The 2018 NASCAR season is barely a month and a half away, and make no mistake, there is excitement in the air!
With the music finally slowing to a stop and drivers finding their seats, there ended up being a few veterans who were left standing out in the cold.
There are new rookie drivers joining the show, big-name manufacturer changes and driver number changes, just to name a few things that should bring about cause for anticipation.
The biggest team manufacturer shift to occur during the offseason was that of the famed No. 43 of Richard Petty Motorsports, which changes from the blue oval badge of Ford to the golden bow tie of Chevrolet for the new season.
If that weren’t enough, RPM has also formed a alliance with Richard Childress Racing coming into the new year, which is something that should be very interesting in its own right.
The driver line up at RCR will stay the same, with Austin Dillon and Ryan Newman returning, but there still remains rumor of a third driver coming to the stable since the charter situation with the No. 27 team is still unresolved at this juncture.
Meanwhile, RPM is greeting the new year with a familiar face, one that made several starts for them during the 2017 season while Aric Almirola was recovering from a back injury.
Darrell (Bubba) Wallace Jr. was named the driver of the iconic Petty No. 43 for the 2018 season back on Oct. 25, and will chase Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors despite some looming uncertainty in regards to sponsorship. As of now, the team has confirmed seven sponsored races (three with Click ‘n Close, two with STP and two with the Air Force), but the industry is still awaiting news of who the team’s major partner (or partners) might be.
With RPM being back with Chevrolet and General Motors, a manufacturer the team last worked with in 1980 when King Richard himself took the Bowtie Brigade to victory lane six times that season, it all breeds a recipe for potential rebirth of one of NASCAR’s oldest and most iconic teams.
So, what do I think all the shaking will mean for RPM? I think this is good for them as a team. The new alliance is needed if they want to be consistent in finishing inside the top 20, especially considering that the new Camaro ZL1 comes into the series this coming year mean, loud and loaded for bear after Toyota’s dominant season in 2017.
I think there may even be a few more top 10s for RPM in the new year, especially at the superspeedways and bullring short tracks, where they have always seemed to perform at their strongest.
On the downside, there will be the growing pains of starting from scratch, but at least RPM and RCR will be able to figure out the Camaro ZL1 together. I think it will be interesting to see how they can overcome the new challenges of the Camaro as a group.
Will they come out the gate swinging?
Personally, I don’t see them having success until at least the spring Charlotte race, but who knows — they could come out and win the Daytona 500!
Because, as we all well know, if you’re in it, you have a shot to win it. We just won’t know until the green flag drops in Daytona in February.
I’m stoked, and I hope you are too. Stay tuned.
About the Writer
Andy DeLay is a career law enforcement officer for Clearwater, Florida who carries a passion for motorsports at both the local and national levels. He is an avid iRacer who also spends time away from the virtual circuit at local tracks.
In addition, DeLay is a host of the long-time Burning Rubber Radio Show on the Performance Motorsports Network, the wireless mobile radio affiliate of Race Chaser Online, as well as an onsite reporter for PMN in various capacities.
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