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Bubba Wallace will drive No. 43 for Richard Petty through 2020

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Richard Petty Motorsports exercised a two-year option on its contract with Bubba Wallace, keeping the Cup Series rookie in the iconic No. 43.

“We hired him at the beginning of the season, and we like little bit of what he’s doing, so I think we’ll hire him again for next season,” co-team owner Richard Petty joked with reporters in making the announcement Saturday morning at Pocono Raceway. “It gives us some stability. We’re still learning Bubba; Bubba’s still learning us. We see improvements even though a lot of times the finishes aren’t that much better.”

Wallace finished runner-up in the season-opening Daytona 500 but has only one top 10 in 19 races since then (an eighth at Texas Motor Speedway in April). He is ranked 24th in the points standings.

Wallace, 24, said it was a two-year extension through the 2020 season.

“It’s exciting for me,” Wallace said. “Our announcements are usually December, January or the week of Daytona. This is pretty nice. Definitely a stress reliever knowing we have a certain future ahead of us.”

He was signed by RPM last November after a successful four-race stint filling in for an injured Aric Almirola last season.

Wallace has six victories in the Camping World Truck Series.

Here’s the release from the team:

WELCOME, N.C. (July 28, 2018) – Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) is pleased to officially announce that it has picked up the option to extend Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. as the driver of the No. 43 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in a multiyear agreement. The confirmation was made today by NASCAR Hall of Famer and team co-owner, “The King” Richard Petty at the Pocono Raceway. Wallace, 24, is currently in his first full season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and is contending for the Sunoco Rookie of The Year award.

Wallace Jr. burst onto the Cup scene during this year’s Daytona 500, finishing second and making national headlines. He later scored a Top-10 finish at Texas Motor Speedway and then raced the iconic No. 43 STP Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to the front at Bristol Motor Speedway. He has also earned numerous Sunoco Rookie of the Race awards throughout the season and has led laps at Bristol, Pocono Raceway and Talladega Superspeedway.

Off the track, Wallace Jr. has proven to be one of the fastest-rising stars not only in NASCAR, but in all of sports. Social media leader, Facebook, began the year following Wallace Jr. leading up to his first Daytona 500 start. The “Behind the Wall: Bubba Wallace” Facebook Watch digital docuseries propelled Wallace Jr. into the mainstream media with over five million views. Recently, Wallace Jr. was named as one of the top 50 Most Influential People in Sports Culture by Bleacher Report.

“Our highs have been well documented and so have our lows,” said Wallace Jr. “It’s all a part of growing together as a team with a new alliance, a new shop, a new manufacturer, a new car and being a rookie driver. It’s a wild ride and I’m thankful to the Petty family for allowing me to be on it. Richard is competitive, and I think about winning in the ’43’ all the time. We both want the same thing and we’re building that. Today, allows us to get this confirmed and continue to focus on the future.”

Last season, Wallace Jr. made his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut in the No. 43 in June and competed in four total races. He was named the full-time driver at the end of the 2017 season. A graduate of both NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity and NASCAR Next programs, Wallace Jr. has broken several barriers and records throughout his rise within the sport.

Wallace Jr. initially rose to prominence in 2013 with a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, becoming the first African-American driver in 50 years to win a NASCAR national touring series feature since NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Wendell Scott. The next season Wallace Jr. finished third overall in the truck series point standings with four wins for Kyle Busch Motorsports before moving up full-time to the NASCAR Xfinity Series with Roush Fenway Racing in 2015, where he earned 31 top-10 finishes over three seasons.

“We have faith in Bubba and in our team that we’ll continue to get better, together,” said Petty. “This confirmation allows our partners to start building for next season and beyond. It also allows the different companies that we’re talking to now know that we’re very serious about building our future with Bubba as our driver.”

Wallace will compete Sunday in the Gander Outdoors 400 at the Pocono Raceway.

Austin Hill wins Truck Series opener at Daytona in overtime finish

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Austin Hill won Friday’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series season opener at Daytona in an overtime finish, claiming his first career Truck Series win.

The win comes in Hill’s 52nd series start and his first with Hattori Racing Enterprises. Hill, a former member of the NASCAR Next driver program, took over for defending champion Brett Moffitt in the No. 16 Toyota.

Hill, 24, beat Grant Enfinger, Ross Chastain, Spencer Boyd and Matt Crafton in the second attempt at an overtime finish.

Hill, who is from Winston, Georgia, led 39 laps and survived a race that saw 11 cautions and 26 of 32 trucks involved in accidents.

“Man, this truck was fast,” Hill told Fox Sports 1. “I knew we had a truck that could compete. Got a little scared there at the end. I thought (Enfinger) was going to get me, he got a big run. We were able to protect it. I can’t believe my first win came at Daytona. It’s so surreal, I can’t wait to party with these guys.”

Hill’s win is the third in a row for Hattori after Moffitt won the last two races of 2018.

The overtime period was created by a wreck with two laps left in the scheduled 100-lap distance that involved 10 trucks and nearly every remaining frontrunner. The final restart was setup by a two-car incident on the first overtime attempt.

Only nine of the field’s 32 trucks took the final green flag.

“It was a crazy night … carnage everywhere,” Enfinger said. “We tore up a lot of crap tonight.”

STAGE 1 WINNER: Sheldon Creed

STAGE 2 WINNER: Johnny Sauter

Click here for the race results.

Click here for the point standings.

NOTABLE: Billy Rock, the jackman on the No. 28 of Bryan Dauzat, was awake and alert after he was hit on pit road early in the race by Dauzat, who had lost his brakes. Rock was transported to a local hospital … Angela Ruch, the niece of Derrike Cope, placed eighth in NEMCO Motorsports No. 8 truck. She is just the second woman to earn a top 10 in the Truck Series. Jennifer Jo Cobb placed sixth at Daytona in 2011.

NEXT: Active Pest Control 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway at 4:30 p.m. ET on Feb. 23 on Fox Sports 1

Christian Eckes wins Truck Series pole at Daytona

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Christian Eckes won the pole for tonight’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series season opener at Daytona.

Driving the No. 51 Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports, Eckes posted a top speed of 182.604 mph.

It is the first career pole for 18-year-old Eckes in his fifth career start.

“I felt way more confident in our car in the draft yesterday,” Eckes told Fox Sports 1. “I really wasn’t sure where we would qualify but here we are on the pole.”

He will be joined on the front row by David Gilliland (182.556 mph).

The top five is completed by Todd Gilliland (181.686), Harrison Burton (181.357) and Grant Enfinger (181.349).

Burton will start from the rear after an engine change was made on his No. 18 Toyota on Thursday.

The race is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.

Click here for the starting lineup.

Meet the ‘Gen 7 for NASCAR’ that could include shorter races and capped costs

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Are shorter races better? That’s a discussion taking place in NASCAR, along with the length of the season and other key topics.

“We have to keep (fans) engaged,” car owner Jack Roush said Friday at Daytona International Speedway. “We have to think about their attention spans. The races may need to get shorter.  That could be cost savings all the way around. Probably need to get shorter. 

“People say we need to race fewer times. I’m not sure that’s true. I used to tell (NASCAR Vice Chairman) Mike Helton, if he had three or four races a week, I’d be there for him. I don’t know if I’d say that today.”

Already this week, Kevin Harvick has advocated eliminating the Clash, and Denny Hamlin has noted one of the most popular events in the Olympics is the 100-meter dash instead of the marathon, a hint to shorter races

These comments have been made as the sport looks to cut costs for teams and energize fans who can become weary over a 38-race season that goes from February to November. NASCAR President Steve Phelps said last year that various ideas would be considered for the 2020 schedule and beyond. 

Car owner Roger Penske, whose organization is coming off Joey Logano’s Cup championship season, likens the sport’s look at race lengths to its focus on the next car, which is targeted to debut in 2021.

“I think we’re really talking about Gen 7 for NASCAR,” Penske said, using the term for the next car. “It’s not just the car or the engine. I think it’s the show, it’s the length of the races, it’s where we’re going to run, are we going to run more at night, short tracks. Let’s call it Gen 7 for NASCAR, not just the car.”

A shorter season could limit how many weekends NASCAR goes head-to-head against the NFL in the fall. Shorter races could provide the opportunity for midweek races. The belief from those advocating shorter races is that it would create a better show for fans.

“I think it’s an exciting time for us really in the sport,” car owner Joe Gibbs said. “You know, there’s times that you struggle, and I think we have struggled some, but I honestly think (NASCAR Chairman) Jim France is on board and after it.  I think we, having constant meetings with everybody has kind of put everything on the table. 

“We’ve got a great fan base, but I think everything is really out there, scheduling, everything that you’re talking about, cost savings, everything is on the table. And so sometimes when you go through a tough time, those wind up being the best times because it causes you to really think your way through things.”

Just as important to teams are the costs, which NASCAR continues to look to cut. There’s also been talk of some type of spending limitation for teams.

“You’re going to see other things happen with the cars, engine packages, that’s going to reduce the cost,” car owner Rick Hendrick said. “So NASCAR is really on it. When you look at it, we talk about a spending cap. I don’t know how you regulate that with all we have going on. I mean, everything is on the table.”

Bob Jenkins, car owner for Front Row Motorsports, said cost containment can make an impact for his three-car organization.

“The ultimate goal has always got to be how can we do more with less with any team,” he said. “I think some of the larger teams have felt the financial pinch maybe more so than we have. When you’re in a constant evolution mode, it’s hard for us to keep up. We can make suspension changes a few times a year. Like Roger said, we can’t change cars every week.

“In previous years, we were always a generation or two behind and it shows on our performance. I think now when they come with these common parts that are produced by a third-party manufacturer that can’t be tweaked or re-engineered it only helps a team like us.”

Menard, McMurray, Stenhouse fastest in second Cup practice at Daytona

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Paul Menard (200.758 mph) was fastest in Friday’s second Cup practice session at Daytona International Speedway.

Jamie McMurray in his Chevrolet Camaro was second-fastest (200.696 mph) and the only driver not in a Ford in the first 13 positions.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (200.664) was third-fastest, followed by Ryan Newman (200.638) and Clint Bowyer (200.588).

Sixth through 10th were Aric Almirola (200.571), Daniel Suarez (200.535), defending Cup champion Joey Logano (200.450), Ryan Blaney (200.428) and Brad Keselowski (200.428).

Only 29 of the 40 cars entered in Sunday’s Daytona 500 took part in the second practice. There is one final practice scheduled for Saturday.

Click here for the full second practice speed chart.

In the first practice session earlier in the afternoon, Kyle Busch led a Joe Gibbs Racing juggernaut.

Busch paced the 40-car field with a top speed of 200.285 mph, followed by JGR teammates Martin Truex Jr. (200.200) in second, Erik Jones in fourth (200.156) and Denny Hamlin was seventh-fastest (200.044). Ryan Preece was third-fastest in a Chevrolet at 200.169 mph, while Ryan Newman rounded out the top five at 200.093 mph.

Click here for the full first practice speed chart.

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