With Bubba on board, RPM has their sights set on a bright future

by Peter Schwartz On Mon, Dec. 04, 2017

Darrell Wallace Jr., talking to Richard Petty prior to the start of practice for the Axalta 400 at Pocono Raceway, will drive the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford in the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. Photo: Chris Trotman/Getty Images

With the 2017 NASCAR season in their rear-view mirror, Richard Petty Motorsports has their eyes on the future and the ultimate goal of restoring the iconic #43 car as a force in the sport. They took a huge step in that direction late this past season when they announced that Darrell “Bubba” Wallace would be their new driver in 2018 replacing Aric Almirola who had been their full-time driver since 2012.

Wallace, who had been a regular driver in the XFINITY Series, got a taste of what it’s like to drive the #43 car filling in this past season when Almirola was injured. At 24 years old, Wallace is one of the up and coming young drivers in NASCAR and becomes the first full-time African-American driver at the highest level of the sport since Wendell Scott in 1973.

With the potential to be one of the next great young stars in NASCAR, there is an excitement level at RPM that is through the roof.

“I’m ecstatic,” said RPM majority owner Andrew Murstein. “Bubba is a rising star in the sport of NASCAR, and we are honored to hand him “the keys” to the No. 43 car. Our team believes Bubba has the potential and personality to be one of the next superstars in the sport, and we’re ready to pave his road to success. He will surprise a lot of people next year, I can promise you that.”

Wallace becomes the latest example of what has been a changing of the guard in NASCAR. He joins the growing list of young drivers in the sport, including Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, and Kyle Larson that has raised the level of excitement in the Monster Energy Cup Series. With Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick retiring, the door has been opened for some new faces in the sport and Bubba is one of them.

To illustrate just how important the young drivers, especially Wallace, are to the sport, you don’t need to look farther than NASCAR’s “Victory Tour” that matches drivers to each speedway on the Monster Energy Cup schedule. Each track chooses a driver to pay a visit to the speedway to promote the upcoming race. Las Vegas Motor Speedway has already chosen Wallace over veteran drivers like Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch to be their chosen driver.

That’s a perfect example of why RPM went hard after Wallace because he brings a lot more to the table than just his outstanding talents on the track.

“We really feel lucky to have landed Bubba at the perfect time,” said Murstein. “He has the potential to be a transformational athlete for NASCAR, breaking down barriers and out-dated stereotypes in the sport, much like Tiger Woods did for golf a few decades ago. Yes, his diversity will draw attention, but his ability behind the wheel will separate him from that conversation”.

Another unique talent that Wallace brings with him to RPM is the ability to interact with fans on social media. He is very active and creative on social media including his courtship of Domino’s Pizza as a sponsor through a clever video that he put together while playing a round of golf. Social media is a huge part of the sports landscape these days and RPM is fortunate to have someone like Wallace that understands it.

In fact, Murstein has to be feeling a sense of déjà vu when it comes to an athlete that is active on social media. Murstein also owns the New York Lizards of Major League Lacrosse and in 2015 the team traded for Paul Rabil, arguably the biggest star in the sport. In addition to his talents on the field that helped the Lizards win the championship in 2015, Rabil is also a big time entrepreneur with his apparel line and camps leading to him becoming the first million dollar man in lacrosse.

Rabil is also very social media savvy with his many fun and instructional videos and now RPM can tap into the same type of interaction in NASCAR with Wallace.

“Bubba has had a unique way of selling his brand well before any of our sponsors put a dollar on the table,” said Murstein. “He’s authentic. His fan base is searching for him. His peers are searching for him.”

When RPM officially announced in October that Wallace was going to be their full-time driver, Bleacher Report did a story about Bubba profiling his life and the meteoric rise of his career. Within 48 hours, the article had 250,000 views, the second most read NASCAR story on the site only behind Dale Jr.’s retirement and his announcement on his Twitter page gathered 51 million impressions globally.

“Bubba’s social media footprint is impressive to say the least,” said Murstein.

Speaking of social media, everyone loves a good selfie. I can speak from experience that it’s always a great experience to get a photo with a celebrity and it can happen at the spur of a moment. Perhaps the addition of Bubba can help Murstein in that department since the only selfie that Murstein has ever taken in his life was with Wallace this past season at Pocono Raceway.

Murstein, who still prefers to use a BlackBerry over an iPhone, had a reason or two to finally take the plunge and take a selfie with Wallace.

“I had a hunch he would become our driver which is why I took it,” said Murstein. “I also impressed my kids, who love Bubba, and had no idea I knew how to take a selfie. I’m not big on self-promotion and am fine staying in the background. I’m not on Facebook, LinkedIn, and have never used Snapchat. Most team owners put their names on their teams. Obviously I don’t and why should I when I have the best and most famous partner in the history of NASCAR in Richard Petty.”

There’s no questioning Wallace’s skills on the track and his ability to interact with fans on social media which are both very important. But Bubba’s value to RPM goes far beyond that because he has already had a significant impact on sponsorships.

Back in October, Smithfield Foods announced that they would not continue as a sponsor in 2018. But in November, RPM signed Mid America Mortgage’s digital approve and closing platform “Click n’ Close” as their new primary sponsor.
RPM has also signed patriotic apparel line “Grunt Style” as a sponsor and longtime Richard Petty partner “STP” will be back in 2018.

And that’s just the beginning because since they signed Wallace as their full-time driver, RPM’s phone has been ringing off the hook.

“We’ve opened the doors of communication with many new prospective partners, and will continue to do so in the coming months leading up to Daytona,” said Murstein. “We have no doubt that Bubba will thrive in his new role with us here at RPM. In the seven years since The King and I bought the team we have never had so much interest from sponsors as we do now. When our sponsors stamp their brand on the iconic No. 43 car and Bubba’s uniform, we will all be making history together.”

There’s no doubt that this is an historic time for Richard Petty Motorsports. They have gone through some changes that has created plenty of buzz for the 2018 season. The addition of Darrell “Bubba” Wallace is a big reason for the excitement as the team has added a young and talented driver to take the reigns of the famous #43 car.

Wallace brings talent, youth, and social media savvy to RPM which begs the following question. How long will it take for Andrew Murstein to get that BlackBerry out for a second selfie when Wallace and the rest of the team is celebrating their first win together?

** The opinions expressed on this site are not necessarily those of the publisher. All comments other than website related problems need to be directed to the author. (c)SpeedwayMedia.com. **

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