Billy Johnson To Make Cup Debut

| , RacinToday.com Tuesday, June 20 2017

Road racing specialist Billy Johnson will make his Cup Series debut later this summer at Sonoma. He will be driving a Richard Petty Racing Ford. (Paul Webb
LAT Photo USA)

IMSA Ford driver Billy Johnson will make his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut this weekend driving Richard Petty Motorsports’ No. 43 Smithfield Ford Fusion in place of the recovering Aric Almirola during the Toyota/SaveMart 350 on the 1.99-mile Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway road-course.

Fresh from competing in last weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, Johnson’s first Cup race comes after five starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with Roush Fenway Racing. All but one of those races has been on a road-course. Johnson scored a career-best eighth-place finish in Montreal in 2012.

Johnson has 10 years of road-racing experience. Johnson previously worked with RPM driver Almirola on his road-course skills at the Ford Performance Racing School at Miller Motorsports Park in a curriculum he developed with other instructors. Johnson has worked with over 20 Ford drivers to improve their road-racing skills during the last six years.

“It is going to be awesome,” Johnson said. “It will be my first NASCAR Cup race and to debut in the No. 43 car, one of the most iconic numbers to ever race in NASCAR, is a huge honor. Richard Petty Motorsports is a great organization. To have the chance to make my Cup debut for the King is surreal, and I appreciate them putting me in the car.

“I have run a lot of Xfinity races, but this will be my first Cup race. It is awesome that RPM and everyone at Ford Performance has the confidence in me to take on Sonoma. I’ve run pretty well in the Xfinity road course races I’ve done, so I hope that translates into a good showing this weekend.”

Richard Petty Motorsports has experienced success at Sonoma. The team has one win, two poles, three top-fives and nine top-10s. Kasey Kahne scored a win in 2009 and a pole in 2010, while Marcos Ambrose won the pole in 2012. Since Almirola’s injury at Kansas Speedway, the team has fielded drivers Regan Smith and Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.

“It’s been important for us to put ourselves in the most competitive spot while Aric is recovering,” CEO Brian Moffitt said. “We’ve worked with Ford and Smithfield to put the best driver available in the car each week. Both Regan and Bubba have done a great job for us the last five weeks. We feel that Billy’s experience on a road-course will help us be competitive this weekend.”

Almirola suffered a compression fracture to his T5 vertebra in a three-car wreck on Kansas Speedway’s 1.5-mile oval during a Saturday night race on May 13. Wallace will drive the No. 43 at Daytona International Speedway and compete with the team until Almirola is able to return fulltime. 

“We are so excited about Billy Johnson making his Cup debut,” said Dave Pericak, global director, Ford Performance. “He drove great for us in Le Mans this past weekend, has been a champion for us in the past in the GT350 and he’s been one of our development drivers for a while. To be able to put him in a Cup car, at the highest level of NASCAR, in the iconic No. 43 Fusion, and to let him show his skills at Sonoma, we couldn’t be happier for him to have this chance.”

| , RacinToday.com Tuesday, June 20 2017
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