Richard Petty confident that Smithfield will return as sponsor for 2018

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Car owner Richard Petty told NBC Sports that he’s confident that sponsor Smithfield will return to the team after this season and would like to have Darrell Wallace Jr. back if they have a place for him.

Smithfield is in the final season of a three-year extension announced in January 2014. The executive who oversees the motorsports program recently left the company, but Petty said that won’t impact the team’s discussions with Smithfield.

“He’s like everybody else, he’s just a worker,’’ Petty told NBC Sports on Wednesday after unveiling the throwback paint scheme Aric Almirola will drive in the Southern 500. “We work with the top guys. It’s just another movement within the company and they’ve revamped their company in the last year anyway. We’re not worried about that part of it. We’re still looking forward to having Smithfield again back next year.’’

If Smithfield remains at the same level — the company has sponsored the No. 43 car in 15 of the first 18 points races this season — then the focus will be on RPM’s second car.

The organization cut back to one car for this season but has two charters. It leased a charter to the Go Fas Racing for the No. 32 car. Charters can only be leased once every five years.

That charter returns after this year. RPM could lease the charter of the No. 43 car and use the charter returning for that car. Another option would be to sell the charter returning from the No. 32 team if RPM doesn’t believe it will return to a two-car operation. Or it can keep both charters and be a two-car team. If so, it will need a driver.

Darrell Wallace Jr. could be a candidate.

“We were very impressed,’’ Petty said of Wallace, who finished his four-race run with the team with an 11th-place finish last weekend at Kentucky Speedway. “He got to know the crew and crew got to know him and he got better. If we had a place for him I’d like to have him back again. Right now, our focus is getting our team back … getting Aric back to winning races and doing good and then we’ll look at the next step.’’

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