the #43 four times earlier this season while Almirola was recovering from injury. Sources said that it is possible that Wallace could end up replacing Almirola in the #43.

A source close to RPM called such a possibility premature but did not rule it out. Meanwhile, RPM’s manufacturer deal with Ford is also up after this year, and sources said it is possible that the team could switch to Chevy next season. Chevy declined comment, as did Ford.


Bubba Has A “One Off “And Parks It At Michigan!

Darrell Wallace, Jr.
For the final 11 laps of today’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Michigan International Speedway, Darrell ‘Bubba’ Wallace Jr. protected his leading position. He blocked high and low and middle, and when he briefly lost the lead, he quickly surged his No. 99 MDM Motorsports Chevrolet back ahead. Every move he made in today’s LTi Printing 200 to earn a trip to Victory Lane turned out to be the right one.

Actually getting to Victory Lane, that was another story.

After laying down a massive burnout to raucous applause from the MIS crowd, Wallace stopped his truck on the apron—he seemed unsure where to go. A NASCAR official pointed forward and to the right. Wallace followed those directions.

“It’s been so long since I’ve been in Victory Lane,” Wallace said. “I try to hold a positive mindset over it, and everybody in my family knows it eats at me every day.”

It was Wallace’s first race in a truck since the last race of the 2014 season; he won that race, too. It was his sixth win in a truck and first at Michigan.

After he parked his truck in Victory Lane, it appeared that every member of his team stuck their head in to say congratulations. His girlfriend, Amanda Carter, leaned in and kissed him. This was her first visit with him to a NASCAR Victory Lane. Still shaking a few minutes later, she said, “This is so incredible. It is so awesome.”

It certainly was that for Wallace, whose roller coaster career appeared stalled this season. Wallace, who opened 2017 as NASCAR’s only full-time African American driver, lost his NASCAR XFINITY Series ride with Roush Fenway Racing earlier this year due to a lack of sponsorship. He debuted in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for four races as a replacement for the injured Aric Almirola. But since then, nothing. His deal with MDM Motorsports was announced just this week.

Wallace entered the race confident his truck was fast. He struggled early on, including a penalty on lap 53 when his pit crew went over the wall too soon. But he worked his way toward the front. He appeared content to stay in third behind Austin Cindric and Christopher Bell as the laps wound down. He and spotter Freddie Kraft sketched out a plan—Wallace would wait for those two to get side-by-side so he could pass them both at once.

“You’re going probably 10 miles an hour faster than they are,” Kraft said. “As soon as they do that, you have the momentum.”

Wallace preferred to wait for the pass until there were only a handful of laps left. But when Cindric and Bell got side-by-side with 11 to go, Kraft keyed his radio and said, “Here’s your chance.”

“I closed my eyes, turned left, and heard clear,” said Wallace when discussing the heroic three-wide move to give truck owner Mike Millner his first series victory.

As cool as it was to see nobody in front of him, Wallace figured it wouldn’t last. He thought other drivers would do to him what he had just done to Cindric and Bell. But the drivers behind him spent most of the time racing each other instead of trying to pass him. And when they did devote their attention to getting by Wallace, he darted and dived and kept them behind.

Check out the unofficial results of the LTi Printing 200 at Michigan.


Who Is Next To Punch Their Ticket To The NXS Playoffs?

Justin Allgaier

(photo courtesy Leon Hammack)
In the first four races of 2017, the NASCAR XFINITY Series has seen two series championship contenders win races – Roush Fenway Racing’s Ryan Reed at Daytona International Speedway and last weekend’s victor, JR Motorsports’ driver Justin Allgaier at Phoenix Raceway. The two drivers not only have scored playoff points (five each), but also guaranteed themselves a spot in the playoffs provided they attempt to qualify for the remaining regular season races and stay inside the top 30 in points.

This weekend, on the last stop of the #NASCARGoesWest part of the schedule, the NASCAR XFINITY Series will head to Auto Club Speedway for the Service King 300 on Saturday, March 25, at 4 p.m. ET (FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

The only way to a championship is through the playoffs. Both Reed and Allgaier have accumulated five playoff points each with their wins; which can help them advance through the playoffs later this season. Allgaier’s JR Motorsports teammate and current driver standings leader Elliott Sadler is the only other title contender to earn playoff points through the first four races – Sadler won the first two stages of the season-opening race at Daytona to earn two playoff points.

Who will be the next title contender to secure their spot in the playoffs with a win this weekend at Auto Club Speedway?

The last NASCAR XFINITY Series championship contender to win at Auto Club Speedway was in 2010, when Kyle Busch swept both races that season. The past six races have been won by drivers that have elected to compete for a championship in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Kyle Busch leads the series in wins at Auto Club Speedway with six victories.

Despite all that, NASCAR’s Loop Data points to Roush Fenway Racing’s Darrell Wallace Jr. as this season’s series title contender with a solid chance to visit Victory Lane this weekend. He has the best Auto Club Speedway pre-race driver rating among series contenders (102.2) and the best average running position (7.2). He also spent 99.3% of his two starts at Auto Club Speedway in the top 15.  He finished in the top-five of this event last season.

“We had a solid run last season here in Fontana, finishing third,” said Darrell Wallace Jr. “I’m definitely looking forward to getting back there this weekend and try to follow that up and maybe get a couple spots better. We’ve gotten off to a great start in 2017, and I’m confident we can keep that momentum going on Saturday.”


Bubba And Hemric Look To Build On Solid Atlanta Finishes

Darrell Wallace, Jr.

Darrell Wallace Jr. and Daniel Hemric had forgettable season openers at Daytona when a wreck on the 29th lap ended both of their days.

Fortunately, the two young drivers expected to be NASCAR XFINITY Series championship contenders bounced back nicely with finishes of sixth and ninth, respectively, at Atlanta.

They’ll try to build momentum in the series’ first stop on its West Coast swing – Saturday’s Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (4 p.m. ET on FS1).

Wallace has made two starts in Sin City, finishing seventh in 2015 and placing 33rd last season after wrecking out of the race.

“Last weekend in Atlanta was big for us,” Wallace said. “We showed how we will never give up and will fight to get the best finish we can. That gives everyone on this team a lot of optimism as we get ready for Vegas this weekend. There’s a whole new attitude around our shop and it’s really fun to be a part of.”

Hemric, a Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender, will compete at Las Vegas in the XFINITY Series for the first time this weekend. In two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races at the 1.5-mile track, he’s finished sixth (2015) and second (2016).

“I have only run the truck races there at night, so it will be interesting to have all of our on-track activity during the day,” Hemric said. “It’s just a fun place. No matter what, everyone gets pumped up to go to Vegas. That trickles down through the system and gets the drivers pumped up, too. I love what the race track has to offer.”


Darrell Wallace, Jr. Salvages An 11th Place Finish At Texas

Darrell Wallace, Jr.

Bubba Wallace, driver of the No. 6 Leidos Ford Mustang, recorded an 11th-place finish in the NASCAR XFINITY Series event at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday afternoon in the penultimate race of the second-round of the Chase.

“Today was a good rebound for us,” said Wallace after the race. “Hats off to all my guys on this Leidos team for their work this weekend. We were able to salvage a good finish despite the fact that we couldn’t really nail down the handling of the car. It kept going back and forth all day long but my guys never gave up. The Leidos team had a nice day and made no mistakes. Now it’s on to Phoenix where we know what we have to do.”

Wallace took the green flag from the 18th position after advancing to the second round of knockout qualifying on Saturday morning. In the early stages of the event Wallace reported to crew chief Seth Barbour that the Leidos Mustang was struggling to find grip through the corners. Despite the handling condition Wallace improved five positions to 13th before the first round of green flag pit stops on Lap 47.

After returning to the track in 13th following the stop, the Roush Fenway Racing driver reported that the car had shifted toward the loose side. This persisted throughout much of the middle portion of the afternoon as Wallace battled for position inside the top 15. However, a timely caution on Lap 165 gave crew chief Barbour one last opportunity to make a chassis adjustment to the Leidos Mustang.

Wallace took the ensuing restart from the 10th position and utilized a three-wide move on the outside to move into eighth. Wallace continued to battle for position inside the top 10 for several laps before getting shuffled back to 11th in the closing stages.

In the end Wallace took the checkered flag in the 11th position.

With the result, Wallace ranks seventh in the NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase Grid with one race remaining in the round two.

Next up for the NASCAR XFINITY Series is the final race of Round Two of the Chase at Phoenix International Raceway on Saturday, Nov. 12.


One-Mile Phoenix International Raceway

Phoenix, Arizona

Saturday, November 12, 2016

7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and MRN



Bubba Wallace

Started: 18th

Finished: 11th  


Darrell Wallace, Jr. Is Ready For Another Great Finish At Charlotte

Darrell Wallace, Jr.
Team:              No. 6 Leidos Ford Mustang

Crew Chief:     Seth Barbour

PR Contact:     Mike Campbell;; 704-839-1115

Twitter:             @BubbaWallace, @Bubba6Team, @RoushFenway and @Leidosinc



Wallace at Charlotte

Darrell Wallace,Jr. will make his fourth career NASCAR XFINITY Series start at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Friday night.

In three previous starts at the 1.5-mile oval, Wallace has two top-10s with a best finish of fifth in May 2015.

Wallace also previously made two starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) at Charlotte.

Recapping Dover

Wallace recorded an 11th-place finish in the rain-marred NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Dover International Speedway.

Seth Barbour at Charlotte

Barbour will call his eighth NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Charlotte this weekend.

Barbour’s best finish at the North Carolina track is eighth with Wallace in the Oct. 2015 event.

Chasing a Championship

Wallace currently ranks sixth in the NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase Grid with one race remaining in round one. Following the third race of round one at Charlotte, the bottom four contenders will be eliminated from the Chase.

Meet Bubba  

Roush Fenway Racing will host their annual Fan Day on Thursday, Oct. 6.  Wallace will sign autographs at 11:30am. Ticket distribution is at 8 a.m.

Happy Birthday, Bubba!

Wallace will be celebrating a birthday on Saturday. The driver of the Leidos Mustang was born on Oct. 8, 1993.


Wallace on racing at Charlotte:

“I’m really looking forward to racing at home this weekend in Charlotte with our Leidos Mustang. It’s always cool to see all of the families of our guys come out and watch what we do every week. This weekend is also important with it being a cutoff race in the Chase. We just need to be smooth and have a solid run on Friday to move on to the next round and closer to a shot at the championship.”


Inopportune Caution Flag Hurts Bubba Wallace At Dover

Darrell Wallace,Jr.

Bubba Wallace, driver of the No. 6 Leidos Ford Mustang, recorded an 11th-place finish in the rain-postponed NASCAR XFINITY Series event at Dover International Speedway on Sunday morning.

“My guys gave me a great piece to work with,” said Wallace after the race. “We’ve still got some work to do, but hopefully we can get it turned around and we’ll win a race. I can’t thank Leidos enough for jumping on our Ford Mustang, that was pretty cool to see the purple out there and everyone seemed to really like the way the car looked. We’ll just keep moving from here and try to solidify ourselves into the next round of the Chase next week in Charlotte.”

Wallace took the green flag for the 200-Lap event originally scheduled for Saturday afternoon from the ninth position after qualifying was cancelled after one round due to rain on Saturday. When the race went green early on Sunday morning Wallace charged forward, racing into the top five after the first lap and up to fourth before a tight-handling condition set in, shuffling Wallace back to sixth. Then, a caution on Lap 33 gave crew chief Seth Barbour an opportunity to make adjustments to the Leidos Mustang.

Wallace returned to the track in eighth and remained inside the top 10 until an inopportune caution during the first round of green flag pit stops on Lap 137 trapped the Roush Fenway Racing driver in 15th position, one lap down. Crew chief Barbour decided to utilize the wave around during this caution period, getting the Leidos Mustang back onto the lead lap.

In the closing stages Wallace fought to regain the track position lost due to the caution but there were too few laps remaining to make up all of the ground.

In the end Wallace took the checkered flag in the 11th position.

Wallace currently ranks sixth in the NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase Grid with one race remaining in round one. At the completion of next weekend’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the bottom four drivers in the Chase Grid will be eliminated from the Chase.

Next up for the NASCAR XFINITY Series is Chase Race No. 3 at Charlotte on Friday, Oct. 7.


1.5-Mile Charlotte Motor Speedway

Concord, North Carolina

Friday, October 7, 2016

8:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN and PRN



Bubba Wallace

Started: Ninth

Finished: 11th

Complete Race Results:


Darrell Wallace, Jr. Looks For Continued Success At Dover

Darrell Wallace, Jr.

Roush Fenway Racing driver Bubba Wallace kicked off the inaugural NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) Chase with a strong performance in Saturday night’s NXS race at Kentucky Speedway. Wallace qualified ninth and spent virtually the entire event inside the field’s top 10, driving his No. 6 Bleacher Report Ford Mustang all the way to the front at one point – while leading nine laps.

“It was a solid effort,” said Wallace. “We had trouble on those restarts which hurt us in the end, but we came in here and got a good finish. We ran up front for much of the night and we’ll take this top 10 and build on that for next week when we head to one of my favorite tracks at Dover.”

With the finish, Wallace leaves the Bluegrass State tied for fourth in the NXS Chase standings with Roush Fenway teammate Ryan Reed.

After advancing to the final round of qualifying, Wallace needed only 25 laps to move into the top five, before driving all the way to second on lap 29. In a caution filled event, Wallace continued to run inside the top five before powering his way to the lead on lap 105. With Wallace running in the third position, the team opted for four fresh tires after a caution on lap 117. Wallace restarted 15th, but the strategy ultimately paid off with Wallace taking fuel only during a caution on lap 130.

Wallace restarted fifth, but was unable to hold the high line and was shuffled back to 10th. The race, which saw 12 cautions on the night, continued to be plagued by accidents, as Wallace remained in the top 10 for the remainder of the race, moving on to the eighth place finish; his ninth top-10 finish of the season and his second at Kentucky this season.

The NXS will head to Dover International Speedway next weekend for the second race of The Chase. Wallace posted a career-best second place finish earlier this year at the Monster Mile.