News Analysis: Smithfield leaves Richard Petty Motorsports for Stewart-Haas Racing

What happened: In a Tuesday morning Facebook post, Smithfield said it will leave Richard Petty Motorsports and join Stewart-Haas Racing next season. On Sunday, Lee Spencer of Motorsport.com reported Smithfield backed out of a handshake deal to return to RPM’s No. 43 car next season after the team proposed it hire Bubba Wallace to replace Aric Almirola. Richard Petty later confirmed the sponsor broke its handshake agreement. A desire for increased competitiveness resulted in Smithfield moving to SHR, which said in a statement the move will come with a “driver who will be added to SHR’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series lineup.” EDIT: In a statement later Tuesday afternoon, RPM said Almirola will not return to the team.

What it means: While it’s nice SHR found a high-paying sponsor for one of its cars to go along with a new driver, the immediate focus will be on RPM’s future. This is a devastating loss for the No. 43, as the team thought Smithfield was set to return next season. It’s mid-September and RPM doesn’t have a sponsor for most of its 2018 races — and likely hasn’t been looking for one if it believed Smithfield would be back. This could put RPM in serious jeopardy as an organization, since it now must scramble to find funding in order to compete next season. As for SHR, it’s unclear which driver could end up with the team — but we now know the lineup will indeed change for next season. Danica Patrick has said her return to the No. 10 car is based on sponsorship, while SHR previously said it intends to retain free agent Kurt Busch in 2018.

News value (scale of 1-10): Seven. Spencer’s reporting took the surprise out of this news, but it’s still very significant in terms of RPM’s future. If Smithfield’s move results in the No. 43 car not being on the track in some form next season, it’s a pretty major story for NASCAR. In addition, the SHR piece of this will play into Silly Season news with an unspecified driver movement.

Three questions: Will Almirola be able to go with Smithfield to SHR, or does this mean a free agent like Matt Kenseth will get that seat? Can RPM find enough sponsorship to run a full schedule in 2018? Will there be Subway-like backlash toward Smithfield, or will fans view this as a business decision and be OK with it?

31 Replies to “News Analysis: Smithfield leaves Richard Petty Motorsports for Stewart-Haas Racing”

  1. I know business is business but there was a time in America where a handshake was all you needed. I do truly believe that Bubba Wallace would be a good representative for a sponsor.

  2. I wonder if this changes the calculus for RPM as far as the manufacturer/merger question that was on the table a few weeks ago. They denied the rumors of a merger, but maybe that was when they still thought the handshake sponsor agreement was intact. I wonder if Petty’s survival really now depends on aligning with Chevy and coming under the wing of RCR like it was previously rumored to happen. Besides the 3, there’s no bigger legacy brand than the 43. Hope they can field a car next year.

  3. Ultimately It is business. You can fault a company for wanting more Bang for its buck. No one sponsors cars for the fun of it. They do it for the exposure. SHR offers a better scenario then RMP….by the same token should RPM and RCR form am alliance of some sorts, then that would be an added value to what RPM can offer a company. They likely can do so on a smaller price tag and that would open the doors to more potential sponsors. Keep in Mind RCR and RPM have 3 open Charters as well. So There are options.

    On the SHR side of it. its huge for them. they have been lacking sponsorship for much of the 2017 season on 2 of its race cars. lets not forget that the 41 is also partly funded in house.

    The most important thing in this all is that whether its SHR or RPM Smithfield is staying in NASCAR.

  4. Many options available for the driver. Would love to see Bubba Wallace continue the relationship with Ford, be with a top tier team, and fully funded ride. Unlikely I’m guessing with Matty K an available free agent…

  5. People are getting angry assuming Smithfield is jumping ship due to Bubba being in the 43. I would think Smithfield would want a more competitive ride with SHR and not the 43’s continuous 20 something finishes. I’ll take it as a business decision until proven otherwise.

    1. Well the report is that Smithfield had agreed to return to RPM before RPM suggested Bubba, so this isn’t like they just decided to leave for SHR.

      But it may not be fair to really rake them for it as it’s also possible that with Kenseth, Busch, Danica, etc on the free agent market, that they were underwhelmed by the suggestion of Bubba.

  6. Please support all NASCAR sponsor partners regardless of what team and driver they are involved with. Partners for NASCAR race team are hard to secure. And some of the previous comment’s please don’t use the racist card in NASCAR it just doesn’t fit. Bubba is a friend of mine and he has slot of talent just remember he started through NASCAR’s drive for diversity program

  7. The default “racist” comments are the best. Which would you rather have? Bubba at RPM or potentially a Kenseth-type at SHR? If you need to take more than two seconds to answer this, then you lack business acumen.

    1. And yet Danica had sponsorship for years? Please explain that. She never won a single race in a stock car and had go daddy with her for years.

    2. Mr. McMahon – I’d rather have Bubba.

      Kenseth is as dry as toast. He is the slow turtle when the fast rabbit sells. Kenseth taking out Logano shocked the world because no one thought he had it in him. That’s how predictable he was.

      And he isn’t a consistent winner. He can get there, no doubt. Alas, especially as of late, he may have a string of 9-15th, but he is not a hard driving, young, talent.

      Bubba has A) his history, B) his talent, C) his attitude and D) his youth working for him.

      In fact, Bubba likely has more fans than Kenseth and him getting a top tier ride would continue to make headlines for awhile. Kenseth getting one? Eh. The same reason Biffle got no rides at the end. He’s boring. He doesn’t win and gets worse as he ages.

  8. Driver has nothing to do,41% of Nascar media exposure was SHR this year the move almost happen 2016 off season & Bubba wasn’t in the conversation.

    This is the place for a brand to get the best ROI & content through their Motorsport marketing program.Smithfields has triple their pourcentage of their Nascar Program.

    They also invested at the Monster Mile & are supporting the aerial coverage during tv broadcast.

    I wish Bubba get a solid ride is great ontrack , with fan & killing it on socialmedia.Hey CMO support him , include him apart of your marketing mix.I would be a great brand ambassador

  9. With the steadily improving finishes Bubba had with RPM while subbing for Almirola, I would have thought Smithfield might tune in to the fact that Bubba and Petty would be a good fit. If they did have a handshake deal with RPM and reneged, then I have lost respect for them, especially waiting this late in the year to notify them. Not to mention that Stewart/Haas have just gutted from a ‘fellow’ Ford competitor. Doesn’t Ford have any influence there?

  10. If Smithfield wanted to sponsor a more competitive team, why did they even make a handshake deal to return to Petty? Going back on their word once Petty suggested Bubba as the driver makes me understand why some fans may think it’s a race issue.

  11. Smithfield could’ve packed up all of their marbles and left NASCAR for good, as so many others have. Since they’ve chosen to continue to support racing, (the only sport I love), I’ll commit to buying even more Smithfield products (but from someplace other than Target – just sayin).

  12. Maybe Smithfield likes Almirola as their driver and didn’t like the idea of making a change? Too many unknowns to start a boycott here…

  13. How refreshing would it be if a company supported there driver no matter what . Even when the team he drives for believes he’s the problem and they would be better off with someone else (Bubba Wallace)

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