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Petty Hires Almirola Top Drive The No. 43 Ford

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, January 4 2012

Aric Almirola will drive one of the most famous cars in NASCAR history this year. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

Richard Petty Motorsports announced that Aric Almirola will drive the legendary No. 43 Ford Fusion in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series beginning in 2012.

Almirola has made 35 starts in the Sprint Cup Series, his most recent stint coming in 2010 when he finished the last five races of the season in the No. 9 Ford. During the final race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the Tampa, Fla., native posted a career-high, fourth-place effort.

Almirola drove a JR Motorsports entry in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2011 and capped off a successful season with a fourth-place finish in the championship point standings.

“It’s a great opportunity for me,” Almirola said. “I’m a little bit sad leaving where I left. I had a good home there with Junior Motorsports, but it was important for me to have their support to come and do this. I talked with Dale (Earnhardt) and Kelley (Earnhardt) quite a bit throughout this whole process and they supported me 100 percent. Dale said that was the main reason for him having a Nationwide team was to get guys in the Nationwide car at his shop and to give them an opportunity to go and make a career out of racing in NASCAR.

“For me, that’s come true. He gave me a great opportunity to go there and drive the 88 car and that’s led to this opportunity here at RPM. Like he said, if anything, it gives JRM credibility as a Nationwide team that they can take not only Brad but now myself and move them into their program and out of their program and on to a Cup ride. I’m very thankful for everything Junior Motorsports has done for me in my career and I’m excited about my new adventure here at Richard Petty Motorsports.”

Almirola will fill the seat being vacated by A.J. Allmendinger, who was hired during the off season to drive the No. 22 Dodge for Penske Racing.

“One of the things I am most excited about is to have the chance to drive a car as iconic as the No. 43,” stated Almirola. “There is so much history surrounding that number and to have my name above the door will be really special for me.

“This is the first real opportunity I’ve had to drive in the Cup Series full time. Last year the No. 43 team had a lot of speed and was competitive on a weekly basis. Greg Erwin is a great crew chief and I’m excited to work with him. Everyone at Richard Petty Motorsports has a lot of enthusiasm and drive and I’m really looking forward to getting to work.”

RPM CEO Brian Moffitt was asked about sponsorship for the 43 car, which lost its primary sponsor from last year; Best Buy.

“We do have some open inventory on the car,” Moffitt said, “but we will be announcing some new partners in the coming weeks.”

Almirola will join a team that had varying success in the 2011. The 43 car and Allmendinger earned one top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 2011 en route to a 15th-place finish in the owner point standings.

“We are thrilled to welcome Aric Almirola into the RPM family,” said team co-owner Richard Petty. “We feel extremely fortunate to have had a number of very talented drivers interested in joining our organization, but ultimately we felt Aric would be the best fit for the team and for our current and potential partners. We have had the chance to watch his progress for the past several years and we had success with him in the past. We are really confident in his potential as a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver. We think Aric has all the makings to be the next bright star in our sport.”

Almirola began his racing career competing in go-karts before joining the open-wheel modified ranks in 2000. He was an original member of the Joe Gibbs Racing/Reggie White Drive for Diversity program. Almirola made his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut in 2005 and began his Nationwide Series career in 2006, driving for JGR. Almirola drove a part-time Cup Series schedule for Dale Earnhardt, Inc. in 2008 before heading back to the Truck Series and earning a runner-up finish in the point standings in 2010. Almirola drove full time for JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series in 2011.

At RPM, he will become teammates with Marcos Ambrose.

“Me and Marcos actually started racing in the (Camping World) truck series at the exact same time, so we’ve been friends on and off the race track through that,” Armirola said. “We talked a lot when we were racing in the truck series together. I’ve watched him go on to Cup racing and have kept up with him and see him throughout the garage. I’ve always had a friendly relationship with him and I respect him a lot as a race car driver, so I’m excited to be his teammate now.”

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, January 4 2012
2 Comments

2 Comments »

  • Terry says:

    Richard and Rodger in the same boat…..
    like Penske said( paraphrase )….
    ” not alot out there to pick through “

  • john says:

    Cool choice, and THANK you Richard Petty for not regurgitating yet another Cup-series has-been like Brian Vickers or Casey Mears. A little fresh blood in the series for once!