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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.

Greg Zipadelli to serve as Clint Bowyer’s interim crew chief

Greg Zipadelli
Photo by Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images
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Greg Zipadelli, competition director for Stewart-Haas Racing, will serve as the crew chief for Clint Bowyer in Saturday’s Cup race at Michigan International Speedway, the team confirmed Monday.

Johnny Klausmeier will miss Saturday’s race, serving a one-race suspension because Bowyer’s car was found to have two lug nuts not safe and secure after last weekend’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Bowyer enters Saturday’s race at Michigan (4 p.m. ET on NBCSN) 14th on the playoff grid. The top 16 will advance to the playoffs. Six races remain in the regular season.

Klausmeier will be able to resume his role for Sunday’s Cup race (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) at Michigan.

Zipadelli, who won Cup titles in 2002 and 2005 with Tony Stewart, will reprise the interim role he played earlier in the season in the Xfinity Series.

Zipadelli served as Chase Briscoe‘s crew chief for four races after crew chief Richard Boswell, the team’s car chief and an engineer were each suspended four races because ballast fell out of his car. Briscoe won three of the four races with Zipadelli as his crew chief.

Team Penske extends contract with Brad Keselowski

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Team Penske announced Monday that New Hampshire winner Brad Keselowski has agreed to a contract extension. Keselowski’s contract was to expire after this season.

A media release from the team did not state the length of the extension for Keselowski, 36. The Associated Press reported that the deal was for one year through the 2021 season.

Keselowski, who won the 2012 Cup title, has been with Team Penske since 2010, winning 31 Cup and 33 Xfinity races during that time.

“We are pleased that Brad will continue to be a part of our organization,” said Roger Penske in a statement. “Brad not only demonstrates talent and skill on the track, but his leadership away from it and his dedication to our partners have had a huge impact in making our organization one of the best in NASCAR. I am proud that we will be able to able to keep the continuity we have with Brad, Ryan (Blaney) and Joey (Logano) and look forward to competing for more wins and championships together.”

MORE: Winners and losers from New Hampshire

Said Keselowski in a statement: I have been racing for Team Penske for the vast majority of my NASCAR career and to continue to represent Roger Penske, our partners and his organization is exactly where I want to be. We’ve accomplished a lot of things together over the years, including winning both the Cup and Xfinity Championships, the Brickyard 400, the Southern 500 and the Coca-Cola 600. Now, my goal is to win the Daytona 500, another championship and continue to build Team Penske into the best NASCAR team in the garage area.”

Logano is signed to at least 2022. In March, Blaney signed a multiyear extension with Team Penske.

Keselowski’s victory Sunday was his third of the season. He’s scored at least three wins in each of the past five seasons. Keselowski is second  in the points to Kevin Harvick.

GMS Racing, Brett Moffitt to honor Jimmie Johnson with special scheme

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GMS Racing and sponsor Plan B Sales have created a special paint scheme to honor seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson on championship weekend in November at Phoenix Raceway.

Brett Moffitt, the 2018 Truck Series champion, will pilot the the specially adorned truck at Phoenix.

“Brett has been a part of the Plan B family and a great ambassador for our company over the years,” said Brent Powell, owner of Plan B Sales in a statement. “Last year we partnered with Brett and GMS for the Phoenix race, but this year is different with it being the season finale and Jimmie’s final (full-time Cup) weekend. It truly is an honor for us to showcase this throwback for Jimmie and hopefully see Brett clinch his second championship in our truck.”

Said Moffitt of Johnson in a statement: “I have looked up to him, leaned on him and had the utmost respect for everything he has done for our sport. This is the coolest paint scheme I’ve had in my career because of how much respect and admiration I have for Jimmie. I’m rooting for him to go out on top, and maybe we’ll both get the chance to celebrate a championship in Phoenix later this year.”

Johnson has announced this will be his final full-time Cup season. He drove a Chip Ganassi Racing IndyCar in a July 28 test on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Johnson has expressed a desire to race different vehicles after this season.

 

Cup playoff grid after New Hampshire

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William Byron holds a 15-point lead on rookie Tyler Reddick for the final playoff spot in the Cup playoff grid after last weekend’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Six races remain in the regular season.

Byron finished 11th at New Hampshire, one spot behind Reddick, but Byron extended his advantage on Reddick by five points. Byron scored six stage points, while Reddick scored none.

MORE: Could New Hampshire be a sign of things to come in Cup?

MORE: Winners and losers from New Hampshire 

Jimmie Johnson fell to 25 points behind Byron for the final spot in the Cup playoff grid. Johnson overcame a spin after contact with Clint Bowyer to run in the top 10 but lost four spots in the final 20 laps to finish 12th.

“Good fight today guys,” Johnson told his team on the radio after the race. “Overcome a lot of (stuff) again.”

The series heads this weekend to Michigan International Speedway for two races. The Cup Series races there at 4 p.m. ET Saturday and at 4:30 p.m. ET on Sunday. Both races will be on NBCSN.

Ten of the 16 playoff spots have been secured by drivers who have won at least one race this year: Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr., Alex Bowman, Austin Dillon and rookie Cole Custer.

Here is a look at the Cup playoff grid. Drivers shaded in green are locked in the playoffs. Drivers shaded in yellow are in a playoff spot based on their point total. Drivers shaded in red are outside a spot in the Cup playoff grid.

 

Cup playoff grid New Hampshire