CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Erik Jones will drive NASCAR's iconic No. 43 next season for Richard Petty Motorsports, a pairing of a driver and a team both in need of fresh starts.
Jones in August was dropped by megateam Joe Gibbs Racing after six seasons, while Bubba Wallace and RPM are splitting at the end of the year. Wallace’s social activism this year became the defining characteristic of the storied Petty organization.
“They still have something to prove and I have something to prove," Jones told The Associated Press. “We are both motivated to write a new chapter. It’s just a really clean slate, a chance to start from scratch and do something completely different."
Wallace, NASCAR's only full-time Black driver, this season has been outspoken on racial inequality and injustice. He ran a Black Lives Matter paint scheme on the No. 43 and RPM adopted Wallace's “compassion, love, understanding” platform.
Wallace's recent prominence helped the driver sign millions of dollars in new sponsorship, but the funding will follow him next season when he moves to a new team formed by Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin.
The loss of Wallace could have crippled RPM, the cash-strapped team co-owned by NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty. Instead, a volatile free-agent market helped RPM land Jones, a 24-year-old considered among the top young talent in NASCAR.
RPM chairman Brian Moffitt said there was “no fear at all” the organization would not survive splitting with Wallace.
“We've been here since it started in 1948 and we plan to be involved for many, many years,” Moffitt told the AP. “It's a passion of the family and we want to keep things headed in the right direction. I think Erik gives us an opportunity to get back to our winning ways.”