NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace leaving Richard Petty Motorsports after season

SC Featured: The transformation of Bubba Wallace (11:50)

The spotlight on Bubba Wallace increased slowly and he's transformed himself from Darrell Wallace Jr., Black race car driver, to Bubba Wallace, front-line force in the fight for racial equality. (11:50)

NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace will be leaving Richard Petty Motorsports after the 2020 season, he announced on social media Thursday.

"This was not an easy decision as I have nothing but the utmost respect for Richard Petty and his family, but I believe it's time for someone else to take over the reins of the No. 43," Wallace said in a Twitter post.

"Thank you to the King and everyone at Richard Petty Motorsports for giving me the opportunity to start my Cup Series career. I've grown so much as a driver and as a person since joining them. We've got nine more races together, and I hope we can finish the 2020 season on a high note."

Wallace has yet to win a Cup race during his three seasons driving for Petty. He has a career-best five top-10 finishes this season and is ranked 23rd in the Cup standings, also a career best.

He has signed several sponsorship deals that have been negotiated in a way that Wallace could take them with him if he left RPM. Among his new partners are Door Dash, Columbia Sportswear Co., Cash App, and a personal deal with Beats by Dre. He's also got an affiliation with McDonald's, one of the sponsors at Chip Ganassi Racing.

It's not clear where Wallace is headed because several major NASCAR teams with seats available told The Associated Press they were not in play for the driver. Wallace's agent did not return a request for comment from The Associated Press.

Wallace, the lone Black driver competing full time in NASCAR at the national series level, has gained national attention over the past several months as an activist, leading conversation among his peers about racial equality.

He was in the national spotlight in June, when he said during an interview with CNN that NASCAR should ban the Confederate flag from all of its tracks. Two days later, NASCAR enacted a ban, saying the flag at its events "runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry."

He also was in the spotlight after NASCAR announced that a noose had been found in his garage stall at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. A day after the race, NASCAR announced that the FBI had determined that Wallace was not the victim of a hate crime and that a pull rope fashioned like a noose had been on the door of the garage he was assigned to at Talladega since as early as October 2019, when the previous Cup Series race had been held at the track.

Richard Petty Motorsports said it would finish the season with Wallace and announce its plans for a new driver at a later date. The team has had difficulty landing sponsorship -- one of the reasons the No. 43 has struggled to be competitive -- and there has been speculation the team would be absorbed by a new owner.

"We look forward to the next chapter in the making for the iconic No. 43 team," the team said in a statement. "We will announce our new driver in the future."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.