Bubba Wallace started his Cup Series career with Richard Petty Motorsports, driving the iconic No. 43 Chevrolet Camaro. He is leaving at the end of the 2021 season to partner with Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin for a new team, and now RPM has reportedly found a replacement driver. The team is reportedly finalizing a deal with Erik Jones, per sources close to the situation.
Adam Stern of the Sports Business Journal provided the update on Monday afternoon. Jones spent the 2020 season with Joe Gibbs Racing while driving the No. 20 Toyota Camry and securing nine top-five finishes. However, his time with the team came to an end when the team informed Jones that he would not return in 2021. Christopher Bell will replace Jones in the No. 20 after spending 2020 with Leavine Family Racing.
Jones spent nearly eight years with Joe Gibbs Racing, split between the Xfinity and Cup Series. He accrued two wins and 33 top-five finishes during his four full-time seasons at NASCAR's top level, and he will strive to replicate this success with the No. 43 Chevrolet Camaro. Although achieving this goal may not be a simple task considering RPM's reputation as an "underfunded team."
The deal is not final yet, according to Stern, but it "is close." Wallace's deal with Hamlin and Jordan, on the other hand, is official. The 26-year-old driver confirmed his long-rumored partnership with Hamlin on Sept. 22 with a late-evening statement on Instagram.
"Proud to announce that Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin are teaming up to start a Cup team in 2021, and I'm wheeling it," Wallace said in a statement. "This is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I believe is a great fit for me at this point in my career. Michael and Denny are both great competitors and are focused on building the best team they possibly can to go out and compete for race wins. I'm grateful and humbled that they believe in me and I'm super pumped to begin this adventure with them."
With Jordan serving as the majority owner of the team, the expectation is that Wallace's new ride will be a No. 23 Toyota Camry. Jordan and Hamlin did not confirm the new number, but a recent trademark application hinted at this outcome. A company called 2311 Racing LLC in North Carolina, c/o Jump DC, recently filed trademark applications that included the number 23 and the name 23XI Racing. NASCAR teams are based in North Carolina while Jordan and Hamlin use the numbers 23 and 11, respectively.