LONG POND, Pa. – For Bubba Wallace, a visit from car owner Richard Petty to his motorhome at Daytona earlier this month was a welcome relief.
Wallace quickly learned during that encounter that he won’t have to wait on pins and needles until the end of the year to find out his status with Richard Petty Motorsports for 2019.
The contract extension was announced Saturday as a multiyear deal, but Wallace was more specific.
“I was asleep on my couch in Daytona when he (Petty) comes barreling up to my bus,” Wallace said. “And he says ‘Hey, we’re going to do the next two years with you,’ and I’m like, ‘OK, great.’
“It was just like that. And then I went back to sleep. I thought ‘Oh, I probably put off a bad vibe, because I was knocked out,’ and he’s like, ‘Congrats on the next two years,’ and I’m like, ‘Cool. Thanks.’”
The 24-year-old driver acknowledged that a deal announced in July is a substantial departure from the last-minute maneuverings that have typified his career. With the next two years set, RPM can concentrate on its ongoing search for sponsorship.
“Knowing that we have a set future ahead, we can sell that,” said Wallace, who finished second in the season-opening Daytona 500. “That’s the biggest thing as a whole, how we want to make our program better from the outside looking in.
“That goes a long way. So, for us, we’re still in here turning wrenches and trying everything we can to get our race cars better.”
For Petty, extending Wallace’s tenure with RPM is a move consistent with what the team owner sees as a paradigm shift in the sport— a changing of the guard from veterans to younger drivers.
“We’re going to have a new chapter with the racing crowd and the drivers,” Petty said. “So we wanted to get in on the ground floor on this. If you look back, a lot of the drivers I’ve had kind of went through their deal and then we picked them up on the back end.
“We want to start out a little bit different this time. We’re going to start out on the front end. Bubba was a logical choice for us.”