Bubba Wallace remains to be the King of headlines for NASCAR and I’ve been behind him 100% of it up until this point. Wallace as decided to opt-out of returning to Richard Petty Motorsports and instead will more than likely head to Chip Ganassi Racing or Hendrick Motorsports in 2021.
Is this a good move for Bubba? I’m not really sure, I think it’s a bad move in terms of what he could’ve helped build at RPM and the legacy he could’ve left by being the key figure in reviving that once great race team. But, I understand it is hard to turn down a ride with the opportunity to do what you dream of, and that is win races.
With Wallace, his sponsorships also leave RPM which could turn out to be a major issue for RPM in 2021. Who could not only bring sponsorship to RPM but also provide solid finishes for the team to continue the positive momentum that Bubba Wallace left them with?
10. Jeffrey Earnhardt
An Earnhardt in the #43 would be an odd sight, but this might make the best sense for RPM in a sad light. With Wallace’s departure, so goes his vast sponsorship as well. RPM needs a driver that can bring in sponsorship and that has never been a problem for the obscurest of the Earnhardt’s.
Talent-wise this is a major downgrade but it would be a stop-gap until they can figure out where to go from here; especially with the next-gen car around the corner. Earnhardt could provide stability and limp them to the finish line of these smaller teams waiting on 2022.
9. Justin Allgaier
Another stop-gap where talent will be lacking but sponsorship is key. Allgaier brings with him Brandt and could keep RPM afloat for a couple of seasons. Allgaier is a major competitor in the Xfinity Series thanks to his JR Motorsports ride, but getting a chance to be a Cup driver might be worth more to him then wins in the lower series.
It’s a win-win for each. RPM gets a steady flow of sponsorship money and Allgaier gets one last shot at Cup. While I doubt many wins would come from this, there is still a chance for some good finishes. Allgaier is a solid race manager type of driver and exactly what this team may need to get their feet back underneath them.
8. Justin Haley
Haley represents the same amount of risk with Earnhardt and Allgaier, but with a much higher upside. Haley is currently racing for a championship at Kaulig Racing in the Xfinity Series and while he’s not outperforming his teammate Ross Chastain, he’s performing admirably for a 21-year old.
A talent that is hot and cold in his career, Haley has the right amount of upside and sponsorship to make this a solid match for 2021. While this would probably be another stop-gap for both Haley and RPM, it presents a much more flavorful prospect than the previous two.
7. Brett Moffitt
Moffitt found new life in his career after a little known Truck team gave him a shot to become a champion. RPM might be able to do this again for him in the Cup Series. 2020 has been a down season for him after two phenomenal seasons in a row, but he’s still in the middle of the title race.
Moffitt could be a talent that slipped through the cracks and just in the same RPM could be giving him a great shot, he has the talent to give RPM some good finishes. Even driving for little known team Our Motorsports he’s produced 5 top tens in Xfinity this season. He deserves a Cup ride, and RPM would be a solid match.
6. Corey LaJoie
We do not know why LaJoie is leaving Go Fas Racing, but he obviously has some good reason for it. Who knows if this was with RPM in mind, but it would be a slight upgrade over his prior team. He has been clamoring for a shot at a better ride and while RPM will keep him in the 15th-25th range, it’s still an opportunity to stay in NASCAR relevancy.
LaJoie has outdriven his equipment at GFR, so the same will more than likely happen at RPM. LaJoie having experience driving for a team in the same boat as RPM and provides much more marketability than the usual driver they can bring in realistically.
5. Ross Chastain
At this point, I think Ross will take whatever ride is given to him. While Chip Ganassi Racing is still potentially an option for him, it seems like that could be Wallace’s destination. So why does Ross not just take his spot?
Chastain is currently known as the best driver, not in good equipment. While RPM wouldn’t be giving him the elite equipment he’s been searching for his whole life, it is still the best Cup ride he has been given since getting a few races to sub in for Ryan Newman earlier this year.
4, Daniel Suarez
Suarez has been a career Toyota guy, but with him falling from grace so far, I think getting a chance at a Cup ride that can at least contend for top twenties would be worth it to him to switch manufacturers.
Suarez was at one time thought to be one of the next big stars of NASCAR but it never panned out. While his career may be all but done, going to RPM could be his hail mary play in order to prove he still belongs in the top series.
3. Matt DiBenedetto
Now, I hope DiBenedetto stays at the Wood Brothers, but things aren’t looking good and Austin Cindric may be coming for his ride. It may be a one step forward two steps back situation, but it could be a lot worse. Having to go to RPM is not a death sentence, and it may be his only chance at remaining in Cup.
DiBenedetto gives RPM a chance to remain relevant with a fan favorite driver who can keep them in playoff contention. This is all contingent on the Wood Brothers moving onto a new driver next year, but it seems to be trending this way.
2. Clint Bowyer
Another guy whose coming to RPM is relying upon him losing his ride for 2021. With a disappointing 2020 season and a young Chase Briscoe seeming ready to make the jump, Bowyer returning to the #14 would be a surprise at this point. Greg Zipadelli has said he hopes to keep the driver lineup the same, but we’ll see.
Bowyer has also stated his desire to remain in the Cup series instead of retirement. So, RPM might be his only option to make that happen. No other rides will be open besides #48 of Hendrick Motorsports and while that is a possibility, it seems very unlikely. Bowyer brings a playoff pedigree to RPM, and while this would be a stop-gap, it’s the best possible stop-gap till they get their future in order.
- Erik Jones
This man needs a ride for 2021. Jones has been disappointing but he is far too young and too talented to let him fall out of Cup. RPM should be elated to get him and this may be the only driver on this list who would be an upgrade from Bubba Wallace.
While I’m sure Jones would hope for better Cup rides, they are going to be far and few between. RPM presents him an opportunity to remain in Cup and show he’s not a bust by keeping this team afloat for the long term.