Smithfield Foods has informed Richard Petty Motorsports that they will not be returning to the famed #43 car in 2018 as the primary sponsor according to Motorsport.com. This comes after a handshake agreement that would keep Smithfield at RPM fell apart. According to the report, the diffusion of the partnership stems from the team’s desire to use Darrell Wallace Jr. as the driver in 2018.
Everything up to this report pointed in the direction of Wallace and Smithfield teaming up in the #43 for 2018. A hot, young driver with a big following and a lot of upsides. Almirola to date has performed mediocre in the Cup series, partially due to equipment and partially due to talent. When Almirola was out earlier in the season Wallace stepped in and achieved the same results and better results than Almirola.
RPM sounds like they want a new face in The King’s #43. What they didn’t account for was the sponsor being undyingly loyal to Almirola and following him to a new ride in 2018. Without a primary sponsor now there are a lot of questions surrounding RPM.
Will There Be An RPM In 2018?
A week ago we all would have said yes. Darrell Wallace Jr would be the driver, Smithfield the sponsor and the team would be fielding Chevy’s thanks to an alliance with Richard Childress Racing. Now today, I’m skeptical if the #43 will be on track full time in 2018.
RPM doesn’t have a vast array of sponsorships. They aren’t a team that can sell a major sponsor on their recent accomplishments. Currently, they’re a step above Front Row Motorsports but two steps below third level Ford team Roush. Richard Petty and his partner don’t have the cash to straight up fund a race car out of their pockets for an extended period of time.
In 2018 we could see RPM scale back to a Wood Brothers type of schedule before they went full time with Ryan Blaney last season. The #43 could step back, focus on tracks they think they could have good runs at and build for the future. That makes the most sense for them if they are unable to find sponsors for the full season. Maybe their projected alliance with Richard Childress Racing could reap some sort of benefit. Or perhaps RCR takes the #43 under their banner where the #27 previously was. It’s a fluid situation with a no real outcome in sight currently.
One thing that is for certain, Darrell Wallace Jr. is their guy if they find sponsorship.
What About Almirola & Smithfield?
Aric Almirola and Smithfield are apparently headed to Stewart Haas Racing and one of their two* open seats. Like the #10 car in 2018. Smithfield will likely have to scale back their involvement due to the increased budget at SHR but their exposure should, in theory, be more. SHR is top of the line Ford equipment with a ton of factory backing, there is no reason Almirola shouldn’t be up there competing for Top 10’s and Top 5’s.
We all agree Danica is out of the #10, right? Cool, moving on.
NASCAR Silly Season is still rolling and more pieces have to fall into place. The Almirola/Smithfield puzzle piece is a major piece that needs to officialy find a home now.
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