Last year, Sporting News saw Bubba Wallace get Richard Petty’s signature tattooed on the back of his thigh. Wallace had come to the wrong end of a social media challenge and as a man of his word, he literally had Petty’s name permanently etched in his skin.
This year, it’s Petty’s race team that figuratively wants Wallace’s name etched permanently into his organization.
Richard Petty Motorsports, which is co-owned by Andrew Murstein and the 83-year-old NASCAR legend, has Wallace offered an ownership interest in the team as part of the contract renewal offer, according to Forbes. Wallace, who has raced full-time for RPM in the Cup Series since 2018, will become a freerider after the 2020 season.
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This is a rare but not unknown offer for Wallace, who is one of the best and most popular young drivers in NASCAR’s Cup Series at the age of 26. As Forbes points out, Jeff Gordon got a piece of property when he signed a lifetime contract with Hendrick Motorsports in 2002. Stewart-Haas Racing became what it is today after Gene Haas gave Tony Stewart 50 percent ownership of the team after it was signed in 2008.
The report did not specify what percentage of ownership RPM Wallace offers.
Murstein told Forbes he expects a deal in the coming weeks, but Wallace told NBC Sports reporter Marty Snider on Sunday that he “many options on the table. ‘
According to Adam Stern of the Sports Business Journal, one of those options could be Chip Ganassi Racing, who has an open Cup Series seat for 2021 after firing Kyle Larson for using the driver’s N-word. Two of CGR’s main sponsors, McDonalds and Coca-Cola, also partner with Wallace.
In theory, a move to CGR would be an upgrade of equipment / resources for Wallace. RPM is underfunded compared to the competition during Wallace’s three-year run with the team, which is part of the reason why he has never won a cup race.
However, due to the recent surge in popularity for NASCAR’s only black driver, that may change. Wallace was a leader in NASCAR during a global fight against racism this summer, and new sponsors are seizing the opportunity to capitalize on his increased fame.
“We went from probably once a week with a potential sponsor to five in the past five weeks or so,” said Murstein. “I think Bubba is probably the most recognizable NASCAR driver now, except Richard Petty. So we probably have the two most recognizable names in the sport. It’s a marketer’s dream.”
The question is whether the increase in sponsor dollars can lead to enough equipment improvements for Wallace to compete on the track as he races for Petty. Forbes ranked RPM as the ninth most valuable NASCAR organization, worth $ 28 million. That’s nothing compared to Hendrick Motorsports’ $ 315 million operation, for example. And it’s not that Wallace’s sponsorship potential is tied to his racing for RPM; that money will follow him everywhere.
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Most young, promising racing talents like Wallace usually leave smaller teams like RPM for better chances with richer teams, but at the same time, most of them aren’t offered any ownership share to stay.
Wallace is 22nd in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship points after 20 races this season. With six races to go before the 10-race NASCAR playoffs, Wallace is four places and 118 points behind the post-season cutoff position.
Simply put: Wallace needs a better car. And it looks like RPM is trying to convince him that he can get one without leaving the team.
“The nice thing about this sport is that you can do better quickly if you spend the money,” said Murstein. “It’s not like other sports where you have so much talent. Here the technology on the car is part of the talent. ”